AIR078: Chris Engler – University of Wyoming standout, five-year NBA veteran and international basketballer | Podcast

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Chris Engler and Magic Johnson defend Michael JordanUniversity 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.

Chris Engler - Stillwater High SchoolChris Engler - Golden State Warriors

Chris Engler and Tom ChambersTopics / links discussed (include):

People mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Jordan, Trent Tucker, Sleepy Floyd, Bill Garnett, Bernard King, Charles Bradley, World B. Free, Ernie DiGregorio, Rick Brown, Orlando Woolridge & Mark Landsberger.

 

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AIR072: Michael Holton – NCAA Championship finalist, NBA / CBA veteran and broadcaster | Podcast

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Michael Holton - Portland Trail BlazersNCAA Championship finalist, NBA / CBA veteran and broadcaster, Michael Holton.

 

 

High School: Pasadena, California

Michael was a great player in high school. As a senior (1979), he averaged 27 points per game. He discusses his fondest memories of playing high school basketball. Fifteen years later – when Michael entered the coaching ranks – he’d reunite with his high school coach, George Terzian. Michael also talks about his decision to sign with the UCLA Bruins.

 

College: University of California Los Angeles

Years: 1979-80 – 1982-83 | Coaches: Larry Brown & Larry Farmer

Michael was a starter as a freshman and was named the Bruins’ outstanding first-year player. He recalls his initial fear of perhaps not being good enough to succeed on the next level – that fear was quickly allayed. After winning only eight of the first 14 games, the Bruins caught fire at the perfect time; steamrolling through the 1980 NCAA Tournament, all the way to the Championship Game versus the Louisville Cardinals. For perspective, here’s the list of teams that UCLA defeated and some of the big-time players Michael encountered:

  1. Old Dominion (Mark West)
  2. DePaul (Terry Cummings & Mark Aguirre)
  3. Ohio State (Kelvin Ransey & Clark Kellogg)
  4. Clemson (Larry Nance & Mitchell Wiggins)
  5. Purdue (Joe Barry Carroll).

In the 1980 Championship game, UCLA lost 59-54. The Cardinals were littered with future-NBA players: Darrell Griffith, Derek Smith, Rodney McCray & Jerry Eaves. Michael reflects on that amazing run to the final.

Holton’s freshman season was the senior year for Kiki VanDeWeghe – who went on to star in the NBA, notching-up seven seasons of 20-plus points per game in the 1980s – Michael talks about the importance influence of the Bruins’ junior and senior players.

As a sophomore in 1981 (outright) and junior in 1982 (tied with Ralph Jackson), Michael was named the Bruins’ Outstanding Team Player. UCLA made the second round of the 1981 NCAA Tournament, but missed the post-season in 1982. Former guests and friends of the show, Mark Eaton and Nigel Miguel, joined the Bruins around this time, too. Michael talks about the transition from (coaches) Larry Brown to Larry Farmer.

As a senior, Michael was named captain and led the team in free-throw percentage. His college career ended (1983) with a second-round exit to the Utah Utes. After reaching the title game as a freshman, Michael contrasts his feelings about exiting the tournament early (as a senior).

 

1983 NBA Draft

Date: June 28 | Location: New York | Pick: 53 (Round 3) | Team: Golden State Warriors

 

NBA / CBA career | Years: 1983-84 – 1991-92

Season: 1983-84 | Team: Puerto Rico Coquis

Coach: Herb Brown (Larry’s older brother)

Michael’s opportunity to play in the NBA would have to wait one season. After Golden State waived him (October, 1983), he signed with the Coquis; the Continental Basketball Association’s (CBA) newly-minted expansion franchise. The Coquis made it to the playoffs, before bowing out to Phil Jackson’s Albany Patroons in the semi-finals.

 

Seasons: 1984-85 – 1985-86 | Teams: Phoenix Suns / Florida Stingers / Chicago Bulls

Coaches: John MacLeod / Bobby Bowman (CBA) / Stan Albeck

In late September of 1984, Michael signed with the Phoenix Suns as a free agent – joining former Bruins teammates, Mike Sanders and Rod Foster. Holton recalls the step-up from Puerto Rico to the Suns. His Suns met the would-be NBA Champion, L.A. Lakers, in the first round (0-3) of the 1985 Playoffs. As he displayed throughout our chat, Michael has a great sense of humor, regaling his first taste of playoff basketball.

After a 0-4 start to season, Phoenix waived Holton. He returned to the CBA and played a key role – scoring 13 points – leading his CBA All-Star team to a 110-108 win over defending champs, Tampa Bay, in Florida. That was February 11, 1986. Michael details the wonderful background behind his meeting with the Chicago Bulls’ VP of Operations, Jerry Krause, moments after the aforementioned CBA game. Holton signed the first of two 10-day contracts with the Bulls – he’d later sign with the team for the rest of the season.

Michael Holton joined the Bulls franchise at a fascinating time in its history. Michael Jordan had broken his foot in just the third game of the season; he hoped to make an on-court return before season’s end. Holton’s future with the Bulls was largely dependent on Jordan’s injury rehabilitation. He shares unique insight into his early interactions with not only his new teammates, but his practice-court battles with a young Air Jordan.

