The next Blazers coach, remembering LeRoy Ellis, the Beach Boys and Kevin Love, OSU's new basketball complex and Harper's Playground in North Portland
- Kerry Eggers
- Portland Tribune - Sports
Here's what I know, or think I know, heading into another crowded sports weekend ...
• I'm not so sure Neil Olshey is zeroed in on Kaleb Canales as the next Trail Blazers head coach, even after Portland's new GM went way overboard with his comments in a virtual endorsement at Olshey's unveiling press conference on Tuesday.
No offense to Canales - a promising young coach whom I am proud to call a friend - but there are going to be more qualified candidates out there, if Olshey, president Larry Miller and owner Paul Allen are willing to look.
Olshey has had a long, close relationship with former Blazer coach Mike Dunleavy, who gave him entry to the NBA by hiring him as a player development coach with the Los Angeles Clippers in 2003. Dunleavy, 58, out of a job since he was let go as GM by the Clippers in March 2010 (Olshey succeeded him), would love to coach again in Portland.
That doesn't mean Olshey will hire him, and perhaps Allen would prohibit re-hiring a coach as has been his history since purchasing the club in 1988.
It's something to think about, though.
Two potential hires who could have been procured before their current clubs exercised team options - New Orleans' Monty Williams and Atlanta's Larry Drew - are now off the market, but there are other intriguing candidates.
Golden State assistant coach Michael Malone is going to get a head position soon. So, too, will Indiana assistant Brian Shaw. I've never understood why Drew's chief assistant with the Hawks, ex-Oregon Stater Lester Conner, hasn't gotten a look. Same with ex-Blazer assistant Elston Turner.
There are other good people out there with a great deal more experience than Canales, who surely would be maintained on the coaching staff should someone else be hired.
• Didn't understand at all Olshey's distinction between not needing to have a coach hired for the NBA draft on June 28, but that it would be wise to have one in place before the free-agent period, which begins July 1.
'Players would want to be knowing who they come in to play for,' Olshey rightly noted.
Free advice from your faithful veteran scribe: Hire the coach before the draft. There will be plenty of other things to worry about later.
• Yes, LeRoy Ellis was an original Trail Blazer. But the 6-11 center was nearly as well-known in these parts for his extraordinary contributions as 'franchise player' for the run of national and world age-group championships with the East Bank Saloon.
Ellis, 72, died of prostate cancer Sunday at his houseboat home along the Columbia River near Scappoose.
Upon retirement following his 14-year NBA career, Ellis moved to Portland, and two of his sons - LeRoy Jr. and LeRon - were standouts at Parkrose High. During those years, Ellis played city-league ball against and formed a friendship with those who played for East Bank Saloon.
By 1985, Ellis had moved to Los Angeles. That's when East Bank owner Pudgy Hunt began to sponsor teams that put together a string of age-group championships. Ellis was there for EBS's first title, 45-and-over at the AAU national championships in Florida, and at the first World Masters Games in Toronto the same year.
Over the next 21 years, Ellis was the ultimate ringer as he led EBS to a succession of crowns all over the world, ending in the 65-and-over division at the Pan American Games at Brazil in 2006.
'Until he was close to 60, LeRoy was a sensational player,' Hunt says. 'He would grab a rebound, throw it to a guard, fill a lane and finish a fast-break. He could really run. He could shoot 3s, was an unbelievable rebounder and could block shots like a son of a gun. On the senior circuit, he was as good as I've seen.'
By 2006, Ellis was 67 and beginning to feel the effects of the disease that would eventually take his life. He was a trooper in his career finale at Brazil, though, as EBS came out of the losers' bracket to win the title.
'It was warm, humid, with no air-conditioning in the gym,' recalls Hunt, 74, who also made the Pan-Am Games a farewell to his playing days. 'LeRoy was so exhausted, we had to carry him out to the car after one of the games.'
Ellis and Hunt go way back, to when Ellis was the star at St. John's and Hunt was playing for Gonzaga in the early 1960s.
'He didn't remember when we played each other, but I sure did,' Hunt says. 'We went back to New York to play them and he blocked about six of my shots.'
