“When we play in the Olympics, the physicality in the Olympics is actually — they’re more physical than the NBA is. It’s the silliest thing in the world. The NBA used to be the toughest, strongest league in the world, and now it’s not that.
“It takes a lot of hard work to get to the NBA. There are millions of guys in the world who want to be there. I’m not the most talented player in the league, but it isn’t all about talent. It’s also about hard work and dedication.”
“I just come in ready to work every day. I know I have to prove myself every day. There’s nothing guaranteed for me. I have to earn it. I want to keep showing the Sixers what I can do. I’m confident because of the work I put in the gym every day.”
“My dream is to stick in the NBA for a long, long time. I’ll put in the work in the D-League or anywhere that gets me to the NBA to stay. Having the chance to play helped me. It gets you competing every night and prepares you for the next step. I know it helped with my confidence. It carried over and I’m thankful for the opportunity.”
“I think I’m always going to have prove myself and that’s OK with me because it keeps me motivated. It won’t allow me to relax. It pushes me to keep working. I want to play in the NBA for as long as I can. There aren’t that many jobs and I’ve got one of them. It’s a very small percentage. I want to maintain it and stay here. That’s a big challenge and I’m excited about the chance I have here.”
Part three of my four-part interview with Billy Rieser.
What was your “down and out moment? When did you hit rock-bottom?
Like so many athletes that either make it or don’t; what many have in common is not being prepared for life after sports.
I had one goal in life and that was to be an NBA star. That was my destiny, that was all that mattered to me.
I wish I could say that I was a good family man. But even after marrying the sweetest girl in the world from college and having a baby girl who just arrived into the world, my family was not as important back then as basketball.
My priorities were not healthy. After I was not able to play I became miserable and misery loves company. I started hanging around the wrong crowd and one day I had a conversation with a person I should have never spoken to.
That person was a female and the conversation led to an affair which led to other affairs.
By now my life is spinning out of control. It is tough enough to manage one life, now I am living a double life of secrecy and deceit.
In my denial where I thought I was invincible, I proceeded to sink deeper and deeper. To bring some clarity to my thinking and actions, here is what I know now. When you don’t take personal responsibility for your own life and your mistakes and junk, you tend to blame the ones you love the most. I blamed my family for my own failure because I never wanted to take a look at who the real Bill Rieser was because when I would, I never liked what I saw.
I took the coward’s way out by convincing myself that my life’s failures was my wife’s fault.
It was during this time that Carolynn (my wife) approached me with wanting to leave New York and raise our daughter in Lexington, Kentucky.
What was it like heading South to the Blue Grass?
Since I have been running all my life, the first thought that came to me was, “This is great, I can run to Kentucky and get a fresh start.”
The problem with running to a new town was that it didn’t matter; “I” was the problem.
It’s like the old saying, “Wherever you go, there you are.”
I was still in running mode, all moving to Kentucky did for me was enable me to find new people to get high with, to get drunk with, and more women to have affairs with.
At this point I am holding on by a thread just trying to survive.
One day Carolynn found a church. Up to this point I had never wanted anything to do with religion, church or God.
I would probably pop you between the eyes if you spoke to me about God because I hated God and wondered were he was when I was growing up East Harlem.
I would be the most unlikely person to even consider contemplating anything spiritual in my life.
Without my knowledge, Carolynn starts asking people to pray for me at this church.
Every week she went she would find more people to pray for me.
I did not know it at the time but she enlisted hundreds of people to start praying for me.
All along Carolynn had no idea what I was doing. She just knew that I had been hurt and had an emptiness in my heart and soul; and that I needed help.
And then it happened. One day Carolynn walked in on a conversation I was having with one of the girls I had an affair with. In one second my secret life of many years was exposed. We are as sick as our secrets and my secrets were killing me so when Carolynn found out about that affair, I then proceeded to be brutally honest with her and tell her about all the others and I did not leave anything or anyone out.
To say she was devastated would be an understatement. She was shocked into complete devastation and sorrow.
For three weeks all she could was scream and yell at me and cry uncontrollably. She was mad and I knew a couple of things were going to happen.
First, I knew she could never ever forgive me and second we were getting a divorce. There was no reconciling this marriage. There was no way she could ever forgive me and trust me again. I knew that I had just lost my family and it humbled me. I hit my bottom. I was at the lowest point in my life.
