Work in Sports
Blazers' playoff excitement tempered by sadness
Posted: Sunday May 07, 2000 12:20 AM
PORTLAND, Ore. (AP) -- Playoff excitement was tempered with sadness Saturday among the Portland Trail Blazers, who spoke publicly for the first time about the death of assistant coach Bill Musselman.
"There hasn't been as much of an emphasis on basketball the last 24 hours," said reserve guard Greg Anthony. He said the Blazers, preparing for Sunday's Game 1 against the Utah Jazz, were trying to "purge some of those thoughts out of our mind and try as best we can to focus on the task at hand, because we all do know that coach Musselman would have wanted us to do that."
Musselman, 59, died early Friday morning at St. Marys Hospital in Rochester, Minn., of heart and liver failure. He had been diagnosed with a bone marrow cancer a month ago after recovering from a stroke in October. The former University of Minnesota coach and first coach of the Timberwolves had been on Mike Dunleavy's staff with the Blazers since 1997.
"I think yesterday was a good day for us to be together," Dunleavy said of Friday, when many of the Blazers spent the day reflecting on the coach's life and his family -- wife Julie, sons Eric and Max, and daughter Nicole.
A moment of silence will be observed before Sunday's tipoff. The Blazers, who dedicated their series win over the Timberwolves to Musselman, also will wear black patches on their uniforms the rest of the playoffs.
"He'll always be in our memory, especially going through this season," Scottie Pippen said. "We want to feel like every game we go out to play that we're giving our best. We just have to go out on the court and do it for him."
Musselman had wanted to be at Game 4 of the Blazers-Timberwolves series on Tuesday night, but he was too ill. So he phoned several of the Portland players and gave advice to each of them.
Damon Stoudamire, who had shot 0-for-8 and scored just two points in a 94-87 Game 3 loss, was especially glad to get the call.
"We talked for about a half-hour, and he told me, 'Keep your head up; you are a hell of a player; go in there and show everybody what you are all about,'" Stoudamire wrote in his daily "diary" published in The Oregonian.
"Just his whole strength and pushing the words out to tell us to keep fighting, keep playing and keep battling, that's just an inspiration," Brian Grant said. "So we definitely want to go out there and play to the best of our abilities to dedicate this season to Muss, and to remember what it was that he loved so much about this team -- it was the people and its players."
The Blazers are more committed than ever to winning a title in Musselman's memory.
"We hope that we can deliver a ring to Julie at some point," Dunleavy said.