He tells the same things to Derrick Coleman, a former Detroit schoolboy who once worked at Bing Steel and is now a forward for the New Jersey Nets. Last season, Coleman was voted the NBA's Rookie of the Year, just as Bing had been 24 years earlier. Coleman has long looked to Bing as a father figure, and Bing took some heat from the NCAA for allegedly buying Coleman meals while Coleman was an undergraduate at Syracuse. (The NCAA is still investigating other charges against the Orangemen.) "They're not gonna tell me I can't buy a kid a meal," says Bing. "I can tell them to go straight to hell. They ought to have better things to do."
Bing has been married and divorced twice. He is currently single and living in a downtown condo. But he and his former wives are on good terms, and his three grown daughters love him dearly. Two of them work for Bing's companies, and the third, Bridgett, says, "He was always even-tempered, even with three girls. I could see him as mayor. He wouldn't be any different."
Bing sits at a table near the dais at a convention center in Atlanta, listening to Atlanta mayor Maynard Jackson deliver a rousing speech on social injustice to several thousand people at the National Urban League's annual convention. Sitting at the same table is William Pickard, CEO of Regal Plastics in Roseville, Mich., and chairman of the 1990 NAACP dinner in Detroit that raised $1.1 million for the organization. Bing has agreed to chair next year's dinner. He looks at Pickard with a grin. "That means I have to raise $1.2 million, doesn't it?" he says.
Pickard smiles and nods.
Bing focuses again on Jackson, who grabs a glass of water and cools his flaming rhetoric. Jackson talks about business and its possibilities for helping people without jobs and without hope. He describes the Bush Administration's economic policy as a disaster for "average Americans." He says, "The real problem is not the bad guys, it is that the good guys have gone to sleep."
With that, Bing applauds loudly. Some of them are awake.