To make matters worse, we finally have a coherent conversation where we decided to set a time one particular night to talk about the details of the divorce. I was not looking forward to this night.
Before the meeting Carolynn pays a visit to the church she has been attending and asks a pastor to pray for her. Here was the prayer;
God, give Carolynn peace that surpasses all understanding.
That is all he prayed but Carolynn will tell you on her drive home when and where God simply gave her peace and somehow took this burden away from her.
Carolynn was telling God on that same drive home that she was not able to forgive me or even handle what is going on.
So when Carolynn walked through the door that night and came home, there was something different about her. She had this calm (a peace about her that I had never seen before) a confidence and even a little smile on her face that by now I am freaking out because I do not recognize the woman standing before me. But when she started to speak, I knew that it was God speaking to me for the first time where I could hear and know his voice.
“Bill, God would NEVER give up on you and I AM NOT going to give up on you. God can forgive you for ANYTHING you have done. And SO CAN I. I don’t know if I could ever forget the things you have done, but I am willing to give it a try if you are willing to give your life to Jesus Christ?”
At that moment I knew that God was real because he loved me despite me and he just demonstrated that love by giving my wife the ability to forgive me.
In a split second I saw my whole pass life before me. I saw where God was always trying to get my attention; he was always pursuing me, but most of all he always loved me.
It was in that moment that I asked my wife to forgive me. I asked God to forgive me and I accepted his free gift of grace by asking and accepting what Jesus did for me.
That night I told God I would do anything he wanted me to do as long as I knew it was him.
Now I am not the sharpest tool in the shed but being an athlete and a good runner, the only thing that made sense to me that night was to run as hard to God as I have been running from him for the first 36 years of my life.
That moment was 18 years ago and I am still running to God. I must say that I am one satisfied customer.
I have been set free from my anger. I have been clean and sober from drugs and alcohol for 18 years.
Carolynn and I celebrated our 30th wedding anniversary this past April 28th and I am happy to report that we are more in love with each other than at any other point in our marriage.
(NEXT UP: IF IT IS TO BE, IT IS UP TO ME.)
Dave Telep of ESPN recently spoke his mind on today’s youth basketball players. I have read this piece three times now since it was published. Dave hit the nail on the head. He ran the floor, came off screens and went pick-n-roll!
Telep is a good guy, salt-of-the-earth type. I once did some freelance work for him back in the day. The guy even let me sleep on his couch in Indy while we were at Speice Fieldhouse.
Dave’s a family man and knows this recruiting/evaluation thing as good as anyone who rates players.
The effort on the court was bad enough. Seven minutes in, the scrimmage disintegrated into a cherry-picking contest of uncontested dunks and missed layups. Having been in all-star settings before, expectations are low. But this was unreal. The best way to sum it up would be to say if college coaches had been allowed in the building, scholarships would have been pulled. Yes, it was that bad.
HUGE PROBLEM RIGHT THERE!
What are these clowns doing?
Why waste the opportunity?
Young ballplayers have to be smarter than that.
More from Telep:
I asked the staffers at Elite 24 who’d been part of the game for the past seven years and they said last year’s crop was the most entitled bunch of players they’ve seen. Then a few months ago, I ran into a guy who worked the NBA draft combine and he said this year’s crop of NBA rookies that came through the combine was the most entitled group he’d seen. Getting a clearer picture now?
Hopefully the young guys are reading this and wake up!
Matter of fact, all players and coaches should read this article. Do the basketball Gods a favor and pass this article along to someone who you may think can use it.
One last thing from Telep’s extraordinary, and much-needed piece:
But the behavior off the court may have been even worse. One player said of the buffet at the Ritz Carlton, “They should have just gotten us pizza.” Another player asked Jalen Rose about the, well, women in the NBA. And we’re only scratching the surface here.
That reminds me of a story from back in the day when I was coaching an AAU team. We were on the road and at the end of the first night, our best player’s dad comes up to the guy who ran our organization in the hotel lobby. We were gathering as a team heading to Burger King for dinner.
“Gimme a hundred dollars so I can take my son to a steakhouse; we don’t eat no Burger King.”
Thanks Dave Telep for putting this together. Now the question is, how do we change this thinking/behavior?
