High school, college and NBA coaching great, Don Casey.
To say that Don Casey is an important figure to the game of basketball, is to massively undersell his contributions. His head-coaching journey began in 1958, when he was just 21 years old. Almost by accident, Don found basketball; perhaps, basketball found Don. He enjoyed great success, leading Bishop Eustace High School to two state championships (Class B and A in successive seasons) in six years.
We discuss Don’s transition to the college ranks, where he spent nine seasons as the head coach of Temple University. We also chat about his long-time mentor, the legendary Harry Litwack.
The NBA came calling for the 1983 season. Don remained at the highest level (as an assistant and/or head coach) for almost 20 years. We talk about his memories and experiences from that stage of his life. He went from the sleepless nights and frustrations of leading the L.A. Clippers (through 1990), to joining Chris Ford‘s coaching staff on the Boston Celtics (1991). We reflect on Don’s memories of Boston, including his links to the great Jack McCallum, who at one time, lived with Don whilst researching Unfinished Business. Don would move to New Jersey after the 1996 season, to work for John Calipari, before finishing his NBA (coaching) career as head coach of the New Jersey Nets.
The conversation concludes with a brief discussion about Don’s post-NBA interests.
Topics / links discussed (include):
Boston Celtics versus Indiana Pacers (1991 NBA Playoffs)
New Jersey Nets versus Chicago Bulls (1998 NBA Playoffs)
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.
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, JimMcIlvaine, 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.
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.
Marquette star and seven-year NBA veteran, Jim McIlvaine.
In part two of this special double-episode, I welcome back Marquette great and NBA veteran, Jim McIlvaine. If you missed part one, we discussed Jim’s college career in-depth, where he was a stand-out at Marquette. He talked about his selection in the 1994 NBA Draft and first three NBA seasons – including, a completely open and honest assessment of his free agent move from the Washington Bullets to the Seattle SuperSonics, in 1996.
This episode features part two of our chat – we continue discussing Jim’s playing days with Seattle, his relationship with George Karl and the coaching staff, plus, more great stories from on and off the court. Jim talks about his career-ending injury whilst a member of the New Jersey Nets.
We also talk about some of the radio and TV commentators he admires, and chat about his current role as a broadcaster at the university where he starred; Marquette. Towards the end of our mega-chat, Jim shares a wonderful, funny story about Gene Hackman – star of the excellent basketball movie, Hoosiers.
Marquette star and seven-year NBA veteran, Jim McIlvaine.
In a first for the podcast, this conversation will be released in two installments. Our chat was almost two hours, in length – I’m pretty sure that Jim’s wife had the authorities on speed dial, ready to report him missing – however, all’s well that ends well – Jim returned to normality at its conclusion and I couldn’t be happier with the finished episode.
In part one, we discuss Jim’s early years playing basketball and learn a great deal about his college career, where he was a stand-out at Marquette. This includes a funny story about Marquette’s early 1990s exhibition series that touched down here in Australia, then onto New Zealand and Fiji – complete with a near international incident. Also, if you’re a fan of the great documentary, Hoop Dreams, you won’t want to miss this chat.
We talk about the 1994 NBA Draft and Jim’s two seasons in Washington, playing for the Bullets. He openly-discusses his free-agent move to Seattle – a contract widely debated at the time and still mentioned on occasion, to this day. On top of this, we learn about the importance and value of the National Basketball Retired Players Association (the NBRPA), of which Jim is a lifetime member.
You’ll be hard-pressed to find a more open, honest and engaging guy, than Jim – I’m confident you’ll enjoy this conversation as much as I did, recording it. Thank you, Jim, for your generous availability.
Part two of this conversation will examine Jim’s career in Seattle, his trade to the New Jersey Nets and injuries that ultimately led to his NBA retirement. We also discuss Jim’s broadcasting career, great basketball movies and his classic encounter with Gene Hackman.
We’re now in the final days of 2013, as this episode is released. I hope you thoroughly enjoy the holiday season and have a great New Year. Exciting plans are ahead for 2014 – I hope that you continue to join me on this podcast journey. Thank you very much for your support.
Our conversation covers the whole season – we discuss best / worst team records, all major award winners and notable retirees. We also focus on the Bulls’ historic 72-10 record. We chat random stats, fake player nicknames (amazingly make a return) and of course, the 1996 Playoffs – culminating with Jordan v Payton / Kemp in the 1996 NBA Finals.