AIR067: Mitchell Butler – High School All-American & eight-year NBA veteran | Podcast


Mitchell Butler - Washington BulletsHigh School All-American and eight-year NBA veteran, Mitchell Butler.


High School: Oakwood, California

Mitchell reflects on his outstanding high school career. From 1987 to 1989, he was named the Southern Section Small Schools Division, Player of the Year. In 1988, he led Oakwood to the (Liberty League) Division Championship, notching an astonishing 47 points, 19 rebounds, 4 steals and 2 blocks, in his team’s 61-60 victory. We talk about his 1988 quarterfinal game, where he tallied a staggering 50, of his team’s 55 points, in an eight-point win (55-47).

In November of 1988 – in the early-signing period ahead of his senior year at high school – Mitchell signed a letter of intent with the UCLA Bruins. He discusses how heavily he was recruited and what led him to ultimately choose the Bruins.

Mitchell also talks about his 1989 (Third Team) All-American selection.


College: University of California Los Angeles

Years: 1989-90 – 1992-93 | Coach: Jim Harrick

At the time of recording our conversation, Mitchell ranked sixth all-time, in total games played (130) for the UCLA Bruins. Whilst researching for our chat, I discovered that in the last warm-up game (November, 1989) prior to his freshman season, Butler’s Bruins played against my fellow countrymen, the Australian Boomers. UCLA defeated the Aussies, 80-68, at Pauley Pavilion.

Mitchell played in the NCAA Tournament, in each of his four seasons. We chat about his freshman campaign, where he made it to the Sweet Sixteen, against Duke – the eventual National Finalists (who lost to UNLV). As a sophomore, Butler started almost every game, before the Bruins were upset by Penn State in the first round of the NCAA Tournament. We discuss how close Mitchell came to transferring from UCLA after that second season. UCLA made it to the Elite Eight, in 1992, before losing out to Calbert Cheaney and his Indiana Hoosiers. Though it was a disappointing end to the season, Mitchell won his team’s Player Improvement Award, due to his all-around play and positive mental attitude. As a senior, he was named team captain and also enjoyed (arguably) his best season as a Bruin, with 9.5 points, 5.3 rebounds and 2.3 assists per game. We cover UCLA’s near-upset of Michigan’s Fab Five, in a classic, second-round overtime game, in the 1993 NCAA Tournament.


1993 NBA Draft

Date: June 30 | Location: Auburn Hills | Pick: Undrafted

We talk about the circumstances behind Mitchell being overlooked on draft day, and how he made his way into the league, in the months that followed.


NBA / Euro / ABA / CBA career | Years: 1993-94 – 2003-04

Seasons: 1993-94 – 1995-96 | Team: Washington Bullets

Coaches: Wes Unseld & Jim Lynam

Individually, Mitchell’s best NBA seasons were his first two in the league, averaging almost eight points and three rebounds, in just 19 minutes per game. We cover his first stint with Washington and links to Australian legend – and former podcast guest – Andrew Gaze. Butler twice scored an NBA-career high of 26 points. Mitchell describes the feeling of being ‘on fire’.


Thanks to a tip-off from great friend of the podcast, Jim McIlvaine, I ask Mitchell about his acting career. We briefly discuss his roles in Blue Chips (1994) & Rebound: The Legend of Earl ‘The Goat’ Manigault (1996). Mitchell talks about his involvement with Space Jam (1996), however, his scenes were ultimately cut from the movie.


Season: 1996-97 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: P.J. Carlesimo

Prior to the 1997 season, Washington traded Mitchell (along with Rasheed Wallace) to Portland, in return for Harvey Grant and Rod Strickland. We talk about Mitchell’s thoughts on the deal. Butler made it to the playoffs for the first time in his NBA career – playing limited minutes in a four-game series loss to the L.A. Lakers. He talks about how it felt to be part of a playoff team.


Seasons: 1997-98 – 1998-99 | Team: Cleveland Cavaliers

Coach: Mike Fratello

Mitchell signed as a free agent with Cleveland. Barely a month into the season, he suffered significant neck and shoulder problems, leading to surgery. He talks about the impact the injury had on his career, and how he dealt with news that he’d miss the rest of the season.

Following the lockout-shortened 1999 season, Butler wouldn’t return to the NBA until the 2001-02 campaign. During that gap in his NBA résumé, he headed overseas and played in Lithuania, before returning home and playing in the American Basketball Association (not related to the original ABA, I should add).


Season: 2001-02 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Maurice Cheeks

Mitchell returned to the Trail Blazers franchise, signing as a free agent. He discusses what it was like to be back in the NBA and how his second time with the team, differed so much to his 1997 season.

Prior to his final season in the NBA, Mitchell was a key member of the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) Yakima Sun Kings. His team won the 2003 Championship. He reflects fondly on his time in the league.


