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Barry's last broadcasting work was during the 1981-82 season, when he did color on 17 SuperSonics games on KIRO-TV in Seattle. That season the Sonics also were to start their own cable channel, and Zollie Volchok, the GM, asked Barry to be the team's broadcaster and do all their games. "I thought I had a deal." Barry says.
According to Barry, the deal he made with Volchok included a provision that Pam, his new wife, who is two years younger than Rick, would accompany him on the road and keep stats for him as she'd done the season before. But in September, while Rick and Pam were in Lake Tahoe honeymooning. Barry learned that Pam was no longer part of the deal. The Sonics have a policy, instituted by their coach. Lenny Wilkens, barring wives and girl friends from traveling with the team.
Barry had just gone through an acrimonious divorce, leaving his wife after a long, stormy marriage. Having seen that marriage fail at least partially because he was on the road so much, he didn't want to risk it happening again. Barry wanted Pam with him at all costs. He offered to fly with the team and send Pam on separate flights so they could be together on the road. The Sonics declined. No wives. No girl friends. It was policy.
He has not worked since.
The last five years have been brutal: the falling-out with Mieuli and Attles; the fiasco at Houston; the divorce, which isolated Barry from many of his friends; the release from CBS; the disappointment in Seattle.
"The fact that I didn't turn to alcohol or drugs ought to prove I never will," Barry says. "Just about the only good thing that happened to me was Pam." He looks at her and smiles. "I'm very happy now, with her. Very happy."
What is most striking about Barry is that he actually doesn't seem bitter about the events of the last few years. Surely some of that equanimity is the product of sound investments. He's financially secure enough that he doesn't have to work to pay next month's rent; for the time being, at least, he can wait until he finds something that he likes. He's disappointed, but not discouraged. Hurt, but not sad. He remains, incredibly, an optimist.
"I've been scraping bottom," he says. "I'm certainly due for a rise. I'd like to get back into broadcasting. I might even like to coach in the NBA if the right situation came along. I think I'd be good at it. I'd try and make it fun for the players, the way I always wanted it to be."
And if he had a player like Rick Barry? Great talent. Pain in the butt.
He laughs and says, "I think I'd know how to handle him. I've been there."