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                             THE PROFESSIONAL ATHLETE


          One of the things I really enjoyed, when I was at the Medical Center, was working with professional sports figures. In fact, if the person were making his primary living as a professional athlete, I would give my services at no charge to him or her.  If any person put his body and health on the line for the entertainment of the sports fan, regardless of how much money he or she made, I would show that person how to maximize his talents and still keep his body healthy.

          If you are a president of a large company or a ditch digger or a secretary, you do not have to fight your way into work and then fight your way out.  You do not have to abuse your body just to make a living.  In some professional sports, there is no body abuse, but most sports are rough on the system.  If I made a rule for one, it stood for all.  That free time that I gave was on a space-available basis only.  If I spoke to a team somewhere, there was no charge, except for my expenses.

          Professional athletes are already proven champions and I enjoy associating with champions.  The professional athlete has already proven that he is a capable, thinking, intelligent human being.  It is always a pleasure to work with these people.

          I have heard many a coach say that the professional athlete is a spoiled prima donna.  After talking with many of these people on a one-to-one basis, I find them to be very good, concerned people with interests other than money or their own popularity.  Of course, there are a few exceptions.

          There was a time when I spent a lot of my time going to the San Antonio Spurs professional basketball team practice sessions.  I believe it was during the 1979-1980 season.  I met the team’s general manager at a Roast the city fathers gave for the team captain, Jimmy “The Snake,” or “Captain Late” Silas.  I don’t know how Jimmy got the nickname, “The Snake,” but it was easy to see how he got the name, “Captain Late.” That is, if you ever saw him play. During the late seconds of the game, all you had to do was give the ball to Jimmy and he would save the game.  He is one of the best one-on-one players I have ever seen.

          At the Roast, I met Bob Bass, the Club’s General Manager and explained to him that if he ever needed my services, that they would always be available.  We discussed what I could do to keep individual members of the team motivated.

          Some time went by before Bob called my office.  He had a young player that he wanted me to make as tough as a “junk-yard dog.”  I worked with this young man and he went on to develop into one of the dominant players in the National Basketball Association.  Not only were his stats good, but he would run over six freight trains without a second thought.  This young man turned into one of the finest team players in the League---a real asset to any team.

          Bob asked me several times to work with individual players, but to this day, he has never agreed that I did them any good.  However, he kept asking me to talk with individual players, so he must have seen some good in my work.

          Some of the players didn’t mind the media knowing about their visits to my office, and others did.  I can understand why some of those that came to see me did not want to explain to the media what they were up to.  Therefore, any information about the players’ visits to me came from the players themselves, not from me.  I knew first-hand what was going on, but what was printed in the papers was “hyped up” to make it sound like something it was not.  This was not always the case with some of the sports writers.  Some of them printed exactly what the players told them.  Those that are often interviewed must select their words carefully. When it comes to the San Antonio Spurs, those guys cannot go to the bathroom without the media wanting to print it.  I understand the media boys; they are trained primarily to sell papers, not to print the exact news. 

          Toward the end of the season that year, the Spurs management got a wild hair and decided to fire the head coach, Mr. Doug Moe.  This seems to be the practice of the Spurs management: firing the coach.  Don’t ask me why.  They just do it.  Coach Doug Moe had lost four games in a row, which is not unusual in the National Basketball Association, especially when the team plays 84 games in a season.  Well, Doug looked up and was out of a job.  Bob Bass took over the job as head coach and also retained his title as General Manager.

          Doug Moe was more of an offense coach than a defense coach and the Spurs led the league in offense and trailed the league in defense.  If you have ever studied sports, you know a good defense is mandatory for success.  Doug did take the team further than most, just on a good offense.  That’s a feat that not too many coaches can boast about.

          After Doug was fired and Bob was hired, a couple of games went by and the Spurs lost two more games.  I had stayed in touch with Bob Bass during the season and I decided to ask him to let me talk to the team as a whole, rather than just one-on-one.  He consented and he allowed me about thirty minutes on one day and about ten minutes the following day.  When I got through with my two brief sessions, the Spurs actually played good defense.  In the next two games, one with Boston and the other with Philly, the Spurs played like a fantastic pro-basketball team.  They lost those two games, but went on to win the next eight straight, which is very good in the NBA.  There was only one problem...Bob never asked me back.  I remember, that year the Spurs did well enough to make the playoffs and the team captain, Jimmy Silas, asked me if I was going to Houston with them to start the first round.  I told him that the management had not asked me to go.  The Spurs lost in the first round.

          In forty minutes, I gave the team direction.  You must understand that not everybody was trained to have the strength of conviction that I have or the ability to convey that conviction.

          This is the world of specialization.  It is impractical to expect every coach to have all the qualities to produce a consistent championship team.  When you have this occur, you will have a coach that is an extraordinary man.  When you have a toothache, you do not go to the foot doctor.  Right behind the Spurs trainer and doctor should be Tom Ray.  The team has the coach for the mechanics of the game; the assistant coach to support the coach in the game plan; and the trainer and the doctor to help out when a player gets hurt, but nothing to help keep the players mentally prepared.  Many people say that is a job for the coach.  The coach usually claims that is the job of the individual player, therefore, the player continues his backward thinking and continues not to know the difference. I say it is the job for me.  One day, I will be on the Spurs coaching staff.

          *Here I am, 20-odd years later and the Spurs have not hired me.  It may be a surprise to many that I like to think I helped the Spurs get their NBA Championship in 1999.  I think, as a result of a letter that I wrote to three different people, (those people will remain nameless) my suggestions helped get the Spurs over the hump. My effect on the Championship may have only been one-half of one-millionth of one percent. I think I should have been on the stage the night of the Championship ceremonies in San Antonio, when they introduced the players and coaches from the past.  I believe I made a difference in that 1999 Championship. I will always believe I have to my credit one NBA Championship.  The nice part about it is that I can think as I please! “Sports Illustrated” interviewed Bob Bass and asked about the Spurs’ earlier days.  He spoke of a hypnotist, gave no names, and indicated it did little good.  Why then, did he tell the local papers at the time that what I did for the team was very positive?  Why did he tell me one day, “Stay out of the Spurs’ locker room.  I don’t want you taking over my team”?

          I really like Bob Bass.  He just missed it or refused to acknowledge that I was good at what I did: teach.  That’s all.  I just teach. I am not a basketball coach. I am just a simple teacher. Bob, I still like you, whether you like me or not.

          By the way, Bob Bass is one of the smartest men in basketball.  He has always had a job in pro-basketball, while most of the other guys come and go.

         When it is all said and done, there will be Bob Bass, the genius that he is, still working in professional sports.


Chapter 15..The Subconscious In Our Everyday Lives


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