Tidbits, fun-filled history & horses: 129th Kentucky Derby flashback

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: A few Derby tips to go with those mint juleps

May 1, 2003

By Ed Odeven

So you wanna impress your friends — the ones who will be gathering tomorrow to watch the 129th Kentucky Derby — with your extensive knowledge of horse racing?

Well, before the Derby Day festivities begin, my pal Les Witt, who’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer but one sharp cookie when it comes to horse racing, passed on a few tidbits worth remembering and/or blurting out. So jot some of these down or file them in the back of your brain.

Aristides won the inaugural Kentucky Derby in 1875. …

Ninety-five years later, a horse by the name of Dust Commander was victorious. (In retrospect, isn’t that a superb name for a vacuum cleaner?) …

In 1933, the Derby winner was Brokers Tip. It’s another name that conjures up images of industry — in this case an intra-office memo at a Wall Street firm. …

Perhaps Regret, the 1915 champ, was the worst-ever name for a Derby winner. (Pathetic Plight comes to mind as another never-ever-name-your-racehorse kind of name.) …

Don’t expect the favorite to win. Remember, since Spectacular Bid won the ’79 Derby, only one favorite, Fusaichi Pegasus in 2000, has emerged triumphantly. This year’s favorite is Empire Maker. …

The biggest underdog to ever win the “Run for the Roses” was Donnerail, a 91-to-1 longshot in 1913. This year’s longshots: Outta Here, Supah Blitz, Lone Star Sky, Eye Of the Tiger and Ten Cents a Shine are listed at 50-1. …

Red Smith, a celebrated turf scribe, once wrote, “Opportunity has no great value without the talent to capitalize on it.” This statement might be the best way of saying that a star horse, a star jockey and a star trainer put together can really accomplish great things on the racetrack. …

The man considered by many to be the world’s No. 1 horse trainer, Bob Baffert, grew up in Nogales, Ariz. …

There will be one “junior” racing in Saturday’s extravaganza: Rosemary Homeister Jr. Huh? Homeister is the daughter of a former jockey by the same name. To avoid confusion, the junior was added to the end of her name — her mother is a trainer nowadays. For the record, she’s the fifth female jockey in the history of the Derby, and she’ll be riding Supah Blitz. The others: Diane Crump (the first woman to do so in 1970), Patricia Cookse, Andrea Seefeldt and Julie Krone. Homeister is racing for history: to be the first woman to finish in the top 10. …

Eager to understand a horse’s logic, if there is such a thing? Then remember comic W.C. Fields’ words of wisdom. “Horse sense is the thing a horse has which keeps it from betting on people,” he once said. …

And, finally, here’s a cautious reminder, for those eager to bet the farm tomorrow because of some silly hunch — it’s the final stanza of Grantland Rice’s “Maxim’s from Methuselah.”

“Did you ever notice, old pal, in the racetrack’s dizzy spin

There are ninety ways that a horse can lose — with only one way to win?”


A profile of Steve Nash

This training camp feature appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: A legitimate leader
Oct. 9, 2004


When the Phoenix Suns drafted Steve Nash in 1996, fans had mixed reactions: many booed, some cheered. Kevin Johnson was a well-established star then and many wondered why the Suns would spend the 15th pick in the draft on a point guard.

Nash didn’t spend a lot of time in a Suns uniform. In July 1998, when Jason Kidd was the undisputed floor leader of the Suns, Nash was deed expendable and was traded to the Dallas Mavericks for Pat Garrity, Bubba Wells, Martin Muursepp and a future first-round draft pick, which turned out to be Shawn Marion in the 1999 draft.

Over the next six seasons, Nash transformed himself from a capable backup into one of the NBA’s top point guards. He made All-Star appearances in each of the last two seasons.

Nash became a free agent last offseason and signed a four-year deal with the Suns during the summer. It surprised many that Mavericks owner Mark Cuban did not match the Suns’ offer (a $65 million contract) or make a serious bid to re-sign him.

“I left pretty green and in many ways unproven, and to come back having gone through a lot of the battles (I have been a part of) I have a lot more confidence and legitimacy. My teammates have been great. They’ve respected me and welcomed me,” Nash said Tuesday, the first day of the Suns’ weeklong preseason training camp in Flagstaff.

