A legend who had his fingertips and fingerprints involved in the launching of two of the NBAâ€™s proudest traditions.
A Trojan, a Dodger, a Celtic, and a Laker.
A man who can say he coached in the philosophy of Auerbach, under the ownership of Steinbrenner, and as the mentor to Riley.
Bill Sharmanâ€™s career began at the University of Southern California where he was, â€œâ€¦extremely pleased and somewhat surprisedâ€ to find himself starting as a freshman. (His number 11 was recently retired.) At USC he would also encounter legendary baseball coach Rod Dedeaux, and Sharman would go on to be a part of the Brooklyn Dodgers farm system for five years before focusing exclusively on playing basketball.
He could be considered solely an icon of Southern California sports were it not for his four rings garnered in the nascent stages of the legendary Celtic run that would culminate in 11 titles in 13 years.
Whether being the first guard to shoot over 40% for a season (.436 in 1953) or leading the â€™72 Lakers to a seemingly untouchable pro sports record by winning 33 straight games, he instead is known as the man who charmed both franchises with his hard work, commitment to conditioning, and innovative ways.
A sharp shooting, defensive hawk, Sharman was as physical as the game of the times called for him to be. As a 6â€™1â€ guard, his finesse game had to be buoyed by his physicality. Sharmanâ€™s legendary free throw shooting and efficient floor game have sometimes been overshadowed by his reputation for intimidation. Most of theses stories are directly from the man that bore the brunt of the Celtics domination of the Lakers throughout the â€™60â€™s and the â€˜70â€™s, Jerry West.
“Bill was tough. I’ll tell you this; you did not drive by him. He got into more fights than Mike Tyson. You respected him as a player.”
When I recently corresponded with Mr. Sharman I asked for his reaction to the Logoâ€™s assessment.
â€œThe statements about me fighting were greatly exaggeratedâ€¦ although, there were times I had to â€˜hold my ownâ€™ against players who were overly aggressive and physical by holding and pushing, etc. In those days you had to establish your rights to defend yourself.â€
As his Hall of Fame playing career wound down, he set his eyes on coaching and would embark on the second path that would again lead him to be enshrined and placed in the rarified air of John Wooden and Lenny Wilkens as the only double inductees.
His many coaching jobs would leave him well traveled and well decorated. From the Steinbrenner-owned Cleveland Pipers to the San Francisco Warriors to the Los Angeles Stars and finally to the Lakers, Sharman would end being the only coach to win titles in three separate leagues: the ABL, ABA, and NBA. For all intents and purposes he carried that Lucky Celtic shamrock with him wherever he went. He even carried it into Jack Kent Cookeâ€™s newly built Fabulous Forum.
He would feel the same â€œgreat pride and great reliefâ€ that he felt when winning Bostonâ€™s first title as a player when he guided the Lakers to their first title after numerous defeats at the hands of those very Celtics. But Laker fans that were baptized in the â€˜80â€™s at the altar of the Bird-Magic rivalries might be mortified to know that Sharman finally cracked the Lakers into the level of the elite by getting Wilt Chamberlain to do his best Bill Russell imitation by rebounding and outletting the rebound to ignite the developing fast break. Essentially he was using the blueprint provided by Auerbach.
Sharman says about that championship team, â€œ It (the Lakers style) was similar as I patterned much of my coaching from what we used during such a successful time for the Celtics when I was a player there.â€
Getting a man who once scored 100 points in a game to think about rebounding and defense and getting the Dipper to get out of bed before noon on game days were two of the miracles that Sharman performed as Laker coach. It was Sharman who began the league wide practice of the morning shootaround. He would do this during his own playing days as a way to control his nerves and get his mind focused on the eveningâ€™s contest. He made a mental note to himself that if he ever were a coach he would institute this for the whole team.
Sharman would continue to exert his expertise as he moved into the Lakerâ€™s front office as General Manager (1976-1982) and later president (1982-1990). Sharman is still a special consultant for the Lakers and likes the direction of the team and its young talent. â€œAt 19 years of age, I feel that (Andrew) Bynum has a great future ahead of him, and Kobeâ€™s all-around game has never been better.â€ Surprisingly, he likes the new rules that limit contact on the perimeter, stating, â€œâ€¦The new rules definitely help the game as it adds more speed and finesse.â€
But anyone that looks into Sharmanâ€™s past successes as key to a future of winning basketball will notice the common thread. Whether playing with the Celtics of Cousy, and Russell or coaching the Lakers of West and Chamberlain, the unifying factor was always players sacrificing for the greater goals of the team.
