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Sunday, December 07, 2008

Kevin Loughery Talks About Coaching Dr. J

I wish Steve Smith a speedy recovery from his stomach flu but the good news about Smith's illness is that it led to Kevin Loughery being a guest studio analyst on NBA TV on Saturday night. Loughery, a 15.3 ppg career scorer who twice averaged more than 20 ppg during his 11 season NBA career, coached the New York Nets to two championships (1974, 1976) in the ABA. Of course, the star player for the Nets was the incomparable Julius "Dr. J" Erving, whose all-around game blossomed most fully during the three years that he played for Loughery, who had only recently retired from his playing career at that time.

It was interesting to hear Loughery's takes on current players--he says that Kobe Bryant is the best all-around player in the game but that Dwyane Wade deserves the MVP so far this year based on how he has carried the Miami Heat--but the whole time that he was on the air I eagerly waited for him to reminisce about coaching Erving. Finally, NBA TV went into the archives to show some vintage Dr. J footage as Loughery described Erving's greatness:

That man was the best. He was the easiest superstar you could possibly coach. He had more talent at that stage--we asked him to do everything. I really believe--and I've told this to Doc--that the NBA never saw the real Dr. J. I really believe that. In the ABA he did things that were incredible. We asked him to do everything. We won the (1976) championship playing against Denver when they had Bobby Jones, an All-League defensive player. He had the best playoff series in a championship series that I've ever seen one individual have. Beyond that, so easy to coach, total gentleman, great guy. He's the best. He treated everybody the way that a player should treat everybody--his teammates, the media, the other players, the fans. He's the best superstar to be around that I've ever been around.

Rod Thorn, the team President of the New Jersey Nets, was an assistant coach for Loughery with the New York Nets and when I spoke with him he said very similar things about Erving: "He was the best teammate of all the players I’ve been involved with in 40-plus years of NBA basketball. He was our leading scorer, our leading rebounder, our leading shot blocker, our leading assist guy -- you name it, he led our team in it, plus he was the leader of our team. He guarded the best forward every night, whether it was a small forward or a big forward. He took most of the big shots. Not only was he a great player, but more importantly he was a great teammate."

In Part III of my Pantheon series I wrote about Erving's amazing performance in the 1976 ABA Finals when he averaged 37.7 ppg (including 45 points and the game winning shot on the road in game one), 14.2 rpg, 6.0 apg, 3.0 spg and 2.2 bpg, leading both teams in all of those categories. Bobby Jones, who later won an NBA championship as Erving's teammate on the 1983 76ers, said, "He destroys the adage that I’ve always been taught — that one man can’t do it alone." Erving's Finals domination was just an extension of what he did during the regular season, when he led the ABA in scoring, ranked fifth in rebounding, seventh in assists, third in steals and seventh in blocked shots.

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posted by David Friedman @ 7:46 AM

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At Sunday, December 07, 2008 10:48:00 AM, Anonymous tp said...

Kevin Loughery coached Dr J, later on he coached Michael Jordan and then he moved on to coaching Dominique Wilkins. Three different players and Wilkins not nearly as dominant as the other two, but anyway coach Loughery may be the man with the best highlights memories ever.

In his book on the 1984 draft, Bondy claims one of the reasons why the Bulls did not consider any of the offers they received for Jordan was that both Thorn and Loughery could remember the day they got Dr J, and they could tell world-class talent when they saw it.

 

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