Indeed, the Suns, who went 29-53 last season, welcome the 30-year-old Nash back to the Valley with open arms.

First and foremost, Suns coach Mike D’Antoni is cognizant of Nash’s leadership skills.

“The guy’s a winner, obviously, and his intensity and excellent work ethic and everything else (are valuable),” D’Antoni said. “He just brings so much to the table.”

After Stephon Marbury was traded to his hometown New York Knicks in early January, the Suns did not have an experienced point guard. They lost 18 games by five points or less last season, a telltale sign of a team lacking leadership.

Enter Steve Nash.

“I think they felt like I was a perfect fit for this team,” he said. “They have a lot of great talent, and I think for me my attributes are my experience and making my teammates better.

“If I can help these guys improve and help this team reach its potential … that’s why they brought me here.”

The Suns already field a young, athletic nucleus of players, including guards Joe Johnson and Quentin Richardson, who signed a free-agent deal after playing for four years with the Los Angeles Clippers, and forwards Shawn Marion and Amare Stoudemire.

Now, Nash will be expected to mold this team into a winner.

“I think he just brings his veteran (leadership) and experience,” said Marion, who was one of only two NBA players (Kevin Garnett was the other) to be in the top 30 in points, rebounds, steals, blocks and minutes last year.

“He’s been in the playoffs on a consistent basis (six straight years with Dallas) and we were lacking experience at point guard, so that’s going to help us become a more seasoned team.”

The Suns want to be a higher-scoring team this year after averaging just 94.2 points a game last season. Nash’s former team led the league with 105.2 ppg compared with the league’s worst-scoring team, Toronto (85.4 ppg).

With Nash running the show, expect the Suns to stick to D’Antoni’s plan of being one of the league’s quicker teams.

“His style is to run up and down,” D’Antoni said. “We always want to do that. We’ll just run a little smarter now with him.”

As a result, the Suns should make better decisions with the basketball.

“He’s a great passer,” Marion said. “He’s an elite-five (player) in the NBA in passing. That says it all right there.”

Added Nash, “I think this is a very talented group, a very athletic team. We have some definite strengths. We are going to be able to score.”

Nash has averaged 7.3 or more assists per game in each of the last four seasons, including a career-high 8.8 apg in 2003-04. In addition, he’s a terrific free-throw shooter (a career average of 89.3 percent) and a dependable 3-point shooter. He’s averaged 12.5 ppg in his career.

Statistics don’t interest Nash, however. Only winning does.

“(Making) the playoffs is the only real goal,” Nash said. “Any other goal, if you don’t make the playoffs, what good is that? So that’s the only goal.”

Along the way, the ex-Santa Clara University standout who now considers himself a “grizzled veteran” will be a mentor to young Suns guards, including Leandro Barbosa, the second-year pro from Brazil, and rookie Yuta Tabuse, a former BYU-Hawaii player who is trying to become the first Japanese-born player to make an NBA roster.

“He always moves the ball and he never stays still on the court,” Barbosa observed. “I think this is different than other point guards. I think (seeing this) has helped me a lot.

“I can learn a lot of things when he moves the ball and I defend him (in practice).”

As Tabuse is surrounded by a throng of Japanese media members on a daily basis, Nash has become his most vocal supporter. After Tuesday’s evening practice concluded, Nash chatted briefly with Tabuse before speaking to the media.

“I told him he should never feel uncomfortable or embarrassed if there’s so much attention here,” Nash said. “I think it’s a difficult situation to be a rookie and be from a different culture and have all this attention.”

On and off the court, Nash knows how to be a leader.

Suns-Spurs revisited – 2005 playoffs

This game story appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: Suns dig deep hole
May 24, 2005

By Ed Odeven

PHOENIX — “He’s our guy.”

That’s Tim Duncan’s value to his team, according to San Antonio Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.

In Game 2 of the Western Conference finals, Duncan proved it once again, hitting 9 of 12 shots from the field in the second half to lead the poised, playoff-tested Spurs to a 111-108 victory over the Phoenix Suns.

