By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
Idaho State Bengals legend Jeff Cook came on the podcast to relive the Bengals 1976-77 season in which they reached the Elite Eight, share memories from his time with the great 1980s Phoenix Suns and tell stories from teams and leagues like the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Western Basketball Association.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
01:15 – Still being 6-7 in high school and a tweener when recruited, Idaho State’s coach Jim Killingsworth, Coach Killer, having a network in Southern California, him just wanting a college degree;
03:35 – The 1976-77 season, playing alongside future NBA players and draftees in Steve Hayes, Greg Griffin and Ed Thompson, coach Killingsworth pointing out that he also got some exposure from this, the Bengals team ball and the roles of the players, Brand Robinson being able to shoot from anywhere;
6:25 – Getting mono before that season, missing the first two games, barely losing for the rest of the year, not believing in Indiana State and that this kid named Larry Bird will be a force the next season;
8:15 – The win against UCLA on which his mom had made a wager, a thunderous poster dunk against Long Beach State, the Bruins being in audience for that game;
12:00 – Whether the Bengals were underappreciated, having to win your conference to make it to the NCAA tournament back then, him seeing the UCLA game tape just recently, “we could play’, UNLV out-running them in the Elite Eight, Coach Killer being late with a timeout in the deciding second half;
15:25 – The 1978 Draft and being taken by the Kansas City Kings, having a rough summer and not having a chance to make the Kings who had 13 guaranteed contracts, being talked into playing in the Western Basketball Association where he won the MVP award, coach John Wetzel persuading him to play for the Washington Lumberjacks and later helping him make the Phoenix Suns;
18:35 – Playing in high schools in Tri-Cities, Washington, the Richland High School having produced the atom bomb, a mushroom cloud as their mascot, the luck of fellow WBA alums and teammates like Brad Davis who made the NBA;
20:35 – Backing up Alvan Adams in Phoenix, getting to start in 1980-81 and having to match up with the small forward or power forward that was more of a threat to help Truck Robinson, years later finding out that Kareem Abdul-Jabbar knew him well and always hated playing against him;
25:05 – The disappointing loss in the 1981 Playoffs against the Kansas City Kings, Phoenix having Christmas games against the Los Angeles Lakers, the great teammate that Dennis Johnson was, making a game-winner jumper against Boston, being knocked out by Darryl Dawkins in his first pro start;
29:55 – The trade to the Cleveland Cavaliers, Ted Stepien’s ownership, having World B. Free sitting next to him in the locker room;
36:25 – Coach George Karl coming to him for advice on handling the team’s personalities, being traded to coach Cotton Fitzsimmons’s San Antonio Spurs, knowing his role on the team unlike Marc Iavaroni who would take shots to coach Fitzsimmons’s dismay;
41:00 – His time in Livorno, Italy, Rod Griffin translating what the coach was saying, picking up some Italian, the talent level in Europe;
45:00 – The last season in the NBA with Phoenix, it being a strange year due to the drug scandal surrounding Walter Davis, Jerry Colangelo threatening everyone in a team meeting that there will be no tolerance for such behavior, teammates using drugs in the 1980s;
49:25 – His family being together and doing great, getting into commercial insurance after pro basketball, putting together a risk management program that we might hear more about soon.
The media related to the podcast:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to Jeff for coming on the podcast and telling such great stories from his basketball career!