We discuss the details behind this incredible promotional poster – Raging Bulls – that Michael appeared on.

Raging Bulls - Michael Holton

When Michael was left off the Bulls’ (1986) post-season roster – to make way for Jawann Oldham – he accepted an offer to play overseas for the Great Taste Coffee Makers, in the Philippine Basketball Association. He enjoyed considerable success in a short span – including two 40-plus point games.

 

Seasons: 1986-87 – 1987-88 | Team: Portland Trail Blazers

Coach: Mike Schuler

Michael signed as a veteran free agent with the Blazers, in August of 1986. He joined the team for its Summer League games in Los Angeles. In one of those games, he scored 37 points against his former team, the Phoenix Suns.

The Trail Blazers’ Mike Schuler, replaced the legendary Dr. Jack Ramsay. In his first season (1987) at the helm, Schuler led the Blazers to a 49-33 record – the best effort for a Portland team since the 1978 campaign – and won Coach of the Year honors.

Holton’s second season with the Blazers resulted in an even-better regular season (53-29). His responsibilities also increased significantly as he became a trusted part of the rotation. Michael discussed his increased role with the team and some of the all-time Blazer greats that he played with, including Clyde Drexler and Terry Porter.

 

Seasons: 1988-89 – 1989-90 | Team: Charlotte Hornets

Coaches: Dick Harter & Gene Littles

As one of the (Blazers) players left unprotected for the (June 23, 1988) NBA Expansion Draft, Michael was picked by a new franchise – the Charlotte Hornets. He was selected sixth by the Hornets (12th overall), who alternated picks with the other new franchise – the Miami Heat. We chat about the build-up to the Hornets’ NBA debut and how the city at-large, immediately fell in love with the new franchise.

The new franchise’s amazing fans ensured that Charlotte Coliseum would be packed to the rafters. The Hornets led the league in attendance in eight of its first 10 seasons – they were in second place, the other two occasions.

Holton started at point-guard in Charlotte’s first 60 games and arguably had his best NBA season in 1989, averaging 8.3 points, 6.3 assists and one steal per game, in just over 25 minutes per contest.

Michael required back surgery prior to the start of the 1990 season. After an 8-32 start, Coach Harter was replaced by Gene Littles. He steered the team to an 11-31 finish, as the Hornets ended the season at 19-63. Holton only managed 16 games in total and didn’t return to the court until late February (1990). He talks openly about his recovery from surgery, watching from the sidelines as the team really struggled, and the franchise’s expectations of his return. Three days shy of the start to the 1991 season, Charlotte waived Michael.

 

Seasons: 1990-91 & 1991-92 | Teams: Tulsa Fast Breakers & Tri-City Chinook

Coaches: Henry Bibby (Breakers) & Steve Hayes (Chinook)

Michael finished his playing career with stops in the CBA. First, with the Tulsa Fast Breakers and then, the expansion Tri-City Chinook. He reflects on how his on-court career played out, including his last attempt to make it back to the NBA.

Michael transitioned into coaching, not long after retiring as a player. Following stints in high school and two seasons with Oregon-based colleges, he returned to UCLA – this time as an assistant coach and recruiting coordinator. The team enjoyed great success (1996 through 2001). Michael talks about what it was like to return to the Bruins, almost 15 years after he left the school as a player.

We also talk about Michael’s tenure as head coach at the University of Portland. He left the Pilots in 2006, after five seasons. He shares his thoughts on leading the team and highlights from the journey. NBA great, Terry Porter – Holton’s former teammate on the Blazers – was recently named head coach at the University of Portland. We briefly talk about the task ahead of Terry, as the upcoming season approaches.

These days, Michael works for the Portland Trail Blazers’ broadcasting team. Recently, he teamed up with his former (UCLA and NBA) teammate, Mike Sanders, for a camp in the Czech Republic – part of the Michael Holton Basketball Academy. He talks about the importance of giving back to the community.

I ask Michael to recall “The Game I’ll Never Forget”. Our conversation concludes with a brief discussion about the significance of the jersey numbers that Michael wore throughout his career.

People mentioned in this episode, include: Sidney Green, John Paxson, Kyle Macy & Gene Banks.

 

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

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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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AIR063: Clay Johnson – NBA Champion, two-time Junior College All-American and Missouri star | Podcast

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Clay Johnson - Los Angeles Lakers

Two-time Junior College All-American, Missouri star and NBA Champion, Clay Johnson.

Clay discusses his childhood love of multiple sports – including three years playing soccer (football) – where he developed skills that he would use to his advantage, on a basketball court. His journey to the NBA almost didn’t happen. Following high school, Clay contemplated a career as a plumber, before being convinced to attend junior college, where he became a two-time All-American at Penn Valley Community College. He still ranks (see pages 26 & 58) Top 10 for ‘Rebounds in a Season’ and ‘Rebounds in a Career’. Atop these lofty achievements, he’s also a member of the National Junior College Athletic Association (NJCAA Region XVI) Hall of Fame.