The two-time NBA MVP was 1-for-7 from the field in the first half, but when it mattered most, his shots found the bottom of the net with regularity. He scored 25 of his 30 points in the second half, including 14 in the final quarter.

Young star Manu Ginobili, who led Argentina to the Olympic gold medal in Athens last summer, scored 14 of his 26 points in the decisive quarter.

The series shifts back to San Antonio for Game 3 Saturday. Trailing 0-2, the Suns will try to become the first team in NBA history to win a conference finals series after losing the first two games at home.

“Our backs are to the wall,” said Suns forward Shawn Marion, who had 11 points and 12 rebounds. “The bright side of it is that we’ve got the (league’s) best record on the road (31-10 during the regular season). We just have to go out there and try to get this done on the road.”

Especially in the fourth quarter.

The Suns haven’t been able to finish games, particularly on the defensive end — in the fourth quarter against San Antonio. They allowed 43 points in the final stanza Sunday and were outscored 31-23 Tuesday.

Duncan certainly understands the Suns’ frustration. Or as he put it: “The Suns shot almost 56 percent and they lost. I mean, they have got to be thinking, what more can we do?”

“We did not make a stop when we had to,” Suns coach Mike D’Antoni said.

The Suns trailed by 10 points in both of the first two games at home after one quarter, but they found themselves in the thick of things entering the final quarter in both games.

Trailing 97-94 with 5:43 left Tuesday, the Spurs used a 13-5 spurt to pull ahead 107-102 at the 1:19 mark.

Tony Parker, who scored 24 points on 10-of-18 shooting by slicing his way to the hole with ease, converted a layup to start the run. After Marion missed a short J, Parker made another inside bucket.

The Suns retook the lead at 102-100 on Steve Nash’s pull-up 3 with 2:56 to go. The Spurs called a timeout. Then they ran a set play and got the ball to one of their steady, clutch performers — Robert Horry.

The 13-year veteran, who owns five championship rings, knocked down a 3 from the right wing to give the Spurs a 103-102 lead at the 2:31 mark

Phoenix never regained the lead.

“It was huge. It’s what he does and we will often run things for him to shoot that. … He’s confident with it and he did it again,” Popovich said of Horry.

The Suns scored enough points to win a basketball game, but again, the Spurs got too many good looks, too many open, uncontested shots in the fourth. On Sunday, the Spurs made 71 percent of their shots in the fourth quarter; Tuesday’s numbers were similar: 70.7 percent, or 12 of 17.

“Our guys are pretty new to this,” Nash said, “and I think it shows, not necessarily in the lack of production from our guys but in the super production of their guys.”

Amare Stoudemire poured in a game-best 37 points and Steve Nash had 29 and 15 assists. The NBA’s 2004-05 MVP has four straight playoff games of 25 or more points and 15 or more assists (Michael Jordan and Oscar Robertson are the only guys to do it three straight games). Quentin Richardson rebounded from a seven-point outing in Game 1 to score 18, while Steven Hunter scored seven points off the bench.

“Again I thought we played well enough to win,” D’Antoni said.

But they failed to convert in crunch time.

They missed four layups in the final minute. Nash’s 3-pointer at the buzzer was off the mark, too.

“Playoff games, the game is so close, just a couple of mistakes and you lose the game. So we didn’t do it,” Ginobili said.

Said Nash: “I still think we were good enough to win a game tonight and if we play as well as we did tonight we have got a great chance to win the next game.

“So we just have to stay positive and hungry and go out there and give ourselves a chance again.”

Both teams had big runs in the first half. The Spurs used a 14-2 spurt to take a 26-13 lead in the first quarter, the biggest lead of the game.

The Suns answered with a 13-0 run to make it 40-38 at the 6:49 mark of the second after Stoudemire hit a short J in the lane. He had eight points during the run, asserting himself with strong inside moves in the paint.

The Suns may face an uphill battle as they try to stave off elimination, but don’t expect them to feel hopeless.

“My confidence is always high,” Stoudemire said. “It’s never going to change as long as I live.

“We just have to go into San Antonio and play extremely hard.”