Season: 2003-04 | Team: Washington Wizards

Coach: Eddie Jordan

Butler closed out his NBA-playing career, returning to suit up for the Washington Wizards. We chat about his final season, what opportunities presented themselves and whether he could have played on, beyond 2004.


Mitchell featured in a number of Top 10 Plays on NBA Action. I asked him to choose his favorite move and he certainly didn’t disappoint.


I ask Mitchell to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. In a first for the podcast, he shares three-memorable games – one each from high school, college and the NBA.

We discuss Mitchell’s career in basketball since he retired as a player. He’s been involved in various roles, most recently, accepting a position as a sports agent at Jackson Management Group (owned by Phil Jackson‘s son, Charles).

Our conversation rounds out with a quick chat about the significance of Mitchell’s jersey numbers.

People mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Adams, Tyus Edney, Darrick Martin, Chris Webber, Jim McIlvaine, Vernon MaxwellAllan Houston, Kenny Anderson, Tracy Murray, James Robinson & Ed O’Bannon.


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AIR051: Paul Corliss – VP, Marketing and Communications – National Basketball Retired Players Association | Podcast


Paul CorlissNBRPA Vice President, Marketing & Communications, Paul Corliss.

The National Basketball Retired Players Association, was founded in 1992 by NBA luminaries, Dave DeBusschere, Dave Bing, Archie Clark, Dave Cowens and Oscar Robertson. The NBRPA is a non-profit association comprised of former professional basketball players (NBA, ABA, Harlem Globetrotters, and WNBA). It is the only alumni association of its kind, supported directly by the NBA and National Basketball Players Association (NBPA).

We cover Paul’s career as a sports writer, after he graduated from college. He then worked at NASCAR and the NFL for the best part of ten years, before commencing his current role in 2011, alongside CEO Arnie Fielkow.

We chat about the origins of the NBRPA and the wide array of (quoted from their website) ‘programs, services and benefits designed to help retired basketball players and their families successfully navigate life after the game’.

Paul talks about the NBRPA’s unprecedented success at the 2015 All-Star Weekend. The Legends of Basketball participated in community-based projects, celebrated Black History Month and conducted numerous radio and on-air television interviews – in conjunction with NBA TV – that will air over the coming months.

This is a perfect opportunity to learn more about the NBRPA. We even have time to discuss some of Paul’s greatest memories of working with Magic Johnson, Bill Walton, Spencer Haywood, Jalen Rose, Teresa Weatherspoon, Ralph Sampson, Tiny Archibald and many other Legends of Basketball.

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Links to topics discussed:

Celebrate Black History Month

NBRPA: Website | Facebook | Twitter | Instagram | YouTube

Paul Corliss: Twitter


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AIR047: David Bridgers – Michael Jordan’s childhood friend | Podcast

David Bridgers

L to R: David Bridgers, Michael Jordan & Derek Betts | Copyright © Sports Illustrated

Michael Jordan’s lifelong friend and confidant, David Bridgers.

A unique episode. Ross Franco is a North Carolinian friend of mine. We connected, through my podcast – one of the many great outcomes I’ve experienced, since creating the show. Ross is a great friend of David Bridgers. Ross and I have previously discussed the possibility of inviting David on the podcast, as a guest. When the opportunity presented itself, we were both very pleased. The three of us had a great chat.

Prior to speaking with Ross and David, I wasn’t sure if our conversation would necessarily make for an interesting podcast episode. However, five minutes into proceedings, that all changed. This is simply three guys, talking all-things Michael Jordan, from a perspective you’d be very hard-pressed to top. You’ll learn the origins of Bridgers’ relationship with Jordan. The two first met, at just seven years of age! We cover David’s enduring friendship with Michael and his experiences with the Jordan family, plus, David’s close bond with Ross.

Ross tried his best to not be involved in this audio recording. He suggested that David should speak solely with me. From my point of view, that was never going to happen. Thanks again Ross, for making this conversation possible. I hope you – the listener – enjoy it.


Links to topics discussed (photos will be added):

SI Vault: The Unlikeliest Homeboy

In all Airness: Brush with Greatness – Michael Jordan

Ross Franco online: Twitter


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AIR046: Rick Barry – One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History | Podcast



One of the 50 Greatest Players in NBA History, Rick Barry.

Rick discusses his first sporting love of baseball – he talks fondly of his hero – the reason behind his choice to wear the iconic jersey number 24. Incredibly, as a high-school senior, Rick almost gave up on his future Hall of Fame career, due in large-part to his then-coach.

