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Maravich says he was "insulted, embarrassed and humiliated" by the front-office chaos last season. "But I still went out and played," he says. "Maybe I would be happier somewhere else. In Philly I could knock in 20 a game off my nose and be happy, those guys are so great. I'd never be double-teamed there. We'd be wailing, the Doctor and me. But I'm not going anywhere. It's an incredible statement that I don't want to play with a winner. It's idiotic, stupid. The reason I signed here was that management promised to get some players we could contend with. Fine. I wasn't guaranteed a championship if I left and went to L.A. with Kareem. Check out how the Lakers did last year.
"Management has all the cards," says the Pistol. "They get the people and I work with what we get. At least I don't bitch and moan and demand to be traded. You think it's a bundle of laughs playing with a team that wins 35 every year? I still think this is a playoff team. I love New Orleans. I've spent a lot of my life in Louisiana. I don't just collect my paycheck and quit. I try hard. It hurts me to lose. It hurts to be part of a loser. But I will never believe the Jazz loses because of Pete Maravich."
Ignoring the bright lights and famous restaurants of New Orleans, Maravich and his wife are dedicated loners who venture into the French Quarter less than once a month. In the off-season they zoom off in their Porsche to a high-rise condominium in Clearwater, Fla., where the Pistol can get even farther away from anyone under the age of 90 who might bother him. Where—yes—Pete Maravich can be invisible.
Jackie is pregnant now, with the baby due in April. Mostly the Maraviches stay in splendid isolation at their home along a levee on Lake Pontchartrain. Burglar alarms are everywhere, and as if they aren't enough to keep the world at bay, there are electronic sensor pads under all the doors and windows. Jackie cooks organically fed turkeys and chickens and fresh vegetables. She serves raw milk. Pete eats everything but the furniture to satisfy his voracious appetite.
"We don't have many friends," admits the Pistol. "Our families are enough."
It is Rod Hundley who tells the quintessential—if apocryphal—Pistol Pete story, combining the harsh reality of the Maravich pro career with the breezy insouciance that was his as a collegian.
The coach comes into the locker room at halftime 30 points behind and tells his players he wants them to pretend the first half never happened. To pretend they're ahead by 30. The coach especially wants Pete Maravich to pretend he hasn't missed a shot, pretend he hasn't blown a pass, pretend he hasn't made a mistake. The team roars out of the locker room. An hour later the coach walks away. His team has lost by 45. Maravich, having gone for another spectacular bundle, calls out to him, "Hey, coach, pretend we won."
"That's funny," says Pistol Pete. "But it never happened."
"Got to use it. Could have happened," says Hundley.
We all sees ya, Pete Maravich, but it never looked easy writing about you.