As we sit back and watch both New York professional basketball teams in the NBA playoffs (Knicks-Celtics and Nets-Bulls) for some strange reason I thought back to the 1975-76 season.
The Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets that year 4-2 to win the ABA championship, their second ring in three years. The Nuggets, coached by Larry Brown had the best record in the league and were led by David Thompson, Dan Issel and Bobby Jones. But Julius Erving was too much for them in the finals; Doc averaged 37.7 PPG in the finals. Over in the NBA, the Celtics had captured the title beating the Phoenix Suns 4-2. It was the Celtics 13th ring.
75-76 was the ABA’s last season.
Their “swan song.”
The red white and ball was no more.
Four teams (Nets, Pacers, Nuggets and Spurs) joined the NBA on June 17th, 1976.
Or like my friend Glenn Thomas likes to say, “Suspended operations.”
There was talk of a possible game between the Nets and Celtics to determine the real champion.
No such luck, it never happened.
While researching for this entry, I found this piece of information from http://www.remembertheaba.com/abastatistics/abanbaexhibitions.html
After the 1974-75 regular season, the ABA Champion Kentucky Colonels formally challenged the NBA Champion Golden State Warriors to a “World Series of Basketball,” with the winner to take a $1 Million purse (to come from anticipated TV revenues). The NBA and the Warriors refused the challenge. Again, after the 1975-76 season, the ABA Champion New York Nets offered to play the NBA Champion Boston Celtics in a winner-take-all game, with the proceeds going to benefit the 1976 United States Olympic team. Predictably, the Celtics declined to participate.
In my neighborhood we had Celtics fans, Nets fans and Knicks fans. My guy Jack Kelly from 7th avenue is one of the biggest Celtics fans around so I’m sure after he reads this entry, he’ll have something to say about the meeting that never took place. My good friend Kevin Molloy was a Celtics fan too. It was not hard to root for them. They played the game the right way.
The Celtics were fundamentally sound. They had Dave Cowens, Paul Silas and John Havlicek up front. “Hondo” was 36 at the time and nursing a sore foot. Boston had three players (Cowens, Hondo and Silas) make 1st team all-defense.
The Nets, coached by Kevin Loughery played a run and gun style led by the “Big 3” in Julius Erving, Brian Taylor and John Williamson. People tend to forget that Larry Kenon and Billy Paultz were NOT on this Nets team.
Doc was incredible. He was the leading scorer that year and had captured his third straight league MVP.
When the merger took place Red Auerbach said that we’re going to see one of the greatest forwards to ever play this game. He was talking about Julie.
The backcourt battle between Jo-Jo White and Charlie Scott vs Taylor and Williamson would have been sweet.
Overall for the ABA, the players and teams did well in the NBA after the merger.
“The ABA was like the wild west, and Julius Erving, George Gervin, James Silas and all the other ABA stars were gunfighters. They are men of legend known to millions, but whose actual deeds were seen by few,” Bob Costas said in Terry Pluto’s fantastic book about the ABA.
The following season after the merger, the Portland Trailblazers won the NBA championship (thanks to Maurice Lucas). Their opponent in the finals was the 76ers (thanks to Doc), the Nuggets won the Midwest and the Spurs led the league in scoring. The Nets on the other hand were a mess. They had the worst record in the league at 22-60 but they did do something to make the NBA history books. In February they became the first NBA team ever to have an all-left-handed lineup: Tim Bassett, Al Skinner, Bubbles Hawkins, Dave Wohl and Kim Hughes.
Nets-Celtics in 76 would have been special.
So, who wins, Nets or Celtics?
The year was 1970, I was six-years-old living in Brooklyn, New York. It was the first time I fell in love; in love with the New York Knickerbockers.
That was forty-two years ago. It was also the year the Knicks won their first of two NBA championships.
How can a young boy growing up in the schoolyards of Brooklyn not be affected by the way the Knicks played the game?
“The New York Knicks in 1970 had a team that a college coach could take his team to see and say, ‘now there’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” said the late Pete Newell.
Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Phil Jackson and Dave Debusschere were together for both titles and all likable guys. The Knicks hit the open man, defended well and played the right way. Red Holzman was the head coach who made it all happen. Red’s assistant coach was Danny Whelan, he was their team trainer.