We chat about the origins of his unique, underhanded free-throw shooting technique and its impact on his overall game. Rick talks about his passion for basketball and his immense desire to win. We talk about his outstanding college career at the University of Miami and how it prepared him to make an instant impact at the next level. We discuss the 1965 NBA Draft, where Rick was one of 10 future All-Stars selected.

We cover Rick’s NBA Rookie of the Year triumph, playing against Wilt Chamberlain in the 1967 NBA Finals and Barry’s decision to join the fledgling ABA (he won the 1969 ABA Championship) for its inaugural season. Rick talks candidly about being forced to sit out the entire 1968 season, when he was arguably in the prime of his career. We chat about his All-Star Game memories (eight in the NBA, four in the ABA) and his 1975 NBA Championship glory.

We talk about Rick’s last two NBA seasons in Houston and how injury prematurely halted his career; interestingly, an NBA rule-change possibly denied Rick’s plan to join the Boston Celtics or Los Angeles Lakers.

Rick discusses his Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement, his foray into coaching (1990s) and the opportunities missed at NBA level. We round out the conversation, learning about Rick’s current-day interests, including a love of fly fishing and his business pursuits.

We run the gamut of discussion topics that shed light on the competitive nature of a true basketball great.


Links to topics discussed:

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference | Profile

1967: “Super Soph”Rick leaves NBA

1975: NBA Finals – Game 3 | NBA Finals recap

Circa-1976: Rick Barry & Red Auerbach

1987: Basketball Hall of Fame (profile)

2011: ABA Round-table | 2014: The Charity Stripe

Rick Barry online: Website | Ektio

Courtside Jones: Rick Barry from on Vimeo.


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AIR032: Mike Fratello – NBA Coach of the Year, TV Broadcaster and The Czar of the Telestrator | Podcast


NBA Coach of the Year, TV Broadcaster and The Czar of the Telestrator, Mike Fratello.

We discuss EuroBasket 2013, where Mike coached Ukraine to a fantastic 6th place finish; securing the team a spot in the 2014 FIBA World Cup. We then revisit Mike’s high school years, where he was a star athlete. He talks about his foray into coaching and the opportunities that would lead him all the way to the NBA. We talk about his intrinsic links to Hall of Fame legend, Hubie Brown.

Mike opens up on the re-building process that led the Hawks’ to four-consecutive 50-win seasons. We chat about his 1986 Coach of the Year season and he tells a fascinating story about how he helped motivate Dominique Wilkins, to reach even greater heights (literally and figuratively) as a player. We talk about the 1988 NBA All-Star Game, where he coached the Eastern Conference squad to victory.

Mike discusses his entry to the world of TV broadcasting, the origin of his classic nickname and relationship with the great Marv Albert and former guest of this show, Ian Eagle. You’ll also learn how Mike received a pair of game-worn, Shaquille O’Neal shoes, in unusual circumstances. We get the inside scoop on Mike’s experiences with Michael Jordan, including his time alongside MJ, as a coach at the Michael Jordan Senior Flight School.

We talk about Mike’s six seasons coaching the Cleveland Cavaliers and his stint with the Memphis Grizzlies. Plus, we somehow find time to talk about the 2014 NBA season. An incredible array of topics are covered. Thank you, Mike Fratello!

Thanks to former guest on this podcast, Bob Hill – he was key to making my chat with Mike, happen. Many thanks, Bob.


Links to topics discussed:

Statistics courtesy of Basketball Reference | Profile

EuroBasket 2013: Tournament Wrap | Formula of Success

1984: Bench-jockeying, NBA Style

1988: NBA All-Star Game | Hawks v Celtics – NBA Playoffs (Game 7)

1993: O’Neal collapses Shaqboard | 2002: NBA on NBC | 2012: Mike Fratello & Ian Eagle

Mike Fratello online: WebsiteTwitter


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AIR008: Peter Vecsey – Legendary NBA reporter and columnist | Podcast


Peter Vecsey

Legendary reporter and columnist, Peter Vecsey.

Our extensive chat covers Peter’s whole career – his candor is second-to-none. We talk about his relationship with Julius Erving, experiences covering Rick Barry, Wilt Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and a host of other greats. Peter recalls his friendship with Drazen Petrovic and discusses possibly his greatest exclusive – Latrell Sprewell’s choke-hold on then-coach, P.J. Carlesimo. He recalls his years covering Michael Jordan, gives honest assessments of Charles Barkley and Kenny Smith, plus offers numerous stories he’s never told before. You need to listen to this conversation to fully appreciate it.

Links to topics discussed:

Julius Erving feature (ABA) | Rick Barry announces move to ABA (1967)

NBA v ABA (1970’s) | Minnesota v Ohio State – fight

Peter on NBC’s halftime show (1993 NBA Playoffs) | Sprewell v Carlesimo

NY Post columns (through Jul 01, 2012) | Follow Peter on Twitter


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