Musselman hatched improbable cradle of NBA coaches

  • Article by: Jerry Zgoda , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 14, 2014 - 12:33 AM

Six Bill Musselman disciples from the Wolves’ first two years have become NBA head coaches.

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yardboyFeb. 14, 14 7:47 AM

On a winning percentage, he was the best Gopher Men's Basketball coach in my lifetime. He made every game exciting. He got the best out of his players. Glad to see this story recognizing some of his strengths, I have great memories of him.

lachowsjFeb. 14, 14 8:35 AM

I'm convinced he could have taken a group of CBA all-stars and made a .500 NBA team out of them. I'm not as convinced he could have taken talented players and made them champions. We'll never know.

minneg56Feb. 14, 14 8:38 AM

He certainly was a hard nosed coach for the Gophs & I'd agree with 'yardboy' - probably the best in my lifetime as well. The product was extremely entertaining. He may not actually have been appropriate for college though as was unfortunately reflected in the Gopher - OSU '72 fiasco.

dewarfFeb. 14, 14 9:21 AM

Far and away the best Gopher coach and recruiter. And the kids all learned to play defense. The Barn was packed 30 minutes before game time to see the warm up routine ("Keep the Ball Rollin', and Sweet Georgia Brown" blared over the sound system) with the opposing team all watching the Gophs and wishing Bill had recruited them. Little Eric spinning a basketball and all the fans clapping. What an environment! And then they won the conference title in Musselman's first year led by Peter Gilcud. Mychal Thompson, Osborne Lockhart, Flip, Ron Behagen, Corky Taylor, Sugar Ray Williams, and Mark Olberding followed. Every high school BBaller in Minnesota wanted to play for the Gophers. Best Gopher basketball year after year and only rivaled by the Final Four team of '97. Bill was way too advanced for the Big 10 at that time. Happy to see his legend lives on through the players and coaches he schooled. RIP Bill, and thanks for the memories.

shakopeemikeFeb. 14, 1410:45 AM

"minneg56" also mentions the OSU brawl. The actual facts are at odds with the famous Sports Illistrated story and some other accounts at the time. As always there are two sides to every story... in this cae, multiple sides. I wouldn't attempt to explain it here, but encourage anyone interested to pick up the book "Obsession" written by Bill Heller. It was first published in 1989, and may be out of print, but seems to be available cheaply on the internet. It's a good read of Coach Musselman. It has a chapter on his days with the Gophers and many first hand accounts of the game and brawl by the players at the time. It's also a must read for true Timberwolves fans.

shakopeemikeFeb. 14, 1411:43 AM

I attended Minnesota from '61 to '64. After I joined the work force I took an evening class regularly so I could keep season tickets. As a student in the "pre-Musselman" period the running joke was "what time does the game start?... Well, what time can you be here?!" In 1971 Musselman changed all that! Almost overnight Williams Arena crowds of 800 to a couple thousands became 17,000+ often standing room only. I attended "the fight" the night Ohio State came to the barn, an unfortunate altercation Musselman unfairly took the complete rap for. I remember the no-call elbow to the face of Bob Nix by Luke Witte as they were leaving the court at halftime. But that'sanother story... what I most remember is the one of a kind, exceptionally talanted, exceptionally motivated coach who truly lived the game. Every game was intense, like a Sweet Sixteen tourny game. Bill's players were always focused and ready to play. We were at the doors of Williams Arena standing in the cold when it opened at 6 p.m. for the 8 p.m. game. The upper area was open student seating, so we ran like heck to grab the best seats, generally at the railing. The warm up show was a treat in itself... the p.a. system loudly playing "Sweet Georgia Brown" and "Towin The Line", a player riding around the court on a unicycle dribbling a basketball, another spinning a ball on a finger as he approaches the basket, he throws it up, hits it with his head, and puts it in. Another players are hitting shoots from half court. It's our very own Harlem Globe Trotters show! It's just a lot of great basketball memories. It comes as no surprise Musselman was responsible for so many other good coaches entering the game. Bill knew the game inside and out. He was a superior motivator. He wanted to win, but what great coach doesn't? He was, simply, a hell of a coach!

minneg56Feb. 14, 1412:23 PM

shakopeemike- thanks for the reference to the book which I will try to locate. Again, I have no beef with Musselman. He filled the seats and had an entertaining product. I will say years ago I regularly traveled some basketball crazed areas for work. OH Valley, MO Valley and NC & VA. There wasn't a week that went by without someone asking me about the OSU- Gophs game when they learned I was from MN. The world was different then. Different ways of motivating kids. Vietnam, draft numbers, deferments for college. Musselman's coaching style coupled with the era was the 'perfect storm' that gave rise to the unfortunate events which ended the game. 'Fear theory motivation' tactics were more effective and were leveraged more than today. Again, great coach but I do contend that he would not have been considered for a college job in today's world.

tk1965Feb. 14, 1412:48 PM

As a T-Wolves season ticket holder since day one I continue to think what might have been had Musselman been allowed to grow this franchise in the early years. Muss got more from nothing than any coach I've ever seen and I truly think in the 5th or 6th season he would have had the Wolves solidly in the upper half of the NBA. It was a mistake canning him and it was a mistake canning Saunders when they did.

sloughfoxFeb. 17, 14 1:37 AM

i was there and saw witte's unprovoked and vicious elbow to a gopher's head as the teams were crossing to their opposite locker rooms as the half ended. it was sudden, quick, and witte never looked back and hustled down the steps to the southeast locker room--among the cheapest dirtiest sucker punches I ever witnessed. nobody else in my party of six that night saw it happen. the subsequent sanctimonious whining by witte, the national press, and especially coach fred taylor, conveniently overlooked the fact of poor little victim luke witte's beginning it. gopher basketballers as pariahs have a solid history and apparently why the calls always went bobby knights way and are still going against us today. that darn musselman.

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