By Reinis Lacis (@LamarMatic)
An NBA lifer of 30 years in the league, Gar Heard had plenty of stories to tell on this episode of The Handle Podcast. From debuting in the NBA as a rookie on Lenny Wilkens‘s Seattle SuperSonics and being the glue guy for the fast-paced Buffalo Braves to making the Finals with the 1975-76 Phoenix Suns. The years he spent as a coach only gave us some more additional topics to tackle.
Topics discussed in the podcast:
01:50 – Growing up in Georgia, his older brother making him a tougher player, playing with Clifford Ray at the University of Oklahoma, the influence of coach John MacLeod who stressed defense and togetherness;
07:40 – Coach Lenny Wilkens not playing him much as a rookie, Tom Meschery as a mentor who encouraged Wilkens to give the young guys a chance;
11:45 – Averaging 2.8 blocks per game in the first season that the NBA counted them, it being a strength of his game, a story of rejecting a Donald Sidle jump shot while playing on a recruiting trip at Oklahoma;
15:45 – Being the glue guy on the Buffalo Braves alongside offensive players in Bob McAdoo, Ernie DiGregorio, Jim McMillian and Randy Smith, coach Jack Ramsay encouraging them to run, tough losses in playoff series;
19:55 – The trades from Chicago to Buffalo and later on to Phoenix, the Suns team growing closer and making it to the playoffs;
25:50 – Beating Golden State in the 1976 Western Conference Finals, the Ricky Sobers vs. Rick Barry fight, a game-winning block in Game 6 on Jamaal Wilkes, how good Alvan Adams and other Suns were [the block can be seen at 25:36 of this great documentary “Sunderella Suns“];
30:35 – The Shot in Game 5 against the Celtics, a fan attacking referee Richie Powers and Curtis Perry helping him, the options coach MacLeod had on that play (Paul Westphal was the first);
35:55 – Phoenix quickly rebuilding, the speed and scoring abilities of Walter Davis, Truck Robinson and Gar creating a great rebounding duo;
40:20 – The dysfunction of the San Diego Clippers for whom he played for in his last career season, back problems forcing to retire;
43:40 – Heartbreaking moments as a coach – the 1988 Mavericks – Lakers series, Robert Horry making a 3-pointer in the overtime of Pistons – Spurs Game 5;
47:50 – Working with coach Larry Brown, his attention to detail and how he could keep so much in his mind without writing it down, enjoying work with the veteran Indiana Pacers team;
53:00 – Being inspired by Wilt Chamberlain to wear a headband, Randolph Mahaffey as the other player from LaGrange, Georgia to make it to the big leagues, the bad habits that an NBA assistant coach can find himself in.
The media related to the podcast:
Notable snippets of the interview:
Thanks to Gar for coming on the show and sharing tales from his long career in basketball!