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After the Fall
Richard O'Connor
October 20, 1980
A year ago Jack McKinney was the coach of the Lakers and Paul Westhead was his best friend. But a near-fatal bicycle crash changed all that. Now McKinney is starting a new life with a new team in Indiana
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October 20, 1980

After The Fall

A year ago Jack McKinney was the coach of the Lakers and Paul Westhead was his best friend. But a near-fatal bicycle crash changed all that. Now McKinney is starting a new life with a new team in Indiana

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"I have no use for Buss after what he did to Jack. But Paul! Jack took Paul along everywhere he went. He hired Paul at St. Joe's. When Jack got the Laker job, the first guy he called was Paul. Then Paul is offered Jack's job, and he grabs it—without a word to Jack. Nothing."

"And they had been friends for so long," interjects Jane. "Always together. Always double-dating."

"Yeah, it's a shame what happened," Paul McKinney says. "To think of all the hurt"—he stares at the picture of Jack smiling at The Forum—"since that day."

Both McKinneys fall silent. A great melancholy appears to overtake them. They have been profoundly touched by the misfortunes of their son, but there is nothing, absolutely nothing, they can do to alleviate his pain.

Paul rises to his feet, gazes out his front window and says, "And you should have seen his home in Palos Verdes. It was beautiful, absolutely beautiful. It had a paddle-tennis court, Jacuzzi, swimming pool, shuffleboard, fruit trees." He grins. "He had everything a man could want out of life."

A few hours later Jack enters his parents' house. He is a lean, good-looking man with a high forehead, crooked smile, thinning brown hair and a distinctive Philadelphia accent ("at-te-tude" instead of at-ti-tude). Despite all that has happened to him, his manner remains naturally gracious.

"Jack is one of the finest men I've ever known," says Billy DeAngelis, who played for McKinney at St. Joe's. "I think his best qualities were sensitivity and fairness. He always cared about you."

It was this sensitivity that impressed Abdul-Jabbar when McKinney was an assistant to Larry Costello in Milwaukee. Five years later, when Buss mentioned that McKinney was available to fill the Laker coaching vacancy, Abdul-Jabbar's immediate response was, "Get him."

McKinney returns to the living room and hands his guest a beer. He then tells his 19-year-old daughter Ann that when he'd been the coach at St. Joe's, his visitor had played against his team.

"What college did you play for?" she asks.

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