The Annotated Bill Walton: Arizona at Stanford Edition

Posted by Andrew Murawa on January 30th, 2014

The Bill Walton Experience has become a regular happening during Pac-12 conference games over the past two seasons. And, while the brash and talkative legend can run some people the wrong way, his commentary during games contains references to classical and pop history, the collected wisdom of one of the handful of the greatest basketball players of all time, and more than a couple off-handed Grateful Dead references – along with a handful of other comments that defy reasonable explanation. For those of you who may not get many of his references, below we’ll take a look at some of Walton’s best comments from Wednesday night’s Arizona/Stanford game and give some backstory to them, when needed.

Bill Walton's Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

Bill Walton’s Pac-12 Commentary Has Become Must-Watch TV (Earl Wilson, The New York Times)

For your listening pleasure while reading, I suggest a little Grateful Dead accompaniment, such as the only time the Dead played at Maples Pavilion: 2/9/73, a classic in Grateful Dead lore. While you can’t go wrong anywhere here, maybe skip ahead to Playin’ in the Band or China Cat Sunflower->I Know You Rider.

First half:

18:32 – “This is a really good team. If they had been able to beat UCLA 10 days ago in a game that they just got pushed around in Pauley Pavilion, it would have been outstanding for Johnny Dawkins.”

Comment: Not a great start for Grateful Red. “If ifs and buts were candies and nuts…”

16:20 – In response to straight man Dave Pasch’s questions about what he did yesterday: “I had a grand time. I went to church – Memorial Church yesterday and prayed for your salvation.”

15:42 – Following a Dwight Powell drive, spin and score: “Beautiful basketball. Go one way, stop, fake, come back and deliver the jump hook. That’s Hakeem Olajuwon basketball all the way.”

14:11 – Walton’s first big monologue, setting the theme of sacrifice for the night. “I was walking out of Memorial Church yesterday while I was praying for your salvation. And I was starting to think about some of the issues and some of the problems and how you’re so focused in on the stats and that’s not really what makes the teams go. So I started thinking about the elements of a team and that means sacrifice. And as I’m coming out of the church in Memorial Court, I come across Rodin’s sculpture, The Burghers of Calais, which is a commemoration of the Hundred Years’ War back in the 14th century. And these six guys sacrificed themselves so that the whole town could live. It was an absolutely epiphanic moment, I was standing there in a shaft of light* and it was really, really special.”

Comment: Auguste Rodin is a highly regarded sculptor of the modern era, with works like The Thinker, The Walking Man (a casting of which is presented on the UCLA campus) and The Kiss among the most famous works of art in his medium. Stanford University’s campus features a Rodin Sculpture Garden with casts of many of his most famous works. The Burghers of Calais references a legend having to do with the Hundred Years’ War between England and France back in the 14th century. The sculpture celebrates six noblemen who supposedly surrendered their fates to their attackers, presumably to be executed, so that their remaining townspeople could be spared. The display of the piece on the Stanford campus features six individual bronzes of the six burghers, rather than the one individual casting of the sculpture.


11:40 – “More important for Stanford they need play-making creativity, they need some sacrifice as opposed to one-on-one. They need to go look at the Rodin sculptures.”

11:17 – About the Arizona team: “The great thing about this team is that there are no egos out of control, these guys only care about winning, the character, the selflessness is off the charts fantastic, they’re happy to play with each other and no matter what the defense does they’ve got a counterattack there.”

10:58 – “If you’re not a self-starter, how are you ever going to make it?”

Comment: While this line could use some polishing, it clearly references some of John Wooden’s most famous aphorisms, such as “If you don’t have the time to do it right, how will you ever find the time to do it over?”

7:07 – “I’m concerned that Josh Huestis cut his hair prematurely. He’ll have plenty of time in his life where he won’t have to cut his hair.”

Seriously Josh, You've Got Plenty Of Time To Have A Boring Haircut (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

Seriously Josh, You’ve Got Plenty Of Time To Have A Boring Haircut (AP Photo/Don Ryan)

6:24 – “Never forget the lessons that Pete Seeger taught us, that history is society looking over its shoulder and that they key to a successful future is finding the optimistic stories and spreading it around.”

Comment: Pete Seeger was an American folk singer and political activist who died this past week. He was a tireless worker in support of the Civil Rights movement of the 50s and 60s and a folk music icon.

5:39 – To Dave Pasch following a promo for an upcoming Texas game, with a subtle dig for his support for Ben Howland: “You haven’t been whining about the indignation about what happened to Mack Brown.”

