John Bach, the Golden State Warriors' new coach, won't be confused with Johann Sebastian Bach or with John Sebastian, although the NBA's annual meetings in New York last week could have been conducted to the strains of the latter's Summer in the City or the former's Goldberg Variations. Outside the Waldorf-Astoria, where the meetings were held, the temperature flirted with 95�. Inside, Michael Goldberg, executive director of the coaches' association, was wondering how he was going to keep track of his membership in the wake of the most sweeping reshuffling of coaching assignments in memory.
Along with Bach, the new jobholders are Bill Fitch ( Houston), K.C. Jones ( Boston), Kevin Loughery ( Chicago), Mike Fratello ( Atlanta), Jim Lynam ( San Diego), Chuck Daly ( Detroit), Stan Albeck ( New Jersey) and Morris McHone ( San Antonio). "We ran out of telex paper sending congratulations," says Atlanta General Manager Stan Kasten.
It's no accident that none of the nine came directly from a college job and that five (Bach, Jones, Fratello, Lynam and McHone) were assistants last season. "A former player has a difficult time jumping right into coaching," says Portland's Jack Ramsay, the dean of NBA coaches. "Same with a college coach. The rules, the schedule, the personnel are so different." And Houston General Manager Ray Patterson says, "It's a rare individual who can say, 'I'm the boss,' yet realize that it's the players' game. That's why coaches are paid a lot of money."
Three seasons ago no one was making $200,000 for coaching in the NBA. Within the next three years, Goldberg predicts, there could be 14 coaches at that level, and at least one making considerably more than $300,000 next year. That would be Billy Cunningham, who led the Philadelphia 76ers to the title and announced this week that he had signed a multi-year contract to return.
In a league that's still considered to have the financial shakes, the trend toward high-priced coaches was just one topic of conversation. While fending off teen-agers bent on catching a glimpse of the Puerto Rican rock group Menudo, lobbyists in the Waldorf spoke of:
Money. Four franchises that need it have gotten more of it. No, Gerald (Jiggs) Bagley isn't Utah's new point guard. He's a well-heeled Salt Lake developer who has become an equal partner with Jazz owner Sam Battistone. In Indianapolis, local mall developers Herb and Mel Simon have purchased the Pacers from L.A.'s Sam Nassi, who treated the team as he does his real business, which is liquidating. Two more brothers, George and Gordon Gund of Minneapolis, have relieved Ted Stepien of his ad agency and his Cleveland Cavaliers. And a consortium of Californians, including Frank (father) and Gregg (son) Lukenbill, have re-bankrolled the Kansas City Kings.
The draft. It's a terrific class, but there will be middling pickings on June 28. The reason: The Summa Cum Laudes of '83—Terry Cummings, Isiah Thomas, James Worthy, Clark Kellogg, Dominique Wilkins, et al.—are already pros. And after Virginia's Ralph Sampson, who will be taken first, by the Houston Rockets, the quality drops off precipitously. "Besides Sampson, there's not one player about whom you can predict greatness," says Dallas Player Personnel Director Rick Sund. "Take Steve Stipanovich. He could be a Jack Sikma or a John Lambert." Stipo, a 6'11" center out of Missouri, is the likely No. 2 pick of the Pacers, with forwards Rodney McCray of Louisville and Antoine Carr of Wichita State also expected to go early.
The Celtics. Once the epitome of stability and sanity, they now lead the league in off-season turmoil. General Manager Red Auerbach responded to the New York Knicks' stated intention to sign his free-agent Center- Forward Kevin McHale by signing three Knick free agents—Center Marvin Webster, Forward Sly Williams and Guard Rory Sparrow—to offer sheets within 48 hours. At the end of last week, New York had matched the offer to Sparrow. " McHale's an important asset," Auerbach fumed. "There's no way we're going to let him go to the Knicks. We're not going to be intimidated." O.K. But could Webster and Williams help the Celtics? "Is vindictive-ness getting in the way of logic?" one general manager asked.
But most of the Waldorf talk concerned coaching. Jones, 51, is the only 1982-83 assistant with previous experience as a head man, having won a conference title with Washington in 1975. Daly, 52, who coached Cleveland for 41 games in 1981-82, will introduce the porous Pistons to the same defense he installed in Philadelphia as an assistant from 1977-78 through 1980-81 under Cunningham. Fitch, Albeck and Loughery all moved by choice. The other four are in their first pro head coaching jobs.
When Knick Coach Hubie Brown wanted to add Fratello, then an Atlanta assistant, to his staff after coming to New York last summer, the Hawks demanded a first-round draft choice as compensation, but in vain. "At the time we thought that was outrageous," one Knick official says, "but now we can understand why they wanted it."