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As a coach Gaines is a proponent of the iron-man theory. Rarely does he play more than six men. Fatigue is a state of mind. Once, when a van hauling the varsity to an away game broke down, Gaines asked Griffin, the equipment manager, to rent a car and get the starting five to the game on time. The rest would have to make their own way.
"Harsh? Oh, no, that wasn't harsh," says Clarence Jr. "Once, we went to Germany, to the '72 Olympics, to Munich. My father told me to go out and explore with a friend. I was about 13.1 don't know too many people who trust their children to go across the street at that age. Well, he sent me to Dachau. That had a profound effect on me."
"He showed me how to do comparative shopping when I was six," says Lisa. "I sort of have his gypsy spirit, and so do his grandsons Loran, who's nine, and Ryan, who's six. Loran already wants to travel. He wants to play for Poppa Gaines."
According to Clarence Jr., his father "has crossed all cultural, racial and economic boundaries." Maybe Gaines crossed them all because he knew they were largely imagined, anyway. When he was a boy in Paducah, his mother just about raised three young white children, the Johnsons—Dick, Mary Ann and Hollis Jr., now deceased—after their mother died. Olivia, Clarence's mother, died in 1982, six years after Lester. When Olivia died, Mary Ann Johnson Clark tearfully made the arrangements and comforted Gaines as Bighouse arrived in Paducah with a big, heavy heart. "The Johnsons are family, too," he says.
Not long ago, Gaines's recommendation sold Krause on a CIAA forward from Virginia Union named Charles Oakley. The Bulls, who have since traded him to the Knicks, pinched Oakley from the Cleveland Cavaliers in a 1985 draft-day trade of first-round picks, in exchange for Keith Lee. Oakley's college coach was named Dave Robbins. Robbins's teams have won three CIAA tournaments in the last eight years, and he has sent three players to the NBA. Robbins, by the way, is a white man.
You never know where the talented people are going to come from or where they're going to go. Robbins was an assistant to Gaines when, in 1988, Bighouse took a group of players—college underclassmen and a couple of recent high school graduates, Billy Owens and Shawn Kemp—to Taipei for an international competition. That's where Gaines taught Kemp, now the formidable second-year center-forward for the Seattle SuperSonics, and Felton Spencer, a rookie center with the Minnesota Timberwolves, the difference between a slide step and a cross step. The kids won the tournament, sure, but the important part for Gaines was watching Owens, now of Syracuse, evolve into a scientific player.
So maybe Billy Packer wasn't off course on that night back in 1960 when he went to the other end of town to learn more about the game he would one day analyze. Maybe Bighouse was bigger than even Fernandez Griffin thought those many long years ago. No, nothing much has ever happened in the quiet of the cast side of Winston-Salem, North Carolina, other than the fact that a big gypsy once came, and rarely left.