A love affair with basketball – Navajo announcer L.A. Williams

This column appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: When L.A. Williams talks . . . the Navajo Nation listens
March 4, 2005

By Ed Odeven

Sitting courtside at the Skydome, L.A. Williams is in a familiar pose, taking in the recent action between the Winslow and Snowflake girls basketball teams and telling listeners near and far what’s happening.

This scene is repeated dozens of times a year throughout the Four Corners Region.

When there’s a big game involving Navajo Nation basketball squads or a team from near the rez, chances are you’ll find Williams, the sports director/play-by-play announcer for KTNN (660 AM), at the game.

This time of year, when February Frenzy blossoms into March Madness, Williams is as busy as can be. She announced 25 games during a recent two-week stretch, including the Class 3A boys and girls state tournaments at the Skydome (five games on one hectic day when hot tea with lemon helped soothe her sore throat) and at Glendale Arena. She called 4A state tourney games before a packed house in Page and the 4A girls final — Sand Devils vs. Thunderbird Monday — in the Valley.

For the next two weeks, Williams will be in Albuquerque to cover the New Mexico boys and girls state tourneys. And across the Navajo Nation, diehard basketball fans, some of the most loyal supporters found anywhere in the United States, will tune in to hear how New Mexico’s Navajo schools are doing.

Conversing with Williams, one realizes she feels privileged to be a widely recognized sports voice of the Navajo Nation.

“I’m just glad that I can be,” she says, modestly. “I don’t know how to explain that.

“(In the past), grandparents never had a chance to listen to the radio station. By me being across the country on the other side of the reservation, they can stay home and they can picture you already and say, ‘I heard you on the radio.’ They don’t know you, but on the radio they do, and they are very thankful.”

To begin to understand Williams’ gratitude for her job, it helps to know this:

“I grew up on the reservation without electricity, without running water, just horseback,” she says.

Nowadays, Williams fondly talks about her decade of announcing for KTNN, mentioning doing play-by-play for Super Bowl XXX in Tempe (“That was huge,” she says. “We were recognized as a foreign country radio station.”), covering the Phoenix Mercury during the WNBA team’s first four years of existence, the Phoenix Suns, the National Finals Rodeo in Las Vegas, numerous American Indian rodeos and fairs, and the 2002 Salt Lake Winter Olympics.

Those sporting events have all been memorable for Williams, but her favorite times as a broadcaster have been, she says, at junior high and high school basketball games in places like Tuba City and Leupp, Shiprock and Gallup in New Mexico, and Mexican Hat and Montezuma Creek in Utah.

“We touch out to our grandparents who love to support their kids,” Williams says of the magic of radio, “and they get to hear it on the radio when they can’t travel (to games).”

While on the air, Williams strives to set a good example for today’s youth, too.

Her message is this: “Telling student-athletes that school is important, that this will get them somewhere in life, being a student first and then coming out on the basketball court, being successful and being a team player. … It’s important to give them the information they need to know, because they listen to the game … and they are our future leaders.”

Indeed, Williams remains true to her roots, an admirable trait in a profession that’s too often caught up in mimicking the we-think-we’re-witty-and-hip personas that are prevalent on ESPN’s “SportsCenter.”

Williams credits longtime Suns announcer Al McCoy with helping her develop her announcing style.

“He’s a very good friend,” she says, “and just talking with him and just listening to his broadcasts (has been helpful). “I got a lot of tips from him … and also a lot of practice was put into the broadcasting.”

So what’s her style?

Most of a basketball game’s action is described in English. Between quarters, at the half and after a game, she gives a short summary of the key sequences and players in Navajo.

And Williams has no trouble maintaining a fast pace, a trademark of hoops announcers, during a game.

“The Navajo language also fits right in to our broadcasting,” she says. “Navajo is a lot faster than talking English.”

Whether there’s fast talk or slow tunes on the air, KTNN, the Window Rock-based station that began broadcasting in 1986 and has a 50,000 watt signal, can be heard in 13 states after dark.

Which is why Native Americans across the country tune in to KTNN to catch up on the latest news from Indian Country.