4:16 – “Well, Aaron Bright is one of those special human beings, so special that they named a trail in Grand Canyon National Park after his, the Bright Angel trail. “

3:34 – In response to Jimmy Dykes’ question about rebounding being more a product of guarding: “Rebounding is a result of the defensive pressure you put on, you don’t get rebounds from standing under the basket and jumping, up, your defense has to be extended, force them into taking tough shots and then you, after guarding your man step to the basket, attack the ball and then you’re off to the races. Ultimately, rebounding is like playing catch with yourself and you have to practice it like anything else. Thank you for being the voice of reason Jimmy Dykes.

1:12 – “This is the kind of game, if Stanford wins this game, these fans will come back.”

Comment: I guess we’ll never know, but given Stanford’s spotty support for its basketball program over the course of the Dawkins era, this is a specious claim.

0:20 – “Tremendous moment here at Maples, in the shadow of Hank Luisetti’s statue, the revolution is on.”

Comment: Long since forgotten by most, Luisetti was one of the first stars of the sport. He gained national fame when he took his Stanford team to Madison Square Garden on the second-to-last-day of 1936 and helped his team knock off Long Island University, then the nation’s number one team, in front of a standing-room-only crowd. In 1937 and 1938, he was the college player of the year. He was such an original in the game that he is often credited with inventing the jump shot, something that is probably untrue. Still, Luisetti’s style of shooting, what has turned into the modern version of the jump shot, was at the time a controversial and unnecessarily showy way of playing the game. A statue of Luisetti and his famed shooting style was erected on the Stanford campus in 1988 and today stands outside Maples Pavilion.

Hank Luisetti's "Controversial" Shooting Form

Hank Luisetti’s “Controversial” Shooting Form

Second half:

13:00 – On Powell playing with three fouls: “When you’re as good as Dwight Powell is, just stop playing defense. Concentrate on the offense and setting screens and passing, because most importantly, you have to stay in the game regardless of the situation on any one particular play.

Comment: While there is something to be said for this sentiment, especially as Powell picked up his fourth foul just moments later and wound up sitting until about the six-minute mark in the game, you wonder what Wooden would have said had Walton told him he was just going to stop playing defense.

12:49 – “The performance values of a champion: poise – just be yourself; confidence – know you’re going to get this job done; and then competitive greatness – be at your best when your best is needed: Arizona, they have that.”

9:35 – “I’m not an offensive foul type of guy – get in the air and block a shot. You’re seven feet tall, please.

Comment: Amen.

6:44 – A Walton’s World segment, celebrating some of his friends, all alumni of Palo Alto High School. “Joan Baez, oh my goodness gracious, what an angel of mercy, singing the songs, Diamonds and Rust, Oh Freedom, In the Quiet Morning.” “Pigpen McKernan, Class of 19… I’m not sure Pigpen made it all the way.” “Bill Kreutzmann, driving the train, the anchor on the screws back there.”

Comment: Just pure fun Bill Walton, talking about his friends and some of his musical heroes. And the Pigpen comment is just golden.

Really, I Just Wanted To Put A Picture of Billy the K and Pigpen in Here

Really, I Just Wanted To Put A Picture of Billy the K and Pigpen in Here

4:27 – Following 2 missed free throws by Powell – “Don’t you remember a couple minutes ago when I said that Stanford was playing really well and that everybody was on fire? They’ve all just shriveled up here. Please rise to the occasion, don’t shrink.”

Comment: They shrank.

2:44 – Game tied at 53. “It’s easy to play when you’re hot. But what happens when you’re struggling and grinding it out. You’ve got to be able to have somebody who creates, and not just for yourself, but for somebody else. And that’s what T.J. McConnell has been able to do. Right now, I’d be milking Nastic, that guy can create out of the post, he can score himself, he can pass off to cutters, and screen away from the ball, They’ve gone away from that.”

2:12 Following the next Stanford offensive possession when they throw it into Nastic and he mishandles it and kicks it out if bounds: “They went so long without passing the ball that he forgot what it felt like. Fate of the known world, right here in the balance.”

0:45 – “You don’t see a lot of self-promotion, you don’t see a lot of hype. This team, they expect to win, they know how to win, they’ve got players who can deliver.”

0:33  During delay with refs at scorer’s table – “They’ve gotta get this game going. Call the foul, let’s shoot the free throws and get playing basketball.”

0:00  Final comment on Arizona: “How about the poise of the number one ranked team? They looked hopelessly out of this with 10 minutes to go but they just clawed their way right back, even though everything seemed to be against them, and they remain undefeated.”

And there you have it. Another night with William Theodore Walton III.

AMurawa (999 Posts)

Andrew Murawa Likes Basketball.

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One response to “The Annotated Bill Walton: Arizona at Stanford Edition”

  1. Ray R. says:

    Thanks for the annotation. I’d listen to Bill Walton any day over “Dukie” V, but there are times when the annotation is needed even though I’m a Dead fan myself.

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