Lifes a glide
- Jason Vondersmith
- Portland Tribune - Sports
• Beloved ex-Blazer Clyde Drexler settles into 'retirement' in Houston
He looks a little creaky and stiff as he pulls himself out of his 2003 Cadillac Escalade.- Well, Clyde Drexler is no kid anymore.
At 42, Drexler is anything but over the hill, though.
'Just a little sore,' says the former Trail Blazer, who retired after a Hall of Fame-worthy playing career in 1998. 'Played three sets of tennis, lifted weights for an hour and ran four miles today.'
Yes, Clyde the Glide is keeping pretty active in retirement.
He is a member of the exclusive Lochinvar Country Club Ñ which has only 200 members, including President Bush Ñ and plays golf four or five times a week.
'I'm down to a 5 handicap,' Drexler says.
He also holds membership at the Houstonian, a posh health and fitness club where he plays tennis twice a week and lifts weights three times a week.
'I'm at 232, about two pounds over my playing weight,' the 6-7 Drexler says.
Drexler and his wife, Gaynell, will celebrate their 15th anniversary Dec. 30. They live in the River Oaks/Memorial area of Houston in a house they bought in September and moved into with their three children Ñ Austin, 13; Elise, 12; and Adam, 10.
Drexler also has a daughter, Erica, 16, by a previous relationship. She lives in Houston, and they see each other often, he says.
Three weeks ago, Drexler brought his boys with him for a weekend trip to Portland, where he still maintains a home in the Dunthorpe area. They went snowboarding on Mount Hood and chukar hunting in Wasco County with a party that included Bob Cook, the team doctor when Clyde played for the Blazers.
'The boys found out chukar hunting is hard work,' Drexler says, laughing. 'Going up and down those canyons is pretty physical. But we had a great time.'
Since his retirement as a player, Drexler spent two years as head coach at his alma mater, the University of Houston, and another two years working in Denver as an assistant coach and special assistant to Nugget General Manager Kiki Vandeweghe, his old teammate and buddy with the Blazers in the late 1980s. He found those jobs too confining.
'It is great to wake up in the morning and say, 'Let's see, what do I want to do today?' ' Drexler says. 'For so many years, my life was on a preset schedule for eight, nine months of the year. I don't want a job where I have to be there day to day. I still do a little consulting work with the Nuggets, but other than that, I'm retired.'
Kids pull plug on move
Since leaving Portland for the Houston Rockets in 1995, the Drexlers have maintained residences in Portland and Houston but spent the school year in Houston. This past summer, they sold their home in Houston for $8.1 million and planned to move full time to their Dunthorpe place. Just before school started in September, they changed their minds, bought a smaller home in a quiet neighborhood Ñnot unlike Dunthorpe Ñand decided to stay in Houston.
'The kids really wanted to stay,' Drexler says. 'They have all their friends in school, and it's hard to leave. We will still spend time up in Portland in Christmas and much of the summer. We consider that our home, too.'
Drexler still travels, taking in championship fights in Las Vegas and other venues and appearing in charity golf events from time to time. But he's able to be home more often than when he was as a player or coach.
'I have a great life right now,' he says. 'Every day is a blessing. My wife and I get to spend our time watching the kids grow up. I really enjoy it.'
Austin is a member of his school's seventh-grade basketball team, 'but I am not sure if he likes it,' Drexler says. 'He's thinking about quitting. That doesn't bother me. I want him to be happy. There's a lot of pressure on my boys because of my career as a player. That's the last thing you want. You don't want to push your ideals on them too much.'
Drexler has spent much of the last two years working on the family restaurant, Drexler's Barbecue, run by his older brother, James, since 1982. It has been in the family since 1967, when it was built by Clyde's uncle.
Restaurant capitalizes on talents
The original Drexler's Barbecue was a mom-and-pop operation that served great food and catered to the regulars in downtown Houston. It has moved kitty-cornered from its old spot to a new building on Pierce Street just off highways 59, 45 and 280.
The new place is an impressive state-of-the-art eatery that opened in June after two years of construction. It was built by Drexler Custom Homes, which is run by Clyde's sisters, Denise and Virginia. It covers 16,000 square feet and can serve several hundred patrons. The '22 Bar' is one of the best in the city, according to Drexler. And the 'Phi Slama Jamma Room' is for group meetings and banquets. There's a stage where bands play on weekends and an adjustable hoop for kids or would-be superstars to try their hand at a shot or two.
Drexler's Barbecue is a veritable sports museum, with artifacts and memorabilia of both Houston and national sports figures decorating the facility. Of course, Drexler's career is well-represented, with plenty of items from his 12 1/2 years in Portland. Most of his family, including his mother, Eunice Scott, continue to work there.
Drexler spends time with his numerous commercial real estate holdings, which he began as a rookie in Portland. A second Drexler's Barbecue will open at the Houston Hobby Airport on Jan. 1, along with a retail shop outlet in which he will have majority ownership.
He has talked about opening a restaurant in Portland, 'if I ever get time,' he says. 'It's all about time.'
Drexler has begun work on his autobiography, which is expected to go to print next summer in anticipation of his entry into the Basketball Hall of Fame. He becomes eligible in 2004. 'If it happens next year, great,' he says. 'If it doesn't, you just wait your turn.'
Alienation tipped off Blazer slide
Drexler closely follows the NBA and in particular the Blazers, with whom he spent most of his pro career. He made no secret of his disdain for Bob Whitsitt, the former president and general manager, who resigned after last season.
'I don't believe in kicking people after they've been fired, but I do believe Whitsitt alienated the fans of Portland,' Drexler says. 'He would not do what was in the best interest of that community. He brought in players who were not of great character.
'I don't know how much (owner) Paul Allen had to do with that, but whatever the case was, it was not a good fit. They didn't cater to the Portland community. They didn't cater to the sponsors. I don't think they thought about the Portland fan base and how strong it truly was, and they didn't involve them in the process. That was their downfall.'
Drexler says he has been embarrassed by the number of incidents involving Portland players in recent years, including four drug arrests over the last 13 months.
Drexler drives past Sterling High School, where his number is retired. They go past the University of Houston's Hofheinz Pavilion, where his number is retired. The Blazers also have retired his number. So have the Rockets, with whom he helped win an NBA title in 1995.
'It's kind of overwhelming,' he acknowledges. 'It really is.'
Then it is time to watch Elise perform in a Christmas play at school.
Life these days is a joy ride for Clyde the Glide.