“There was a gentleman coming back from Saskatchewan and he picked us up in the Great Plains,” Williams recalls. “He was saying that he came over the hill and he just parked (his vehicle) because we were doing a basketball game the Ganado Hornets were playing, and stayed there until the game was over.”

Another KTNN listener told Williams she picked up a clear signal in San Francisco while driving across the Golden Gate Bridge and listening to a game.

Once a week during the regular season, Williams covers junior high basketball. This keeps her in contact with today’s young standouts, tomorrow’s high schools stars.

Or as Williams explains: “At Winslow High School, all their players except Stephanie Garnett all went to school in Dilkon … (which won) a state championship this year, and have been winning state championships for years.

“Next year, there are three or four (Dilkon) players that’ll go on to Winslow, and they (the Bulldogs) are going to be state champs again,” she predicts.

Even if Winslow doesn’t win its third straight 3A title next year, expect to hear Williams’ enthusiastic, informative account of the game and many more.

“It (working for KTNN) just fell into place,” she says now, “and I ran with it. And I’m still running with it.”

A 2005 interview with Charles Barkley

This article appeared in the Arizona Daily Sun.

Headline: ‘Sir Charles’ in charge
Feb. 5, 2005

By Ed Odeven
In his college days, they called him the “Round Mound of Rebound.” When he became a superstar in the NBA, he was affectionately dubbed “Sir Charles.”

These days, Charles Barkley is recognized wherever he goes. He works for TNT as an NBA analyst, enjoys his time on the golf course near his Scottsdale home and travels the country to help with a number of charitable causes.

Barkley paid a visit to Northern Arizona University Saturday night to help raise money for the Sports Celebrity Dinner and Auction, presented by the Flagstaff Family YMCA and the Arizona Daily Sun. It was his first visit to Flagstaff since he participated in the Phoenix Suns’ preseason training camp here in 1995.

“I think kids deserve an opportunity to be successful, and that’s what organizations like the YMCA provide,” Barkley, the keynote speaker, said at the Dubois Conference Center.

Proceeds from the dinner/auction, which organizers hope will bring in $25,000 to $30,000, will benefit the YMCA’s Strong Kids Campaign.

Steve Saville, a YMCA board member and the organization’s community relations chairman, said the YMCA plans to make this an annual fund-raiser.

In a brief interview with the local media before the evening’s festivities commenced, Barkley addressed a number of topics.

Named one of the NBA’s 50 greatest players in 1996, he said he’d eventually like to be an NBA general manager or an owner. His love for the game is the same as it’s always been.

“I miss playing every day,” said Barkley, an 11-time All-Star, who retired in 2000. “I miss it more than anything in the world. There’s nothing like playing.”

Never one who’s been shy about expressing his opinions, Barkley explained why sports are such a valuable tool in the lives of youths.

“I think sports are a great motivator for your mental health (and) your physical health. It keeps you in shape,” he said. “But it’s stupid to think that every kid is going to do well in reading, writing and arithmetic. I think one thing about school that’s brutal is you need to get rid of some academics to teach more vocations.

“I owe basketball every single thing in my life, because I grew up a poor kid,” he continued. “… All these kids aren’t going to make it to the NBA, but one thing about sports is it can give you a chance to go to college. And that’s what I think more kids should use college for instead of trying to make it a profession.”

In recent weeks, Barkley’s been traveling the country to promote his latest book, “I May Be Wrong But I Doubt It.”

A recent appearance on the “Oprah Winfrey Show” certainly didn’t hurt, he acknowledged.

While signing some copies of the book for the evening’s auction, Barkley casually remarked that “once you get on ‘Oprah’ you’re a best-seller.”

“She’s a cool chick,” he added with a smile.

Book tours keep him busy, but he has other concerns, too.

“My No. 1 priority is my teenage daughter,” he said, “trying to keep boys away from my house.”

Barkley, a fan favorite during his days with the Phoenix Suns (1992-96, which included the Suns’ appearance in the 1993 NBA Finals), said he’s happy his former team is playing so well this season. “Phoenix fans are fantastic. One of the reasons I love it in Phoenix is the fans made me enjoy the game of basketball …,” he added.