In 1973 the Knicks had a starting five that all came from non-high major colleges: Frazier (Southern Illinois), Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem), Bradley (Princeton), Debusschere (U of Detroit), Reed (Grambling). I’m not sure you will ever see that again.
The Knicks were a team dedicated to one common purpose: Winning a championship!
It’s now 2012 and there’s a new kid on the block. The Brooklyn Nets will begin play this season on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Some of my friends, who USED to be Knicks fans have switched over and will begin to root for the Nets and they have asked me to join them. It must be noted that some have said to stick it out and be loyal.
I have a tough decision to make, I know. Do I hang with the Knicks or change my allegiance and go with the Nets?
As a kid I watched the Knicks on television and listened to the games on the radio. Marv Albert doing the play-by-play alongside Cal Ramsey who handled the analysis. I can’t forget the night while watching the Knicks play in Phoenix where Suns guard Ron Lee crashed into the press table after diving after a loose ball and spilled soda all over Cal’s new sport jacket.
The Nets of the 70’s were a fun team to watch. The ABA had the red, white and blue ball and the three-point shot. They had the dunk contest and some really cool team nicknames. The Nets had Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, Brian Taylor, ‘Supa’ John Willamson and the ‘Whopper’, Billy Paultz. They were coached by one of my favorites of all-time, Kevin Loughery. His favorite play was ‘LA 23’. In 1976, the Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets in the final championship before the merger.
On Christmas night in 1976 I attended my first Knicks home game; I was 12. My older brother and I sat in the red seats just a few feet from the court. It was Erving’s first season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after coming over from the Nets. Philadelphia, behind Brooklyn native Lloyd Free led the Sixers with 30 points leading them to the 105-104 win. I rode the ‘A’ and ‘F’ trains back to Brooklyn heartbroken.
Brooklyn has always been a great place for basketball. Back in the day the schoolyards were filled with outstanding players. You could find a good run almost anywhere. High school basketball both the CHSAA and PSAL in Brooklyn was king. Outdoor summer league action was also very popular.
In 1978 the Knicks drafted Micheal Ray Richardson, an unknown, but very talented point guard from the University of Montana. ‘Sugar’ quickly became my favorite player. I loved the way he defended and shared the ball. In the schoolyard I would emulate his game; including the “over-the-head” finger roll on a lay-up.
In 1982, after four seasons that saw the Knicks make the playoffs just once (losing to the Bulls 2-0) Sugar was gone; traded to Golden State. I was bitter for a short time but something positive came out of the trade; New York received Brooklyn native Bernard King.
Hubie Brown was the new Knicks head coach. The energetic, hard-working, passionate coach got the Knicks to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in his first season. Scraping up money to attend as many home games as possible was the norm for me. Reading about my team every single morning in the New York Post, New York Daily News and the New York Newsday; I became an expert. I also came around to embrace Hubie and even memorized his legendary “POWER RIGHT” call on offense.
Scrounging up loose change to buy Basketball Digest each month kept me up on not only the Knicks but the entire league. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete Vecsey of the Post providing the best coverage around the league.
As a teen, my love for the game was growing. I began to feel like an expert by taking notice of other players and teams. I became a huge NBA fan, I was so into it that I could tell you where every player attended college.
My life-long friend Glenn and I went to the Garden on Christmas night in 1984. MSG was sold out. “This place is electric,” he said as we watched both teams warm-up. King dropped 60 on the Nets. Little do people realize the Nets won the game and Michael Ray, playing for the Nets scored 36 points, including 24 in the second half.
While Sugar was a member of the Nets, I loved watching them play too. I would catch a bus at Port Authority and make the short trip over to the Meadowlands. At first there was no stop for the arena, I was left off at the racetrack and had to walk through the grass and the mud to get to the game.
One night I missed the bus back to the city and Darryl Dawkins gave me a lift.
The highlight of 1984 came when the Nets upset the defending champs Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the Eastern conference play-offs. Before the series Erving announced, “You might as well mail in the stats.” OK Doc, whatever! That’s why we play the games.
The Nets won the series (3-2) and beat the Sixers in the fifth and deciding game on the road at the Spectrum. The place was stunned; as well as the rest of the league.
