My job as coach was made very hard by one thing: I was Wilt Chamberlain. Every day reporters were asking my players, "Was Wilt at practice today?" "Is Wilt a good coach?" "Hey, where is Wilt—does Wilt often come this late?" Everybody wanted to know what Wilt was not doing.
I have a lot of reputations for various things, some of them true and some not. "Hey, Wilt misses practice," they say. I don't know where that myth comes from, but people seem to want to use it. In five years with the Lakers I had three coaches. Ask all of them and you might get one missed practice. I take pride in what I do. Nobody can say I wasn't in shape. And I damn sure played more minutes than anybody else ever has.
In San Diego I had an agreement with Leonard Bloom to do certain things. Some of them kept me from being at every practice. Do I have to tell the players, "Hey, fellas, I'm going out to watch some players that might take your places"? A lot of coaches—even Frank McGuire, my favorite—missed practices to make speeches or for personal reasons. Last year I missed a couple of games. I just had to be somewhere else, and the right people knew where I was. I took practice with my girls the other day, ran some warm-downs with one of them. She went home and turned on TV. The guy on the news was saying, "Where is Wilt? Nobody knows."
"Mommy," she said, "I don't understand. I just saw Wilt. He was with me."
That's one sort of aggravation she and I won't have to put up with now. My No. 1 love has always been track. In college I competed in the high jump, the 440 and the hop, step and jump. In track it's man against man, and against the tape measure or the clock. It's a sport where there isn't an argument about "Who's better, Bill Russell or Wilt Chamberlain?" If Bill Russell jumps seven feet and Wilt Chamberlain jumps seven feet one inch, you know damn well who's better. In track you don't need three or four other guys. You don't need a ball. All you need is true desire and perseverance.
I really just got started working with my Wonder Women. It's a club of 51 or 52 girls and young women from 10 years old to 27. Last year it had 39 members—37 of them went to the national championships, 37 won a medal and five of them made the U.S. team. I'm underwriting some of their expenses, but they also have garage sales and things to raise money. I go out and talk to new girls, and I work out with the team a little. Some of them, I can't keep up with. Cazzie Russell is a man who works out a lot, runs and stays in shape, and he used to say he could run the mile in 5:30. I've got 10-year-old girls who can do better than that.
I think it's fine for Mark Spitz to get so much recognition for winning seven gold medals, but what happens when Debbie Meyer wins three? People hardly even remember her name. It's time we did something about women's sports. The East German girls are taking over the world in swimming and track. That's because their goals are the same as the men's, and their rewards are the same. Maybe I sound like a Women's Libber. In a way, I am. I think women are here to stay, and their position is going to get stronger and stronger.
I tell my team that the new name, Wonder Women, may sound too bodacious, it may raise some eyebrows, but when they jump 6'5" that's going to raise some eyebrows, too. Wonder Woman is in a comic strip, but she's beautiful, she's smart, she's strong, she's fast. What more do you want? Women athletes do have power in ways that other women don't. So we're calling them Wonder Women instead of Wilt's Golden Girls. The younger girls we're calling (he Wonderettes.
"Ettes" puts the feminine into it—like bachelor, bachelorette—and it even sounds a little bit cute. I've got a women's volleyball team too, the Little Dippers. They were second in the nation last year.
I'm into some other things. I'm one of the founding fathers of the International Volleyball Association, the professional league which is going to start a season next June. Right now I'm the owner of the Los Angeles franchise, but I haven't decided to what extent I'm going to be involved. I've got my Big Dipper volleyball team—we're four men and we play against six-man teams all over the country. The International Basketball League offered me a franchise, basically anywhere I wanted it. I don't know about that. And then I harbor a little thing within me that says I'd like one day to really become involved in the movies. I've formed a production company and since July I've read about 230 scripts.