In three weeks, Barkley’s fifth book — “Who’s Afraid of a Large Black Man?” — will be released. For this book, Barkley conducted interviews with numerous well-known individuals, including Illinois Sen. Barack Obama, the Rev. Jesse Jackson, actor Morgan Freeman, rapper/actor Ice Cube and former President Bill Clinton.

“I wanted to write a positive book on race,” he said.

What was the most memorable interview?

“Probably Bill Clinton … because I had never met him before,” Barkley said. “I’m a huge fan and he’s a cool dude and it was really cool.”

Following Saturday’s festivities in Flagstaff, Barkley flew back to Las Vegas, where he’ll watch Super Bowl XXXIX.

Asked to offer his thoughts on today’s game, Barkley had this to say:

“I’m going to take Philadelphia.” The reason?

“Well, I’ve got a house in Philly, and I just think that Donovan McNabb is not going to let them lose,” he said.

“I think it’ll be really close, 20-17.”

Remembering Dr. Jack Ramsay, Hall of Fame basketball coach

Dr. Jack Ramsay
Dr. Jack Ramsay

By Ed Odeven

TOKYO (April 28, 2014) — Although he hadn’t coached in the NBA since 1988, Dr. Jack Ramsay’s distinguished broadcasting work on radio and TV, sharp basketball mind and his ever-present enthusiasm for the game made him a relevant, well-respected analyst. That continued until he stepped down from his ESPN duties in 2013 due to health issues.

When Dr. Jack passed away on Monday at age 89, there was an outpouring of emotions on social media for a man who loved life, loved his work and loved people. (See below)

One of the best sports books I’ve ever read, David Halberstam’s timeless “The Breaks of the Game,” followed the 1979-80 Portland Trail Blazers’ season, just two seasons after Ramsay had guided the Blazers to an NBA championship.

The book brilliantly portrays the human side of the great coach, the struggles of that team, the injuries and frustrations mounting, but also the great personality at the center of the team’s still-talented core. (The Blazers went 38-44 that season.)

In 16 of his 20 full seasons as an NBA coach, Ramsay’s teams – Philadelphia 76ers, Buffalo Braves, Portland Trail Blazers and Indiana Pacers – advanced to the playoffs. As the GM, he also was the architect of the Sixers’ 1966-67 NBA title team.

Even more peripatetic than Ramsay, Herb Brown’s college head coaching career began in 1964, followed by a lengthy tenure in the NBA, working for the Pistons (head coach and assistant), and assistant positions with the Sixers, Blazers, Rockets, Pacers, Suns, Hawks and Bobcats.  He also coached in Spain and Israel and led teams in the Western Basketball Association (Tucson Gunners), Continental Basketball Association (Puerto Rico Coquis, Cincinnati Slammers) and International Basketball League (Baltimore BayRunners). He was the Japan women’s national team’s adviser coach last year, and Japan took home the FIBA Asia championship title for the first time in more than 40 years.

Now 78, Brown has followed Ramsay’s career for decades and their paths crossed on countless occasions over the years. He’s had decades to formulate an opinion on Ramsay, and so I asked him for a few thoughts on the Hall of Fame coach earlier today.

“Jack Ramsay, a tremendous basketball coach, leaves a lasting legacy and a void in the coaching profession,” Brown wrote in an email on Monday. “His success will be well documented as will be the example he has established for coaches and mentors. He taught team basketball and proved a cohesive unit, playing together could overcome all odds. He was also always available and went out of his way to help coaches or players seeking advice and guidance. His constant involvement in fostering the game will leave a tremendous void.”

“Dr. Jack Ramsay never forgot you and always asked how you were doing. A remarkable and professional human being and international coaching icon,” added Brown, who received the National Association of Basketball Coaches’ International Committee Lifetime Achievement Award earlier this month in Texas.

* * *
Ramsay, who retired No. 2 in all-time NBA coaching victories behind Red Auerbach, befriended coaches and players of all ages, and always had the same interest in the Xs and Os and machinations of the game as men decades younger.

Here’s a sample of reactions to Dr. Jack’s passing:

Hall of Fame player Reggie Miller, who began his NBA career playing for the then-Pacers coach tweeted, “My thoughts and prayers go out to the Ramsay family… Thank you for believing in a skinny kid from Riverside CA in ’87.. Great friend.”

