By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
NBA All-Star, champion and coach Butch Beard has had an unparalleled career. From death threats during a Kentucky vs. Louisville recruiting battle to being drafted in the army after his rookie NBA season and contributing to the 1974-75 Warriors, what could be the greatest upset in NBA Finals history. Butch took us through all of that and some more in an interview full of entertaining stories.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
02:00 – The University of Kentucky vs. University of Louisville recruiting battle, possibility of being the first African American athlete in the SEC, yet never really committing to UK, despite false reporting in a newspaper;
05:15 – Growing up as a Wildcats fan, his mother not receiving a promise from Adolph Rupp that he would be safe, getting death threats;
07:40 – Playing for the Louisville Cardinals, the differences in recruiting back then vs. nowadays, the way his relationship with Wes Unseld started at Kentucky’s Sweet Sixteen tournament;
12:10 – Being the only rookie on a veteran Atlanta Hawks team, rooming with Walt Hazzard who showed him the ropes, running errands for Lou Hudson and Joe Caldwell;
17:30 – Finding out about being drafted in the army during a playoffs series against the Los Angeles Lakers, later scoring 22 against them, working in a message center and playing basketball instead of being sent to Vietnam;
23:20 – Reporting to the Cavaliers after 15 months with the military, how he and John Johnson couldn’t believe that they were among some of the very greats in the 1972 NBA All-Star Game, Cleveland breaking the young core up;
28:45 – Seattle’s home crowd booing him after being traded for hero Lenny Wilkens, it being the worst years in his career, considering teaching, having a talk with Wilkens years later about it, the way Lenny himself was betrayed;
34:10 – The 1974-75 Golden State Warriors, their slogan of togetherness, acquiring young players like Clifford Ray, Jamaal Wilkes and Phil Smith, gelling as a team just because Rick Barry and Clifford Ray bonded for whatever reason, the great upset in the Finals against the Washington Bullets;
42:35 – Having a good year with the New York Knicks in 1977-78, then getting cut from a very young team the next year by Willis Reed (who just as Bill Fitch did so years before hiring him/working with him as a coach), impressing Red Holzman and the influence of Red;
48:55 – Relationships with Micheal Ray Richardson and Ray Williams whom he once coached as an assistant with the Knicks and tried to help in life;
53:45 – Bill Fitch delivering on a promise about the team flying first class in Cleveland, the relationships he had with the players in Seattle, Fred Brown becoming Downtown Freddie Brown, rooming with John Brisker;
57:05 – The chaos of the 1996-97 Dallas Mavericks fielding 27 players during the length of the season, being Jim Cleamons‘s assistant on that team, sticking up for Kevin Ollie, shooting free throws with Hubert Davis for lunch;
1:00:40 – Toni Braxton splitting up the Three J’s Mavs team, having a meeting with them about what’s happening;
1:03:55 – Currently working with at-risk kids at the Simmons College of Kentucky, getting to start a girls basketball team next season.
The media related to the podcast:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to Butch for coming on the podcast and delighting us with so many stories!