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Sunday, February 18, 2007

Mark Aguirre: "DVD Extras"

Here are some Mark Aguirre quotes and facts in addition to the material covered in my HoopsHype.com article about him.

Aguirre averaged 24.0 ppg and 7.6 rpg in 1979 as a freshman, shooting .520 from the field while leading DePaul to a 22-5 regular season record. DePaul earned a second seed in the NCAA Tournament and advanced to the Final Four before losing to Larry Bird’s Indiana State team.

The next two seasons Aguirre performed at an even higher level--winning numerous Player of the Year Awards in 1980 and recognition as the 1981 Sporting News College Player of the Year--while twice leading DePaul to the number one ranking in the final regular season poll. Yet, DePaul did not win an NCAA Tournament game in either season. In 1980, the Blue Demons (26-1) were upset by eighth seeded UCLA in the NCAA Tournament. "I think that we ran into the hottest team in the country," Aguirre says of that loss. "UCLA beat us and they were just hot. Eventually they went to the Finals." The 1981 Blue Demons (27-1) lost to ninth seeded St. Joseph’s. "I wish they had had a shot clock," is Aguirre’s lament about that game. "We were definitely the best team in the country but we ran into a team that said that this (DePaul team) is Jack Nicklaus and I don’t want to play Jack Nicklaus for 18 holes; I want to play him for one hole and if Jack hits the ball to the right then I can win. That was the kind of game that they played; they weren’t going to shoot and they were going to stall."


Most people think of Mark Aguirre as a scorer--and he certainly could put the ball in the hoop from a variety of places on the court--but he was also a very good passer. Early in the 1988-89 season, before he was traded from Dallas to Detroit, he had 17 assists in one game, an almost unheard of total for a small forward. "Coach (Ray) Meyer used to tell me that the only way I could make the teams pay for double-teaming me was to make sure that I made the right pass," Aguirre says. "Then I would study other teams to find out where the double teams were coming from and where the open guy was and really try to make a point of delivering the ball to the right guy. If you’re going to double-team me, I’m going to make you pay.”

The key to being a good passer out of the double-team is making a productive pass as opposed to just getting rid of the ball. Aguirre's ability to do this led to open shots for his Piston teammates Isiah Thomas, Joe Dumars, Vinnie Johnson and Bill Laimbeer. "You can throw it out of the double-team to a guy who is covered if you want," Aguirre says, "but the real way to make a double-team pay is to determine where is the guy who is open. When the double-team comes, usually there are two people on the other side of the floor who are open, because you have to move three on one side. You have to figure out who the shooter is, who is the diver (player who cuts to the hoop), who has the best shot, can I draw one of the defenders in. That is how you pick teams apart, kind of like a quarterback checks off (at the line of scrimmage): 'I see you and everybody knows that I see you—you’re my first check and then I have a second check.' I created a lot more space for them offensively. I told them that I knew that if I had that much room that they (the defense) were going to have to give up something: they were going to have to either give me a bucket or give them (the guards) a bucket. It worked out beautifully. On some nights they just double-teamed me all night and I just passed the ball to Joe, Isiah and Laimbeer and they did what they do. Some nights they didn’t double team me and I would get an opportunity to go.”


Much is made of the Detroit Pistons being "Bad Boys" but what few seem to remember is that Detroit's style of play was deliberately modeled after the team that the Pistons were trying to beat in the East at that time: the Boston Celtics. The Celtics were a physical team and Detroit had to be able to match that physicality to have a chance to win. "Every championship team during that era was physical," Aguirre points out. "Even in order to get deep in the playoffs you had to be physical. You had encounters with Atlanta, getting into it with Boston, you had encounters with New York, with Washington, all those teams. At that point you had to be physical in order to get deep into the playoffs. So, I mean, that’s what it was-—it wasn’t just us. It was like a league standard. That’s how you got there; you had to be physical in order to get there."

The Pistons may have been the first team to be marketed as a physical team but they were hardly the first or only team that employed a physical style. Just ask Kurt Rambis about Kevin McHale's clothesline maneuver in the NBA Finals.


Aguirre successfully played on the block despite being just 6-6 and not having exceptional leaping ability. He candidly admits that most if not all of the players who he currently coaches have more jumping ability than he did during his playing days. What they have to learn is how to use footwork and leverage to get good post position. These things are not being taught--or at least not being mastered--at the high school or college levels.

“They (young players) have no idea about that," Aguirre says. "They have no idea. I haven’t taught a player that when I started knew what he was doing on the post. Not one—and I’ve taught 25 or 30 of them."