-Scott A. Thompson aka Gatinho
Some information comes from Roland Lazenby’s book, The Show
Bill and his wife Joyce support Toberman Settlement House.
Maxwell Zymurgy says
vlad out for 2 months..am i the only one who doesn’t mind?
(And people say bloggers can’t put together more than two sentences…)
Great interview, Gatinho. I despise the Lakers, the Dodgers, and USC – but you can always appreciate and respect guys like Bill Sharman. Kudos, to him and to FB&G.
Maxwell, you are not alone.
Roland Lazenby says
Fantastic interview and subject for a story.
I consider Sharman “Woodenesque.” He doesn’t quite have the status of UCLA’s great coach, but both are in the Hall of Fame as players and coaches. Sharman is a wonderful person as well. For years he had no voice because of damage done to his vocal cords during the 1972 championship season. In recent years, his voice has returned.
Another item on his resume: He was a good baseball player and even had a cup of coffee or two in the majors.
author of The Show
Alright guys… this Kidd thing is gaining momentum. Yesterday all indications were that its probably not gonna happen. Today, the NY newspapers say that we are the frontrunners for Kidd and that the Nets are trying to find a 3rd team to make it work. I dont want to get my hopes up because that would leave me somewhat dissapointed if it didn’t happen. So lets just plan on playing with who we have.
This is Cook’s chance to shine for a little while with no Vlad or Luke. Cookie and Mr. Mo are gonna have to step it up a notch. I think we should sign Pippen to a 10day so we can see if he has anything left in the tank. It would be ideal if he could come in now, play some minutes here and there to help with the absence of Luke and VladRad, and then after we get a little healthier, we keep him on the bench and let him be the “player-coach” he keeps talking about wanting to become. His experience would help us a lot come playoff time. He could be to Lamar what Kareem is to Bynum.
As for Kidd, lets try to ignore the rumors until something actually goes down. We’re on a 5 game losing streak… we need to be focused on the Blazer game on wed. and not on anything else.
Is it the usual suspects mentioned in the deal? Mihm, UPS, Shammond, McKie, Farmar?
I still don’t really want to give up Farmar for Kidd (assuming he’s part of the deal). Is a couple years of an aging Kidd worth n up and coming Farmar? Can we win a championship in those couple years? Will we still be primed to win after those couple years?
6- yes it looks like right now the deal would be UPS, Mihm, and a combination of Mckie, Shammond, Farmar, and any draft picks that we would be willing to give up.
I’m with you… I want to keep Farmar as well. The Nets don’t even need him. They have Marcus Williams who they drafted over Farmar. If anything, I would say lets give them Smush instead of Farmar. He can start for them until Williams is ready and he is from the area so he would be going home. But the problem with Smush is that he makes so little that the Nets cant really profit by having his contract come off the books at the end of the year.
If I were the Nets, I would not want any part of this deal. We as Laker fans were upset about giving up Caron Butler for Kwame. Imagine giving up Kidd for him. Our only chance to make this deal go through is a 3rd team. So lets not get our hopes up.
Dan, yes, those are the guys. I’m not a fan of giving up Farmar, but i’d give him up for Kidd. But apparently the Nets don’t think that offer is good enough. Hence the rumor of getting a third team involved, almost always the first desperate sign of the demise of a deal.
Here it is guys… the story thats starting all the rumors.
Maybe the Nets are trying to wait until the last possible second before the deadline to see if we panic and throw somebody else into the trade.
By the way, good reading from Kelly Dwyer today (like every time he writes, but today it’s Laker centric):
What do you think about this? When it happens?
Arnie Costell says
I have the pleasure and the honor of calling Bill Sharman my friend. The qualities and integrity that make him the superstar on the basketball court are not even close to the quality make him that off of the court as a human being. They’re not enough accolades that can be stated about him. All I can say is you would want your children to exhibit his qualities. Playing golf with him is a story all unto itself. The competition that this man exhibits even at his age is unreal, yet the dignity and qualities of integrity also come through. I’m glad that I can call him my friend.