As most of you readers know, I attended the Naismith Hall of Fame in Springfield. I came away with stories - some basketball, some personal. This will be one of the latter.
The crowd at each of the weekend’s events was like a basketball fan’s dream. No matter which direction you looked, there was a superstar. Player or coach - or other personality. For example, I noticed the director of USA Basketball, Jerry Colangelo, and immediately approached him. The reason for my bold move was that a friend of mine, Jude LaCava (currently the top sportscaster for FOX-TV in Phoenix), asked me to make sure I gave Colangelo his regards. Jude and I did a radio show when I was associate head coach at the University of Toledo, prior to my leaving for a similar position at USC. He subsequently moved to Phoenix for a radio gig that has morphed into a 20-year television career. He and Jerry are, not surprisingly, close friends.
After I introduced myself and explained the reason for my intrusion, I said, “Jerry, I’ve got to tell you a story involving all three of us. When I was at USC, I had to scout Arizona State in Tempe. Of course, I called Jude to tell him I was going to be in town. He had just recently taken the job at that radio station and we were going to dinner after his show.
” ‘I want you on as a guest because ASU basketball is big news here,’ ” he said to me.” (Did I mention it was quite a while ago?) ” ‘There’s going to be another guest on the show,’ he said. ‘Jerry Colangelo.’ “ At that time, Colangelo was president of the Phoenix Suns. “After the show, we shook hands and Jude and I went to eat.
“I’ll bet, Jerry,” I continued, “I’ve told that story a lot more than you have.”
He chuckled and graciously, as opposed to rubbing in his success vs my lack of, said, “Boy, that was a long time ago.”
Like I said, he could have said something like, “You’re not kidding. I don’t even remember that.” But he didn’t. Many, many years ago, I heard Bobby Richardson, eight-time all-star second baseman for the New York Yankees, explain to a fellow teammate why he acted the way he did with fans - whether they were praising or criticizing him:
“Whenever a situation comes up where I can be nice or I can be a jerk, I choose nice.”