things?" Willie asks. "Playing and coaching at the same time?"
"I miss some
things—guys getting tired, certain guys I don't play enough. But I have
intelligent players who give me advice. I don't worry. I'm not going to get
ulcers coaching. I'm going to give them."
There are some advantages to having a player-coach. The great one is that he
can inspire you on the floor by example. A coach on the bench can only shout,
or maybe send in a substitute. But if things are going badly Russell can take
over. He can get a rebound, begin to block shots. By performing on the floor he
can pick up the whole team and set it going right.
JOHN HAVLICEK: His
first season was rough—we finished second. He called us in to see him at the
beginning of his second season—we were down in Puerto Rico on an exhibition
tour—and he looked at us, six or seven Celtic veterans, and said that sitting
in that room was a century of basketball experience. He wanted our help—he
wanted to tap that knowledge. Of course he told us that his would be the final
decision. It helped a lot. He told us to criticize him if we felt he warranted
it. One of his problems is that after he gets a rebound he sometimes won't come
all the way downcourt with the offense. He has a tendency to go to half-court
and watch. If I'm on the bench I'll yell, "Get down there, Russ!" And
he'll start, jump a little, you know, and he'll prance on down there, that chin
striking out, and that goatee of his accentuating the whole business.
"Hey, when you
coming out to the ball park?" Mays asks Russell abruptly. "For batting
practice, I mean. We'll fit you out." Mays is full of enthusiasm. "What
size are your feet?"
"Fourteen," says Russell.
is not diminished. "We got four-teens. We got them around somewhere. We'll
get you into something."
"I hit batting
practice in Dodger Stadium," Russell says. " Mudcat Grant took me out
there when he was with the club. I hit the right-field wall."
right-field wall!" Mays is aghast. "Why I can't hit that wall." He
puts on a pout. "What you talking 'bout?" He begins to stomp around the
living room. "What you talking 'bout?"
As a coach he's not a man of a million words. He's direct and he's precise and
it has a great effect. We were down three-one to Philly in the playoffs last
year and he gave us this little sentence in the dressing room for a pep talk.
He said, "We've come so far and I don't want to go home now."