Johnson was recruited to the University of Missouri, by Coach Norm Stewart. As a junior, Clay scored a career-high 39 points, in a game against Colorado. In his senior season, he was a team captain, hitting a game-winning jump shot, to advance Mizzou to the second round of the Big Eight Postseason Tournament. Remarkably, with a losing record (14-15), the team (also featuring Larry Drew) qualified for the 1978 NCAA Tournament. In his final game as a Tiger, Clay torched Utah for 30 points.

We talk about the 1978 NBA Draft, where Clay was selected by the Portland Trail Blazers in the fifth round. Clay recalls his experiences playing in the Summer Pro League and some NBA preseason games. He was waived by Portland, before the regular season commenced.

Clay took his considerable skills to the Western Basketball Association and Continental Basketball Association, where he displayed his talents for a few seasons – primarily with the Billings Volcanos – determined to make his way back into the NBA.

Clay Johnson - Billings Volcanos

 

In August of 1981, Clay signed as a free agent with the Los Angeles Lakers. He had to wait until April of 1982, to make his NBA debut – as fate would have it – against Portland, the team that first drafted him, back in 1978.

We chat about Jeff Pearlman‘s excellent book, Showtime, where Clay is quoted on his dislike of (Lakers) Coach Paul Westhead. He contrasts that, with the high esteem he holds for Coach Pat Riley, who Johnson played under, during his two seasons with the Lakers. Clay was a member of the Lakers’ 1982 NBA Championship squad. We talk about his experiences on that team and playing alongside (future) Hall of Famers, including Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.


 

Clay’s last NBA season was 1984, as a member of the Seattle SuperSonics. After failing to come to terms with Coach Lenny Wilkens, Johnson returned home to Missouri, joining the CBA’s Kansas City Sizzlers.

Family aside, Clay’s energy and passion – since his playing career ended – revolves around his Clay Johnson Foundation, where he mentors youth in the Kansas City area and around the country.

 
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AIR055: Todd Spehr – Drazen: The Remarkable Life and Legacy of the Mozart of Basketball | Podcast

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Todd Spehr - Drazen Petrovic biographer

Drazen Petrovic biographer, Todd Spehr.

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 MarciulionisArvydas SabonisStojko 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.

 

 

Links to topics discussed:

Amazon: Drazen – The Remarkable Life & Legacy of the Mozart of Basketball

Excerpts of ‘Drazen’: Sports Illustrated | Yahoo’s Ball Don’t Lie: Part I / Part II

Website: Book of Drazen | Facebook: Todd’s FB Page | CreateSpace

 

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NB85-13: Michael Jordan’s rookie NBA season – Bulls at Trail Blazers (Nov 24), Clippers (Nov 30) – 1984 | Podcast

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Michael Jordan and Derek Smith

Adam & Aaron celebrate the 30th anniversary of Michael Jordan‘s (1984) arrival in the National Basketball Association. This episode covers:

 

* Chicago at Portland – November 24, 1984

* Chicago at L.A. Clippers – November 30, 1984

 

In this episode, we discuss the fifteenth and eighteenth games of MJ’s professional career. We were fortunate to have access to the game DVDs, giving us plenty of topics and moments to talk about. In our first game for discussion, Jordan’s Bulls visit Portland and partake in a high-scoring contest, which also doubled as the first professional meeting between the second and third picks of that year’s Draft. The next game under the nostalgia microscope, is highlighted by one of MJ’s most-incredible moves ever, against the L.A. Clippers.

Aside from a focus on Jordan’s burgeoning career, we cover numerous sub-plots, individual milestones, amusing moments and minutiae from both games.

This episode continues our coverage of the 1984-85 NBA season. We encourage your interaction. Feel free to suggest specific games, moments and events from within the season, for us to cover in future episodes of the series. Thanks for taking the time to listen to the show. If you enjoy the content, please share it with your friends!

The most prominent players mentioned in this episode, include: Michael Jordan, Sam Bowie, Derek Smith, Clyde DrexlerDave Corzine, Jim Paxson, Kiki VanDeWegheQuintin Dailey, Orlando Woolridge, Ennis Whatley, Marques Johnson, Bill Walton, Norm Nixon, Junior Bridgeman, Steve Johnson, Caldwell Jones, Michael Cage, James Donaldson, Charles Barkley, Jerome Kersey, Fat Lever, Steve Colter, David Greenwood, Harvey Catchings & Steve Jones.

 

Topics / articles discussed (every effort has been made to confirm exact dates):

 

Box Score: Nov 24, 1984 – Chicago Bulls @ Portland Trail Blazers

 

Nov 26, 1984 – Loss to red-hot Blazers fails to burn the Bulls

Nov 26, 1984 - Chicago Tribune

 

Box Score: Nov 30, 1984 – Chicago Bulls @ L.A. Clippers

 

Dec 1 – Jordan rescues Bulls – Desperate shot stuns Clippers

Dec 1, 1984 - Chicago Tribune

Dec 1, 1984 - Chicago Tribune

 

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