Wilt had joined San Diego too late to have done any real coaching. After the Qs' 121-106 win over San Antonio, he volunteered, "I was the assistant coach tonight. Stan Albeck, who's supposed to be my assistant, ran the team." After San Diego's losses the next two nights to Hannum's Rockets (135-111) and van Breda Kolff's Tarns (118-113) Wilt held long blackboard sessions and admitted coaching errors to the press.
Following the second defeat Chamberlain finally had an opportunity to call his first practice of the regular season. He scheduled it for 10 a.m. Sunday, then turned to Albeck and asked, "Can we get the gym at nine?"
"Sure," said Albeck.
"Good. Let's do it then," said Wilt. When asked how a 9 a.m. practice would fit in with his insomniac pattern of late to bed and later to rise, Chamberlain replied, "I won't go to sleep at all Saturday night."
When practice ended on Sunday, Wilt still had not shown up. Various Qs' officials claimed he was in conference with various other Qs" officials, and players were heard to whisper, "Where's Wilt?"
The answer to their question was literally up in the air. Chamberlain had left Los Angeles for the 30-minute hop to San Diego on a 7 a.m. flight. The plane had been diverted first to Palm Springs and then to Phoenix because of heavy fog in San Diego. When Wilt finally touched down he was furious, an emotion heretofore not generally associated with his absences from practice.
Seattle has an absentee problem of its own. Last season, even though fans continued to arrive at the healthy rate of 9,448 a game, average attendance dropped nearly 2,000 from 1971-72. The reasons were obvious: the Sonics had their second-worst record ever with a roster of players far too talented for a fourth-place finish. Around the NBA, Seattle was considered a team of malcontents and prima donnas that needed a tough coach to fulfill its potential and refill the empty seats. From the very first day he took charge of the Sonics, Russell indicated he intended to be just that sort of man. These were among the introductory thoughts of Chairman Bill:
"If the team survives training camp, we'll win.
"We're going to run all over the place. We'll look like chickens.
"Most of the guys can run. The ones that can't will walk to the unemployment office.