"I've made him," says Kalbaugh, smiling, "and he won't split his money with me. How's that for gratitude?"
Within the larger drama of St. Bonaventure's quest for a perfect season and an NCAA tournament bid is a smaller drama between Lanier and the warring pro leagues. After the Bonnies came home from their impressive sweep through the Holiday Festival in Madison Square Garden, Lanier got so many phone calls that he finally asked the St. Bonaventure switchboard not to give out the extension number in his dormitory, Devereux Hall. Most of the calls were either from people connected with the pros—scouts or agents—or from people wanting to ask about the pros. Which league did Lanier prefer, and how much money did he think he would get?
"We thought it was funny at first," said Kalbaugh. "We would wake up laughing every morning because there were always about 15 phone calls waiting for Bob. But then it got on our nerves."
Unless they can agree on some sort of merger or common draft before this college season ends, the NBA and ABA will go foolish head against foolish head after the top college players, and the bidding in Lanier's case—he is this year's only classic center prospect in the mold of a Chamberlain, Alcindor, Russell, Thurmond or Reed—could be the most insane of all. The deal most often mentioned is a round $1 million, but Lanier still does not believe he will get that much, which makes Kalbaugh laugh.
"Bob's got no conception of money," said Kalbaugh. "Why, the other day he found an old pair of pants in our room, ones that he hadn't worn for months, and he pulled $81 out of the pocket."
"I really haven't thought that much about it," says Lanier, adding: "When the time comes, I'll get me a lawyer."
If Lanier had his druthers, he would like to sign with his boyhood heroes, the Boston Celtics, who have sorely needed a big man ever since Russell retired last year. For that to happen, however, the Celtics would have to finish last in the NBA's Eastern Division, then win a coin flip against the West cellar-dweller to decide the No. 1 pick. More likely, the last-place teams will be Detroit and Seattle, and Lanier—if he is picked No. 1 or No. 2, as everyone thinks he will be—may not feel as hot about either of them as he does about the ABA team that probably will have his negotiating rights, the New York Nets. The Nets have some strong selling points: instant stardom, proximity to Lanier's home (Buffalo), a new fieldhouse, a bright new coach in Lou Carnesecca of St. John's and the lucrative benefits available in New York.
At lunch one day last week at The Castle, their favorite eating place near the Bonaventure campus, Lanier and Kalbaugh mulled over the options, as they often do. "I would like to stay in the East," said Lanier, "although I would like to see the West, too."
"We had a good time in New York during the tournament," said Kalbaugh.
"Yeah, it would be nice playing in New York," said Lanier. "That's pretty close to home, too."