In another tweet, Miller wrote, “Great basketball mind.. Thanks Coach, Dr Jack Ramsay..”

Former coach George Raveling tweeted, The world of athletics lost one of its greatest ambassadors, greatest coaches & finest human beings in the presence of Dr. Jack [Ramsay].”

Ben Cafardo, ESPN communications manager tweeted, “Rest in peace Dr. Jack Ramsay. He leaves behind an incredible legacy far beyond basketball or sports media. Tremendous family.”

@JerryTheBookie posted this on Twitter: “RIP Dr. Jack #Ramsay you will be missed. Your work with the #Blazers & #NBA in general will not be forgotten.”

USA Today NBA reporter Jeff Zillgitt weighed in via Twitter: “During 2008 Finals, I asked Dr. Jack about pick-and-roll D. He grabbed my arm, took me on the court. Set a pick. Showed me how it’s done.”

ESPN summed up the 1992 Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame inductee’s approach to coaching this way in a tweet: “Teams that play together beat those with superior players who play more as individuals.” – Dr. Jack Ramsay

Memphis Grizzlies VP of basketball operations John Hollinger penned this tweet: “So sad to learn about Dr. Jack Ramsay. What a wonderful life. And he always had time for young ‘uns like me.”

Chris Ramsay, an ESPN.com senior director, wrote this moving tribute about his father: http://espn.go.com/nba/story/_/id/10851183/dr-jack-ramsay-father-friend

Interview with Walter Palmer

By Ed Odeven
TOKYO (April 27, 2014) – I wrote a lengthy column on well-traveled former NBA player Walter Palmer for Sunday’s Japan Times (see link below). He’s become a global sports union leader in the past decade, starting out as a co-founder of the German basketball league’s union.

Space didn’t permit all of our interview topics to be featured in the article.

Here are a few of the other things Palmer talked about on April 14:

*On ex-Utah Jazz teammates John Stockton and Karl Malone’s mastery of the pick-and-roll: “People aspire to that. You are putting people in position where they have to make a choice, and if you can get your team to play the pick-and-roll correctly, then you are forcing the defense to make a choice, and then you exploit it. They are going to have to choose one or the other; if they take away one thing, you take them the other way. … And so that’s a very high-percentage play. That’s why you see it so much.

“It’s amazing to me sometimes how, when I do have a chance to watch an NBA game, if it’s not run correctly like I saw it with Stockton, who was a master, then it makes me kind of cringe, but that’s a key part of the game.”

*On need for patience for fledgling players associations around the world, including the Japan Basketball Players Association, founded in 2013: “It took the NBA Players Association 10 years just to get recognized. So we have to be realistic about that…”

*Responding to my question about who should replace Billy Hunter as executive director of the National Basketball Players Association, Palmer declined to name any suggested persons for the job. But he did say, “My hope is that they would find someone with union experience and organizing experience, and not just somebody with a business orientation, but somebody that’s going to work in partnership with the league and actually understands unions.”

*On Dirk Nowitzki’s lasting legacy for German basketball: “He’s done everything he can to develop the game back in Germany and develop other players, help other players, and that’s not something you see all the time.”

*On Nowitzki’s overall career, now being in the top 10 all time in scoring in the NBA and his career as a whole: “One of the key things about Dirk was winning the championship (in 2011). Winning the championship was so important. And when I hear now that Kevin Durant is learning from his mentor, Holger Geschwindner, that was the key for Dirk, the individual coaching that he received, his talent and the professionalism is absolutely amazing what he’s done, and the skill that he has and he’s developed.

“Now you are seeing something similar in Kevin Durant, which I think is very interesting to model that. Dirk is a great example of loyalty to his franchise. and obviously he’s been a great player, so it’s easy for the franchise to be loyal to him. He’s been on the same team for his whole career and it Looks like he’ll end his career there, and that’s also something that’s very special.”

The Sunday column: http://www.japantimes.co.jp/sports/2014/04/26/basketball/bj-league/palmer-helping-nbl-players-push-progress/