University of Wyoming standout and five-year NBA veteran, Chris Engler.
Chris Engler discusses his childhood in Minneapolis and how his links to the sport of basketball began early in life. Between eighth and ninth grade of high school – whilst participating across numerous sports – Chris had a six-inch growth spurt and a focus on basketball became more appealing.
We chat about Chris walking-on at the University of Minnesota, where he’d play alongside future (NBA) stars Mychal Thompson and Kevin McHale. After two seasons with the Gophers, Chris transferred to the University of Wyoming, where he had more opportunity to develop his game. His final college appearance was an NCAA Tournament match-up against Patrick Ewing and the mighty Georgetown Hoyas.
Chris shares memories from his five years in the NBA, plus, experiences in the CBA, travelling overseas to play professionally and also winning back-to-back gold medals (1994 and 1998) at the World Masters Games.
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)
High School All-American, NIT Champion, Film Producer & Actor, Nigel Miguel.
High School: Notre Dame (Sherman Oaks), California
As a child, Nigel moved from Central America to California. We talk about his role models as a youngster, before transitioning into his high-school career, where, as a senior, he led his team to a 19-5 record, en route to winning the Del Rey League Championship. He was named a 1981 McDonald’s All-American, in the famous class that included Michael Jordan, Patrick Ewing and Chris Mullin. He discusses the tremendous opportunities that afforded him, including a crucial role in the USA’s gold-medal win at the 1981 Albert Schweitzer Tournament (often referred to as the Mini-Basketball World Cup, or Junior Olympics).
College: University of California Los Angeles
Years: 1981-82 – 1984-85 | Coaches: Larry Farmer & Walt Hazzard
Nigel played four seasons at UCLA. As a freshman, he was teammates with future Utah Jazz great – and friend of the show – Mark Eaton. In his sophomore season, Nigel’s Bruins made it the NCAA Tournament. He talks about the joy of making it to the tournament, coupled with the disappointment of a first-game exit.
In his junior and senior years, Nigel paired with all-time great, Reggie Miller. Prior to his last season with the team, Walt Hazzard – a player on John Wooden’s first NCAA Championship team – took the helm as UCLA coach. We discuss his lasting impact on Nigel and the team.. Miguel ended his Bruins career in style, scoring an equal game-high, 18 points, as UCLA won the 1985 NIT Championship, at the famed Madison Square Garden.
Date: June 18 | Location: New York | Pick: 62 (Round 3) | Team: New Jersey Nets
We talk about the lead-up to the draft, including team interviews that Nigel undertook, and, his one-on-one workout with the legendary Jerry West, on the court at the Great Western Forum.
CBA / NBA career | Years: 1985-86 – 1986-87
Season: 1985-86 | Team: La Crosse Catbirds
Coach: Ron Ekker
After being the last player cut from the New Jersey Nets’ training camp, Nigel signed with Wisconsin’s new CBA franchise, the La Crosse Catbirds. He talks about his fondness for that season, where he was named to the league’s All-Rookie team, averaging more than 17 points per game. Miguel was runner-up to future NBA All-Star, Michael Adams, for Rookie of the Year. The Catbirds made it to the 1986 CBA Championship series, before losing out to (former podcast guest) Ed Nealy and his Tampa Bay Thrillers.
Continued interest from the New Jersey Nets (and L.A. Lakers), led to Nigel’s return to (Nets) training camp, in anticipation of a roster spot for the 1986-87 NBA season. He talks about the seemingly-innocuous ‘tweak’ of his ankle, during a lead-up game. That quickly led to an inner-monologue: “My foot is on the ground…but I don’t feel anything”. He’d fractured his heel bone and damaged his Achilles tendon.
NBA veteran, Buck Williams, helped Nigel put his injury into context – offering suggestions on how to overcome the disappointment of having his professional career, seemingly reach an abrupt end.
Entertainment: Commercials, television, movies and more
After commencing rehabilitation for the 1987-88 NBA season, Nigel lost the desire to compete at the highest level, making a conscious decision to pursue other opportunities. His love for the entertainment industry, went as far back as high school – he attended classes with peers who had connections (family and otherwise) with the entertainment industry.
Miguel’s attorney helped connect Nigel with an agent and key members of the entertainment industry. Not long after, Dennis Hopper – recognizing the former-Bruins player – struck up a conversation with Miguel. Within an hour, Nigel was offered his first movie role, in Colors (1988). Future roles included the TV series, Hangin’ with Mr. Cooper (1992) and movies, White Men Can’t Jump (1992), Blue Chips (1994) and the iconic Space Jam (1996), where Miguel appears on-screen and off; he was Basketball Technical Advisor.
We chat about his crucial involvement in the behind-the-scenes running of the legendary Jordan Dome, where Michael Jordan took part in amazing pick-up games – including Magic Johnson, Charles Barkley, Larry Johnson, Dennis Rodman & Jack Haley – during production of the film.
Nigel also details what it was like to be Michael Jordan’s ‘body double’ for seven years.
Personally, this is an extra-special episode. My great friend of almost fifteen years, Todd Spehr, just released a biography on the life and times of Drazen Petrovic. I invited another great mate of mine (and NB85 co-host), Aaron, to also chat with Todd, earlier this week.
For more than three years, Todd has been consumed with the life of Drazen Petrovic. Thanks to exhaustive research – he interviewed over 70 people – the resulting book offers comprehensive coverage of Drazen’s incredible rise from Europe to the NBA. It is a book of stories, told by those who knew Petrovic best. Drazen blazed a trail (no pun intended) and was a pioneer for Europeans in the NBA, including Sarunas Marciulionis, Arvydas Sabonis, Stojko Vrankovic, Vlade Divac, Toni Kukoc, Dino Radja & Peja Stojakovic, to name just a few.
We discuss behind-the-scenes details of the book, including the interview process, the depths of Todd’s research and countless hours of game film (some, never seen before) he studied, giving him a unique insight on a player who was already a legend in his native country, before he set foot in the United States of America.
To borrow a quote from the book’s promotional materials, ‘Drazen is a tribute to the determination and spirit Petrovic brought to every aspect of his short, brilliant life’.
Watch the Google Hangout below – recorded live on April 6, 2015 – or, should you prefer the audio-only version (above, or via your podcast app of choice), you’ll hear an edited version of the conversation.
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.