After Knicks home games we would wait outside the Garden for the players to get autographs and try to get their sneakers. One night we walked with Hubie from the Garden to the parking lot across the street where he kept his car. Hubie had a stat sheet in one hand, a can of diet soda in the other, a black leather bag over his shoulder. He talked to us like we were his coaching staff.
One season I attended 39 of the 41 home games at the Garden. You could use your high school student I.D. card to get half off of a ticket. We bought a ticket for $8, sat in the blue seats but snuck down after each quarter. By the fourth quarter we were sitting behind the Knicks bench. Being a die-hard hoops fan cost me my first girlfriend too. I put the Knicks ahead of a wonderful girl. Big mistake.
During the 80’s, (one the best decades of pro basketball) the NBA scheduled pre-season doubleheader exhibition games at the Garden; 6PM and 8PM. It was there, in 1986 that I first caught a glimpse of a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman. The ‘Worm’ minus the tattoo’s and body piercings was a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in the six o’clock game. There were about 400 people in the stands.
This year’s Knicks squad has gone back to an “experience” philosophy with guys like Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39), Rasheed Wallace (38), Pablo Prigioni (35) and Marcus Camby (38).
I lived through Pat Riley, who came on board in 1991. Riley brought a different brand of basketball than the one he used in LA. Instead of the fast-breaking, up-tempo style, Riley came in with the “tough-guy” approach. The Knicks had guys like Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason and Greg Anthony to provide the muscle. They battled every night.
Riley coached the Knicks for four seasons reaching the finals in 1994. Assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy took over after Riley left. JVG is a grinder, one of the hardest working guys in the profession. Five years later the Knicks made it to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs (the strike season). New York’s regular season record was 27-23. But they came up short in the finals four games to one.
Things have not been the same since.
Lenny Wilkins, Don Nelson, Herb Williams, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas all tried to bring the glory days back to the Garden. Since Holzman stepped down in 1982, the Knicks have had 16 head coaches.
The Nets made it to the NBA finals twice (2002 and 2003) only to find themselves on the losing end. It’s been five years since they have tasted the play-offs.
Mike D’Antoni arrived in New York in 2008. His uptempo style called “.07 seconds or less” in Phoenix was met with mixed emotions in the Big Apple. Some said that style was only good for the regular season and would not work in the playoffs. D’Antoni was gone after three and half years, making the playoffs just once.
D’Antoni gave Jeremy Lin a chance last SEASON. Lin brought excitement to the Garden. The Harvard graduate who was cut by three teams, played in the D-League and was sitting at the end of the Knicks bench when D’Antoni called his number. In 35 games, Lin scored 14 points per game and dished out 6.2 assists per game. Lin wound up getting hurt and missed the last part of the season, including the playoffs. No offense to Carmelo Anthony, but Lin was by far the most popular Knicks player.
This past summer the Houston Rockets (a team that cut him last year) signed him; the Knicks refused to match the offer. Fans were ticked off, including me. When I think back to the Knicks of the early 70’s, Lin is the one player who would fit in rather nicely with them.
The past twelve years the Knicks have been difficult to watch. They have not won a playoff series during this stretch. From 2001 to 2010 they managed to make the post-season just once! This is NEW YORK CITY…THE MECCA OF BASKETBALL!
A few months ago Phil Jackson was interviewed on HBO’s, Real Sports. The former Net and Knickerbocker said of the Knicks “the pieces do not fit.”
I have been with the Knicks for a long time. I have a chance to switch teams.
Athletes file for free-agency and leave their team, right? Why can’t fans switch teams?
Here’s the deal; I’m a basketball guy, not a fanatic that dresses up in a jersey, attends games and screams like crazy. I don’t call into sports talk radio shows and place blame on the coach for the team’s loss. I coach high school basketball and enjoy players that play the right way. I don’t live and die with the Knicks results anymore. I think it’s great that Brooklyn has a team to call their own. It’s also fantastic that New York City now has two NBA teams.
I welcome the Nets to Brooklyn with open arms and will still keep a close eye on the Knicks.
From this day on… I will root for both teams!
Yes, you read that right. I will cheer for both New York basketball teams. (On nights they play each other, I will sit back, relax and enjoy the game.)
So good luck to both the Nets and Knicks. I hope to see you both in the Eastern conference finals someday.
-Coach Steve Finamore