In the front hall Salley has hung a large portrait of Rosa Parks, the Detroit woman who refused to go to the back of that bus in Montgomery, Ala., in 1955. The kitchen has been redone in white. The work on the rest of the house is proceeding. Scarano has stayed with the new administration. His checks come from Salley's company, Sal-Sal Enterprises. Salley is attempting to have the house declared a landmark.
His cousin, Sabrina, who lives in the house, thinks the place may be haunted, but everyone else disagrees. Sabrina asks why she hears doors close during the night and why her television is always tuned to a different channel from the one she had last watched. No one has an answer. Salley said he recently won custody of his 21-month-old daughter, Giovanna, who had been living in New Orleans with her mother. Scarano says she is the first baby inside the house since it was built, in 1926.
Quivari, Michael and Lucile work for Scarano. Jill, who has four kids and owns a gym, helps out. Fat Cat is the neighborhood security man. There are always trucks in the circular driveway out back. There always is activity.
Salley says he hopes that he can become a starter this season, but the Pistons feel he is more important to them coming off the bench. Salley disagrees. "It's time," he says. "If it's not now, it's never. Enough of that coming off the bench. There's opportunity [with former starting forward Rick Mahorn now gone to the Philadelphia 76ers]. Everyone says, 'You can last a lot longer if you don't play a lot of minutes.' Oh, yeah? How long did Kareem last? How many minutes did he play? This is the year to do it. I have a contract coming up next season. They're paying guys $2.5 million a year to play basketball. I want to do it."
The conversation is being held in the master bedroom, formerly the Cardinal's library, where Salley sleeps in a water bed. He is watched by the stained-glass images of the Twelve Apostles. A fireplace dominates the room.
"I worked hard during the summer," says Salley. "I rested for about two weeks after we won, then I went back to work. I want to score points [he averaged 8.9 in the playoffs last season]. I worked on my shot. I know how it works. Isiah and Joe Dumars get you the ball if you put it in. If you don't put it in, you're not going to get the ball. I'm going to put it in."
The season approaches. The man of the house must go to work. He is dressing as he talks, getting ready to go to a banquet to meet his basketball public. He takes his clothes from the drawers and cabinets of the sacristy, which is between his bedroom and the chapel. Labels remain on some of the cabinets. There is a cabinet for relics, a cabinet for the chalice, a cabinet for altar wine. In one corner of the room is a tiny sink in which the holy water was disposed of. Salley walks past the sink, holding a necktie.
"What do you think, Ernie?" he asks.
"Nice, John," says Scarano.
The public awaits.