Ex-Warriors star Mullin at peace with past
Published: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 3:35 p.m.
Last Modified: Tuesday, September 11, 2012 at 3:35 p.m.
The quick way, the easy way, would have been for Chris Mullin to hurl verbal darts at Don Nelson three years ago. Nellie threw me under the bus. Nellie betrayed me. Nellie is no longer my friend. In the professional world of sports, wounded pride responds with vitriol and not much maturity. The ego won't allow it. And Mullin was wounded all right, Nelson clumsily having forced Mullin out as the Warriors' executive vice president of basketball operations.
CHRIS MULLIN. PHIL JACKSON TO SPEAK
What: NBA Hall of Famers Chris Mullin and Phil Jackson will speak on overcoming adversity, qualities of great teams and the proper mental approach to playing sports.
When: 5 p.m. Sunday. Doors open at 4 p.m.
Where: Haehl Pavilion, SRJC
Tickets: $25 for general admission, $15 for SRJC students with valid ASP card.
Yet there Mullin was Friday night in Springfield, Mass., one of three presenters as Nelson was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Mullin wanted to be there. Was happy to be there. Said it was an honor to be asked. Looked nothing like the wounded Warrior.
“Resentment will bring you down,” Mullin said.
And maturity will bring you up. Mullin saw beyond his bloodied ego. Mullin saw all of Don Nelson, not just don't-let-the-door-hit-you-in-the-butt Don Nelson. Mullin remembered where his career was when Nelson became Golden State's coach in Mullin's fourth year. A good player, a decent player, Mullin was a shooting guard and he was out of position. Nelson moved him to small forward, where Mullin's shooting and mobility could be better used. The switch transformed Mullin from being a good player into a Hall of Famer, a member of the Dream Team, a five-time All-Star.
Mullin saw what Nelson did for him, not to him.
“Nellie jump-started my career,” said Mullin, 49.
Would Mullin have become a Dream Teamer without Nelson? Maybe. Who knows? That killer jump shot would have been difficult for any coach to ignore. No matter. Nelson saw it and found a way to take advantage of it. For eight years they worked together. For eight years Nelson was there for Mullin as a person, encouraging and supporting Mullin's journey to sobriety.
“In life,” Mullin said, “you always look at the total picture, not just a segment of it. A lot more good than bad has happened for me in my relationship with Nellie. I respect him totally as a coach. I'm happy for Nellie.”
Mullin will share the stage Sunday at SRJC's Haehl Pavilion with another Hall of Famer, Phil Jackson. They will talk about overcoming adversity, among other things. In that, Mullin far exceeds whatever he did as a player. Shooting was his unique gift but perspective and maturity, that's something available to everyone.
“We are not privy to everything in someone's life,” Mullin said. “So who are we to judge on incomplete information?”
The movie “Crash” comes to mind.
“Look,” Mullin said, “my relationship with Nellie took a lot of twists and turns. Like all relationships.”
So Mullin refuses to be bitter about Nelson or much else, for that matter. Conflict is the essence of sport, especially at the highest level, and some athletes can't give it up even in retirement. As if somehow smack-talking and bar brawls and police dust-ups rekindle the fires of what used to be.
Mullin won't have any of that, even when conflict was served up to him on a plate.
He was asked to compare the 1992 Dream Team and the 2012 U.S. Olympic basketball team.
“From a skill level,” Mullin said of the 2012 team, “they are athletically incredibly gifted. But I think the passing skills, that's what separated the two teams. There were so many great passers on our team. LeBron (James) is a phenomenal, willing passer. After that there are some guys who can pass but they aren't all-around guys.
“All I will say is look at two scores, 107-101 and 99-94. That wouldn't have happened in 1992.”
The U.S. beat Spain, 107-101, for the gold medal and Lithuania, 99-94, in an earlier game.
And just as it appeared Mullin was smacking down the 2012 team, he was quick to add this: Two different teams played at two different times. Like comparing apples and oranges.
“If you asked a baseball pitcher from the '50s what a middle reliever was,” Mullin said, “he'd laugh at you. In the '50s everyone pitched complete games. It's like that.”
Plus, it wasn't a complete team in London, either.
“Imagine if they had Dwight Howard, Chris Bosh and Dwyane Wade,” Mullin said. “They would have been dominant, dynamic.”
Mullin was content to let the 1992 team stand alone. He was content to let the 2012 team crow. Mostly, Chris Mullin was content. His road to sobriety has been paved with examination, resolution and perspective. He has kept what he has wanted to keep and put the rest in the footnotes to use as reference.
“Life is not perfect,” Chris Mullin said.
That would mean for him, Don Nelson or anyone else.
For more North Bay sports go to Bob Padecky's blog at padecky.blogs.pressdemocrat.com. You can reach Staff Columnist Bob Padecky at 521-5223 or email@example.com.
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