By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
Warriors legend Tom Meschery describes the early days of his life — spending time in an internment camp in Japan during the war, being a Russian immigrant in San Francisco — and how turning to basketball lead to a successful 10-year career with the San Francisco Warriors and Seattle Supersonics.
Find Tom’s blog at MescheryMusings.Blogspot.com.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
00:55 – His family escaping the communist regime and fleeing to China where he was born, memories of the interment camp in Japan, bombings, being a Russian immigrant in San Francisco whose family changed their surname from Mescheriakov to Meschery;
05:35 – Basketball changing his life and how sports can help one to fit in the American culture;
07:40 – Choosing the NBA over a potential job with the Foreign Service, considering the industrial league as well, giving himself two years to test his abilities in the NBA and that evolving in to a ten-year career;
13:20 – A successful rookie year, the blessing to be a part of Wilt Chamberlain‘s 100-point game, scoring 27 and 32 in the last two games of the Conference Finals against the Boston Celtics;
16:25 – The 1966-67 San Francisco Warriors of Rick Barry, Nate Thurmond, Jeff Mullins, Al Attles – a great group of guys to play with, the friendships on that team, remaining in close contact with Attles, Thurmond and Jim Barnett over the years;
19:50 – Being close to Chamberlain, Wilt never bluffing when playing poker, Rick Barry’s character, the plans he had with announcer Bill King of taking a trip with the Trans-Siberian Railway;
22:15 – Us chatting about Russia, Tom feeling like the first Russian ever in the NBA (“Andrei Kirilenko, eat your heart out”), a trip he took to Russia, speaking at a BC Kondrashin Belov tournament, the great Alexander Belov;
24:40 – The abilities he had as a scorer despite his status as a tough guy, being a decent shooter, having instincts for offensive rebounding, Barry taking over the scoring duties once he was drafted;
30:10 – The expansion Seattle Supersonics, retiring to join the Peace Corps, yet coach Al Bianchi talking him into continuing his career, the Warriors retiring his jersey while he was still an active player, having good years in Seattle;
34:10 – Russian traditions of poetry, memories of his dad reciting poetry in front of him and proving that it is not feminine, being inspired to become a poet during his time in Seattle;
37:45 – The year with the Carolina Cougars not being successful, the all-offense, no-defense Jim McDaniels, disagreements with Joe Caldwell, him admittedly not being a great coach, Wendell Ladner – a great guy who took 3-pointers from way too far away;
42:40 – Finding a job with the Portland Trail Blazers as an assistant coach for Lenny Wilkens, developing a friendship with Bill Walton — the most knowledgeable player about basketball that Tom has coached — and the greatness of him when he was at his best in 1976-77;
47:50 – Practicing against Sidney Wicks almost always ending in fights, the two of them not getting along, Wicks not listening to anyone;
49:55 – Earning a Masters of Fine Arts, enjoying the job of a teacher, writing a lot since his retirement, his books of poetry and fiction.
The media related to the podcast:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to Tom for coming on the podcast and telling us his unique life story!