"Everybody was miserable about the changes," he says. "And I was the big change. I took the brunt of it. No one ever figured out a role for me. I was mostly the isolation man on the floor, standing way out so my man had to come out to guard me. The decoy."
Three months later, in mid-February 1995, Nikki returned to their rented house from a training ride with a Berkeley bicycle club. She saw there were 12 unplayed messages on the telephone answering machine. Tom was home, but he never answered the phone.
"Tom," she said after she had listened to the tape, "I think there's something happening. You have messages from the coach, the general manager, the assistant general manager, all kinds of people."
"Oh, it's nothing," he said. "My back's hurt. They just want to know if I can play tonight."
"There's a message from Donyell Marshall, too," Nikki said. "Isn't he a player? Who does he play for?"
"Uh-oh," Tom said. "The Minnesota Timberwolves."
This time, Tom told Nikki after he was traded for Marshall, they wouldn't even rent. She wouldn't even come to Minneapolis. He would live in a hotel until the season ended.
At least, he thought so then. "The big thing has been Kevin McHale," Nikki says. "He and Tom, they're so much alike. Do you know they have the same birthday [Dec. 19]? They think alike."
McHale took charge of the basketball operation on May 11, 1995, and persuaded Gugliotta, who had the option to become a restricted free agent, to stay, saying changes would be made. Changes have been made. Gugliotta is in the second year of a five-year, $25 million contract, which he signed on Oct. 16, 1995. He and Nikki own a house in Eden Prairie, a Minneapolis suburb. On March 20 the couple welcomed their first child, a baby girl named Cameron Greer Gugliotta. And the Timberwolves are headed to the playoffs for the first time in franchise history.
This season Gugliotta was named to the All-Star team. At week's end he was averaging 21.0 points (15th in the league), 8.8 rebounds and 4.1 assists. The reviews have been terrific. Says Pistons coach Doug Collins, "Googs is so versatile. He can step out and run. He has great hands around the post. And he's a matchup problem."