Pat Williams , senior vice president of the Orlando Magic, insisted on a recent visit to Washington that there’s no way the older Michael Jordan is going to play like the old Michael Jordan. What’s a little surprising about this is that Williams is one of Jordan’s biggest admirers so much so that he just finished a motivational book called “Be Like Mike: Life Lessons About Basketball’s Best.”
That doesn’t mean, however, that Williams is turning in his fan club membership. “He’ll do more good for the Wizards on the floor than in the owners’ box,” Pat said. “And the NBA needs him desperately. There’s nobody else around quite like him, and basketball is a sport of individual attraction. He’ll give the entire league a shot in the arm.”
Williams said he spent two years and conducted 1,500 interviews while writing the book. It’s the 20th for Williams, a peripatetic sort who travels hither, thither and yon giving motivational talks. If he could capture Jordan’s essential qualities in a few words, they might be “hard work” and “focus.” He added, “And I learned a lot I didn’t know about Michael. I didn’t know, for example, about his kindness and graciousness to anybody he meets.” …
Jordan did not participate actively in writing the book, but he did “bless it,” Williams said. When Williams asked for interviews, many people said they would have to check with His Airness first. In effect, Jordan told them, “Go for it.”
When Williams met Jordan recently, the chief Wiz told him he liked and was proud of the book. “And Michael’s mom, Deloris, told me I captured him perfectly,” Williams said proudly.
Yet Williams is a basketball man first, and he knows there will be limits to how far Jordan can carry the Wizards.
“Let’s just say they’re not loaded with talent that’s the most diplomatic way I can put it,” Pat said. “If this team wins 30 games, that will be his greatest accomplishment, topping anything he did in Chicago.”
In other words, let’s not hold our breath.
Streaking right along
So Joe DiMaggio once hit in 56 consecutive games big deal. At least, that’s how Irving Crane must have felt.
Who in the name of Washington Irving was Irving Crane? The king of billiards in his day, that’s who, and in 1939 two years before DiMaggio terrorized American League pitchers, he made more than 300 consecutive called shots. Crane, who died earlier this month in Rochester, N.Y., at 89, won seven world championships, the last in 1972.
Crane also didn’t mince words. When it came to his rival, Rudolf “Minnesota Fats” Wanderone, who inspired the 1961 movie “The Hustler,” Crane told the Rochester Democrat and Chronicle last month, “I didn’t think very much of him as a pool player, and I never bothered to see the movie.”
Prayer can help
Apparently, churches provide no sanctuary for those who do not appreciate Dick Vitale’s nonstop babbling on basketball telecasts. The broadcaster turned up at St. Patrick’s Cathedral in New York City for Thanksgiving services and soon drew a crowd of uncommonly large autograph seekers.
“I noticed they were big guys,” said Vitale, who was in town for the Preseason NIT. “I asked them if they were football players and they said they were the California team, in town to play Rutgers.”
Vitale, no football expert, asked how the team was doing. After some talk about how the Bears were in every game and playing every opponent tough, one player admitted they were winless.
“I thought, here they were in church on Thanksgiving, praying, while the Rutgers players were probably home, eating turkey,” Vitale said.
Cal chose the better option. The Bears beat the Scarlet Knights 20-10 on Friday.
Georgia State and long-time Maryland basketball coach Lefty Driesell, on the future of his fast-growing program: “If I had my way, I’d like to be in the ACC or the SEC. But they’re probably not going to let us in.” …
Coach Mike Shanahan , on the Denver Broncos’ throwback uniforms for the Thanksgiving Day game in Dallas: “Our old ones look pretty poor. I’m not sure our guys are going to come out on the field once they see these [orange] jerseys. …
Portland Trail Blazers forward Scottie Pippen , on being 36: “My body definitely doesn’t respond the way it did when I was younger. But I’m still excited about playing. That’s the most important thing. As long as I keep my enthusiasm for the game, I’ll keep playing.” …
Point guard Jason Kidd , on the improved New Jersey Nets: “This is the best team I’ve been on, overall. With the youth, with the excitement, with the energy, there’s not one bad apple in the room, and that’s very rare. This is a great opportunity, not just for me, but for these guys in this locker room to step up and say, ‘Hey, we’re part of the NBA, too.’ These guys can play.” …
Three-time Wimbledon champion Boris Becker , 34, on how he is trying to sort out his life since retiring from tennis in 1999: “I’ve gotten involved in a lot of things so that I don’t have to deal with reality. I’m running away, trying to start the day as early as possible, never let myself rest and then fall into bed exhausted without thinking. …”
Oregon senior quarterback Joey Harrington , on his wide media attention this season: “What people don’t know about me is, I’m a dork. I just love being a goof, enjoying college, not getting so bogged down with the fact that I’m graduating now and I’ve got to enter the real world. I love being in college, I love just hanging out and having a good time and not worrying about what other people think. That’s a lot of the way how I play out on the field. I play with emotion, I don’t worry about how people see me.”