After 17 NBA seasons, ex-Blazer guard finds work in Sacramento
Terry Porter played for other teams Ñ Minnesota, Miami, San Antonio. Yet in his heart, and in the minds of thousands of fans, he will always be a Trail Blazer.
'I consider myself a Blazer,' says Porter, the first-year Sacramento assistant coach who spent the first 10 of his 17 years as an NBA player with Portland. 'I think if you ask most fans, they would remember me that way.'
During his decade as the Blazers' No. 30, Porter was a popular clutch point guard, twice playing in the All-Star Game and twice helping his team reach the NBA Finals. He is the franchise's career leader in assists (5,319) and 3-point field goals (773), ranks behind only Clyde Drexler in scoring (11,330 points) and steals (1,182), and is among the top five in several other categories.
One of these years, the Blazers may even get around to retiring Porter's No. 30 Ñ the number worn now by Rasheed Wallace.
Not bad for a late first-round draft pick who, at 6-3, played power forward for Wisconsin-Stevens Point.
'I will always be grateful the franchise was willing to take a chance on a guy from an NAIA school,' says Porter, who will be in the Rose Garden on Saturday night as the Kings take on the Blazers in a battle between the top two teams in the Pacific Division.
Thinking up a game plan
Porter, who turns 40 on April 8, began to think about a coaching career during the latter part of his decade (1985-95) with the Blazers.
'It was always one of the things I thought I'd be good at after I retired,' Porter says. 'The last four or five years, I started getting a little more serious about it.'
He retired after playing last season for San Antonio, then put out feelers to several coaches he knew. One was Sacramento's Rick Adelman, an assistant or head coach during all but the last of Porter's 10 seasons with the Blazers.
When veteran Pete Carrill, a Kings assistant, decided to leave the coaching ranks last summer, Adelman beckoned his former field general.
It was a smooth, familiar fit for Porter. Adelman, assistant coach John Wetzel, General Manager Geoff Petrie and Vice President of Basketball Operations Wayne Cooper all were in Portland with him.
'It was kind of like a homecoming for me,' Porter says. 'I was familiar with Rick's style of coaching. I knew the system. And the community in Sacramento embraces the Kings the way the fans in Portland did when I was there. Arco Arena has that same 'Glass Palace' type of atmosphere we had (at Memorial Coliseum). I couldn't have asked for a better situation.'
Porter's pedigree is exceptional. He played for the well-respected Dick Bennett at Wisconsin-Stevens Point. His pro coaches were Jack Ramsay and Adelman in Portland, Flip Saunders in Minnesota, Pat Riley in Miami and Gregg Popovich in San Antonio.
'I have taken a little bit from everybody,' Porter says. 'I have been fortunate to be around coaches who have done a great job with the players they have had. A lot of times they haven't had the best talent, but they come up with systems and schemes to get the most out of what they had.'
Porter is a rookie again and enjoying it. Sure, he has to carry the coaches' videotapes bag on the road ÑÊ'just a little lightweight hazing,' fellow assistant Elston Turner says Ñ but he can handle it.
'Terry is doing a terrific job for us,' Wetzel says. 'I always thought (coaching) was where he would end up. Everybody holds him in such high regard, with his work ethic and ability to fit in with a group. The thing about Terry, he made it as a player through long hours of hard work. It has been the same for him this year. He wants to be a coach and wants to succeed.'
17 years on court gets respect
Barely separated from his playing days, Porter connects well with the King players.
'Most of them have seen me play,' he says. 'They can somewhat relate to me. For a minute or two, they can buy into what I say.'
Turner says it goes beyond that.
'Terry played at such a high level,' says Turner, who coached four years in Portland under P.J. Carlesimo and Mike Dunleavy. 'That helps when you are trying to teach the game. You know the little tricks you don't learn unless you are out there. É I mean, 17 years in the league is pretty amazing. When he offers a comment on something, guys listen.'
Porter has spent extra time in conversations with point guards Mike Bibby and Bobby Jackson.
'Bibby reminds me of myself early in my career,' Porter says. 'He has a much better shot than I did at that stage. But like me, he is not jet quick but crafty enough to get to the basket. We have talked about different players and playing the position. It has been a lot of fun.'
Success in Sacramento
Through 17 years as a player, Porter never earned a championship ring. In his first year as a coach, the dry spell could end.
'I feel like the chances are good,' Porter says. 'We are starting to get healthy after a lot of injuries throughout the season. The injuries have given some of our (reserves) the opportunity to get more minutes and grow, so they will be ready to help if we need them. If we can hit a hot streak as the playoffs begin, watch out.'
Porter, his wife Susie and their three children Ñ Brianna, 10, Franklin, 7, and Malcolm, 5 Ñ have settled in Sacramento, for now. Some day, Terry wouldn't mind succeeding Adelman as the Kings' head coach.
'The normal apprenticeship for an assistant is maybe three to six years,' he says. 'I am willing to wait my turn. I am learning, trying to lay the foundation so that when I get the opportunity, I will be ready.'