After his first
season, the Zephyrs moved to Baltimore and McGill was traded to the New York
Knicks. The Knicks sent him a contract for $10,000. It was Downhill McGill from
then on: to the St. Louis Hawks, to Grand Rapids of the old Continental
Basketball Association, to the Lakers, to the Warriors. He played his last game
for Dallas of the American Basketball Association in 1970. He was 28, with no
money in the bank and no way of making a living.
"All I'd ever
done was play ball," he says. "I literally walked the streets for a
couple of years, trying to find a job. Any job." One night, in 1972, he
found himself in a high-rise office building on Wilshire Boulevard, working for
a janitorial service—scrubbing floors for $84 a week.
believe what had happened. I said to myself, 'Hey, I'm Bill McGill. This can't
be happening.' " To his horror, he found he couldn't even scrub floors
well. "I got fired because I couldn't swing a mop in that sweeping motion
they use. My mother taught me to mop pushing it back and forth, but in those
big buildings you cover a lot more floor space with the swinging
He talked to
"everyone you can imagine," looking for a job. "I slept in
laundromats, bus stops, you name it, trying to find something. I even contacted
the president of Utah to see if I could get an honorary degree, just so I could
put it on applications."
Brad Pye Jr.,
sports editor of the
Los Angeles Sentinel and the man who first called McGill
"Billy the Hill," managed in 1972 to find him a job in general
procurement at Hughes Aircraft in El Segundo. When a piece of equipment was
lost in transit, it was McGill's job to "get on the phone and start
tracking it down."
worked at the same job without promotion for more than seven years, McGill
slowly paid off some of the bills he had accumulated as a pro player. Of the
$290 he earned each week, he took home only $62; the rest was deducted from his
check and turned over to the Hughes credit union, which was clearing up
McGill's old obligations for him. His wife, Gwen, an executive secretary at
Hughes, took care of the bulk of the living expenses for the family, which
includes two sons, Tommy, now 14, and Myron, now 15.
Last fall the
roof once again caved in. In October, McGill aggravated a back condition that
dates to his days as a pro. He wound up in the hospital, where he was in
traction for a week. He filled out all the forms for medical leave from work,
but his authorized absences extended only through Nov. 19. He was informed by
telegram in late November that he had lost his job. "A technicality,"
he says,-"but it was really something between me and my boss."
feel he had been treated fairly, particularly considering that he had worked at
Hughes for seven years, and filed a discrimination suit with the Equal
Employment Opportunity Commission that is scheduled to be heard on June 2. Once
again healthy, he has applied several times to get a different job at Hughes
but at the moment is still on the unemployment line.
Out of all
McGill's frustrations, there is hope. He has completed his autobiography. The
manuscript of From the Hill to the Valley is 254 pages long—handwritten—and
awaiting a publisher. And lest anyone wonder, McGill can tell you for sure:
there are no ghostwriters for fallen stars.
"I hung all
my dreams on being a basketball player," he says. "Basketball was my