Every year there are more worthy All-Star candidates than there are spots to fill but Aguirre missed making the squad a couple times when he was a prime time scorer on a good team. Aguirre is not sure why that happened but he offers this interesting idea: "I put a lot of vicious poundings on opposing teams that I think that opposing coaches didn’t like because I would really try to take a guy’s heart. In taking a guy’s heart, you get real nasty in doing that. I got nasty every night and I don’t think that coaches really liked the fact that I got that nasty. My mode was not to just beat you but to destroy you. I didn’t want you to ever even think that you had a shot. In doing so, every moment I tried to destroy you and that kind of looks bad, when you go at a coach’s player like that, but I went at them like that."

posted by David Friedman @ 9:08 AM



At Sunday, February 18, 2007 6:20:00 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

One of the laziest players ever. I loved it when Bernard King lit him up for 50 when he was with the Mavs.

At Sunday, February 18, 2007 11:17:00 PM, Blogger illest said...

Bernard lit everyone up. How the hell is he not a HallOfFame finalist? And why did Tennessee just retire his jersey? What a shame on both institutions.

At Monday, February 19, 2007 1:54:00 AM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Great players can light up anyone, even other great players; Aguirre had 49 against Dr. J's Sixers.

At Monday, February 19, 2007 4:10:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Yeah. Michael Jordan had many big games being hounded by Dennis Rodman. Isiah Thomas had his famous 43-point finals game (where he sprained his ankle) being guarded mostly by Michael Cooper. Julius Erving averaged 37 ppg in the 1976 ABA finals against the best defensive forward in basketball, Bobby Jones.

At Monday, February 19, 2007 4:19:00 AM, Blogger vednam said...

Nice extras. Some players did't get the credit they deserved because they were widely disliked. I agree that Aguirre was one of these (others include Kareem and Isiah).

I was disappointed with the Hall Of Fame Finalists. Guys who have been finalists in recent years (but failed to get in) were curiously missing. Bernard King should have definitely been on the list. Other players who I think should get in (but aren't even finalists)are Dennis Johnson (how is Joe Dumars in the HOF but not DJ?), Chet Walker, Bob Dandridge (extremely underrated), George McGinnis, and Artis Gilmore (I read David's article about Gilmore not being in the HOF). It kills me that these guys probably won't get in while some moron like Dick Vitale might.

At Monday, February 19, 2007 7:10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the post, Aguirre's other big advantage - well, actually two big advantages - were his hands. He played taller than he was because he could extend his arm and palm the ball overhead like he was holding a grapefruit. A greatly underrated player in terms of basketball IQ, maybe because he was very emotional and could get put off his game if frustrated early.

Hey, David -- what about trying for an interview with a somewhat similar player, Clark Kellogg? People who see him on TV now would never guess how good the guy was as a player.

At Wednesday, February 21, 2007 4:17:00 PM, Blogger David Friedman said...

Kellogg was a better rebounder and defender than Aguirre and not as good of a passer or outside shooter but I agree that he would be an interesting interview subject. I have not had a chance to speak with him--except briefly in passing while covering some Pacers games a while back--but perhaps someday I will have an opportunity to interview him.

At Thursday, July 12, 2007 3:21:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

mark will go down as one of the greatest small forwards in the game . you name me another small forward outside of larry bird that could post up bigger men and score at will, and then move out to the 3 pt line and drop daggers on them there also???

At Friday, February 18, 2011 1:09:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

True, Aguirre is a worthy HoF man. Great scorer in all facets of the game, solid passer and rebounder, and unlike most stars he never had a coach in the NBA who treated him like a star. Imagine if Isiah Thomas or Dom Wilkins or Alex English or Adrian Dantley or Lebron James had coaches like Aguirre had, instead of coaches who let them have the ball 70% of the time.

People don't realize three huge things Aguirre did: score tons with less ball time than most every star player, each team he played on won more with him than without him, and he was one of maybe 5 guys in NBA history who could drive to the hoop, score from the blocks, score from outside, and all by making his own shots, no screens set for him.

A true Hall of Famer, like Artis Gilmore he deserves to be in.

At Tuesday, June 04, 2013 11:03:00 PM, Anonymous ERIC ALEXANDER said...

that was well said Anonymous...he is truly deserving of the Hall of Fame...I just think he was misunderstood all he wanted to do is win.

At Monday, July 15, 2013 2:47:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Have to agree with that 2011 post by Anonymous. Aguirre did so much without using screens and could score from everywhere, and a good passer to boot. Just didn't get the respect playing in Dallas and not being treated like other star players were.


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