Hunt estimates EBS won 80 percent of its national and world competitions over the years, and places the same percentage on the number of events in which Ellis participated. When Ellis couldn't make it, East Bank went from 'favorite' to 'contender' in a hurry.
'About 10 years ago, LeRoy couldn't make a tournament in Chicago because of a work conflict,' Hunt says. 'We asked him, 'If we get in the semifinals, can you make it for the weekend?' He said he could.
'So he's at the airport and we still don't know if we're going to make it into the semis. No sense him coming unless we win (the quarterfinal game). We're tied with five minutes when his flight is scheduled to leave. He jumps on the plane, flies to Chicago, gets there, and luckily for everyone, we won by one point.
'With LeRoy, we go on to win the tournament. I remember, because it was the only time I ever won an MVP trophy, and it was because he wasn't there for the first three games.'
Hunt says Ellis never took a drink of alcohol, never smoked a cigarette and told him he 'never had as much enjoyment playing basketball in my life as I did with East Bank Saloon.'
Ellis, Hunt and several of the other players grew close in recent years, thinking back to the times they had as they played basketball and saw the world.
'He was a great guy,' Hunt says. 'We had a ball.'
• The Love family was well-represented last Saturday in Los Angeles for the Beach Boys' sellout show in 17,500-seat Hollywood Bowl.
On hand for the LA stop of the celebrated tour with the return of Brian Wilson were Stan and Karen Love along with kids Collin, Kevin and Emily.
The Beach Boys 'were really good,' says Stan, the Lake Oswego resident whose brother, Mike, is an original member of the music group. 'They have a nice video presentation that plays behind the stage showing them when they were younger.'
Wilson, Love says, 'adds quite a bit. Most of the time, he's pretty good. His voice isn't what it used to be, but he wrote all of those songs and created all that music with my brother. And they played a couple of songs from Brian's new album. It was special.'
Brian's daughters, Carnie and Wendy - members of the vocal group Wilson Phillips - came on stage to help sing a couple of numbers.
The Loves also attended a Sunday night show in the Verizon Center at Irvine, Calif., for the Beach Boys, who make the only Oregon appearance on their summer tour July 14 at Eugene's Cuthbert Amphitheater.
Stan and Kevin also got to visit with an old teammate of Stan's during his days with the Los Angeles Lakers - Jerry West.
'I was backstage after the (Hollywood Bowl) show and Kevin comes back and says, 'You have to come out and say hi to Jerry,' " Stan says. 'I got to visit with Jerry and his wife. That was nice.'
West is a bit of a hero to Kevin, the All-Star forward with the Minnesota Timberwolves who will begin training camp with the U.S. Olympic team next month at Las Vegas.
'Kevin wants to be like Jerry - a general manager some day,' Stan says.
Kevin, incidentally, is in Portland this weekend, attending the graduation ceremonies of sister Emily at Lake Oswego High.
• Groundbreaking ceremonies are June 21 for the basketball training complex to be constructed next to the Sports Performance Center at Oregon State.
'We've needed this for 20 years,' says the project point man, Doug Oxsen, director of development for Beaver Athletic Scholarship Fund. 'The project is estimated at $15 million, and (fundraising efforts) are at close to $10 million. We'll continue to raise money, but the project is way too important to put off any longer.'
Kudos to Oxsen, coach Craig Robinson and Athletic Director Bob De Carolis and to thousands of OSU donors for making it happen.
• Another groundbreaking ceremony is Saturday at Arbor Lodge Park in North Portland, where Harper's Playground will become a reality on the seventh birthday of the namesake. As I wrote on March 1, Harper Goldberg has a rare genetic disorder called Emmanuel syndrome. Her parents, Cody and April, spearheaded an effort to build a $350,000 all-inclusive play structure in the park.
Now it's happening. That's so cool.
• A final good turn: Friend Mike Rich, who has written so many great sports films, is bringing the subject of one of them in Portland next month for a special event benefitting Ronald McDonald House Charities of Oregon and Southwest Washington.
Vince Papale, the former Philadelphia Eagles player who inspired the movie 'Invincible,' comes to town July 29 for a golf and social event organized by Rich to help the McDonald House. For information, see rmhcoregon.org or call 971-230-6709.