The Annotated Bill Walton: Stanford Stomping Cal EditionPosted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on February 6th, 2014
Back by popular demand, your skeleton key into the mind of Bill Walton, as we try to decipher exactly what the most interesting college basketball commentator in the world was talking about last night as Stanford took apart California.
And, as always, you’ll want some musical accompaniment, so let us kindly suggest the Grateful Dead at the Greek Theatre on the Berkeley campus on a beautiful summer’s Friday night some 30 years ago — July 13, 1984 — a show featuring the band’s first performance on its epic Dark Star in almost three years, and its last performance of the same for more than five more years. Dig in here. And, without further ado, on to the game.
Intro – “What better place to stage this game of the millennium than right here in Berkeley, the epicenter of everything cool, hip and worthwhile. Now, when you beat the #1 team, my computer-like mind tells me that the rules of algebra apply here; now Cal is the best team. The battle is raging; we’re at the turn; who’s going to be able to finish strong?”
Comment: It’ll soon shake your windows and rattle your walls, but Bob Dylan’s The Times They Are A Changin’ gets referenced frequently tonight, appropriately enough in Berkeley. Also, note that Walton’s major in college was not math, but rather communications. But you probably could have figured that out.
18:34 – “Who are these people behind us yelling and screaming?” Dave Pasch comments that he’s having hard time even hearing Walton, to which Walton responds: “That’s a dream come true for you.”
Comment: The first of many entertaining back-and-forth exchanges of bickering tonight between Pasch and Walton. They’re beginning to sound like an old married couple. My next sentence has been self-expurgated because I’ve learned that not everything I think needs to be said.
18:03 – “Don’t discount Oregon State. They’re playing fabulous ball. They’ve got point productivity in the backcourt, they’ve got a big guy in Moreland up front who can change the entire complexion of the game.”
Comment: Last week at some point Walton was raving above Oregon State and I sort of wrote him off. Now? I’m beginning to see his point.
Comment: Okay, there has been a lot of backlash about Dylan playing the role of car salesman in a Super Bowl commercial. And believe me, I’m not thrilled about it. But, here’s the one line that really gets under my skin: “So let Germany brew your beer…” Huh? What? Hell no. I’d rather let America brew my beer and drive a German car. Or a Japanese car. Or, hell, an American car. But there’s little argument that America is creating the best and most diverse beer on the planet right now. As Pasch would say, “Meanwhile, back to the game.”
15:57 – On Brandon Ashley’s injury: “It changes everything. This guy Brandon Ashley is a phenomenal talent. He has no idea how good he is. But now, everything is different — for Tucson, for Sean Miller, they’re going to have to totally regroup. It will be an absolutely wholesale change in approach, attitude, style, everything, that’s how good Brandon Ashley is.”
13:26 – “I’m looking forward to college basketball becoming more creative offensively the way that college football is. College football is shockingly more creative than college basketball is right now.”
Comment: Can’t disagree.
13:26 – “I can’t believe that they put the Stanford band up in the rafters here. That is shocking. The Stanford band helped Cal win a huge game years ago. I’d send a limo for those guys.”
13:18 – “I’ve got the best seat in the house. Although, when the show is good, all you’ve got to do is be in the house.”
11:11 – Walton’s World on the Greek Theatre – “The Greek Theatre, the epicenter of creativity and imagination, so many fabulous things have happened there: Teddy Roosevelt, responsible for so much good in our country, including our national parks; the Dalai Lama, who only talks about peace, love, happiness, compassion, kindness; then the musical acts: Tom Petty, Bob Dylan, Neil Young, John Fogerty, the Grateful Dead, who have played here the most, including an incredible time here back in 2005 10 years after Jerry passed away, they had a Comes a Time. The Comes a Time lyric goes something like this: ‘There comes a time when the blind man says don’t you see.’ And on that night when Bruce Hornsby and Trey Anastasio performed Jerry’s song Standing on the Moon, talking about the ‘battle raging below,’ ‘feeling so along and blue, where talk is cheap and vision true, it’s a lovely view from heaven, yes, but I’d rather be with you.’ Thank you for a real good time.”
10:26 – Continuing on the Greek Theatre: “It is a fabulous venue, 8,500 seats, a big lawn up top. What Gregg Perloff and Another Planet have done in the rehabilitation of the Greek Theatre and other venues in the Bay Area – just outstanding.”
8:27 – “Arizona had that size and strength across the front line that would keep them in any game no matter what was going on offensively. That no longer exists.”
Comment: I agree that the Ashley injury is huge. But Walton is really overselling this. The Wildcats still have great size and athleticism along the front line; they’re just not as deep as they were.
5:50 – “A player, Johnny Dawkins, whose career was ruined by injury once he got to the NBA.”
Comment: Dawkins got off to a solid start in the NBA, but a torn ACL early in his fifth season turned the tide and began the downward slide to the end of his career. While there are very few older basketball players whose walking gaits don’t belie the damage done to their bodies, Dawkins’ step is clearly the product of more than one injury – maybe not Walton bad, but bad.
5:15 – On Oregon: “They won the conference tournament last year. And they were playing better this year at the start than they were last year at the end. But. Serious questions about Oregon and chemistry and willingness to sacrifice.”
3:42 – “Telegraph Avenue, Sproul Plaza, the Greek Theatre, Strawberry Canyon. But the man that made us all the greatest clothes in the world, a pair of jeans, thank you Haas family. How can you go to Eugene, how can you come to Haas Pavilion and not wear jeans. That is disrespectful, please. Be a professional.”
1:14 – “David Kravish with the jump hook, shades of Billy “The Hill” McGill, the inventor of the jump hook back in the ’50s, Los Angeles High School, University of Utah, one of the most incredible scorers and players in the history of college basketball, whose career was ruined by a knee injury, but being remembered tonight by the play of David Kravish.”
Comment: Seriously. Click on that link about Billy “The Hill” McGill. And if you’re interested, maybe go and buy McGill’s autobiography. I did just that after Walton turned me on to a piece of basketball history that I knew nothing about before tonight.
0:58 – On Ricky Kreklow’s dad: “His dad played for the Boston Celtics, in the early ’80s, one season, Larry Bird’s first championship in ’81. Dad, Wayne, currently the volleyball coach at the University of Missouri. We had the chance to talk to Wayne Kreklow today at practice and we were reminiscing about the guys he played with on that Celtic team. That team had four of the greatest trash talkers in the history of basketball: Larry Bird, Kevin McHale, Cedric Maxwell and M.L. Carr.”
Comment: I’m wondering what kinds of advanced statistics they have for trash talking these days. Maybe we can get Ken Pomeroy to find a way to quantify that.
0:49 – On the ’86 Celtics championship: “Larry won that championship. I was along for the ride.”
0:23 – Prior to Cal’s final possession of first half: “What kind of creation are we going to get on the offensive end here for Cal. Is it going to be one guy dribbling for himself, which is a big waste of time? Or is it going to be penetration and dish or dribble hand-off or a flash-cut leading to a back door. I don’t understand why you would just dribble it with one guy the whole time. But then again I prefer the team game.”
Comment: Well, Cobbs dribbled the ball down to 10 seconds, then he at least drove the ball, kicked it to Ricky Kreklow and got it back for a clean look at the three at the buzzer. This is incredibly preferable to the nonsense I’ve seen repeatedly in the Mountain West this year and then notably on Monday night in the Iowa State/Oklahoma State game where ball-handlers held the ball at the end of halves or games or regulation until there are just six or seven seconds on the clock, then half-heartedly attempt penetration only to launch awful contested deep jumpers at the end of the clock. Those kinds of plays are unforgivable.
Intro – As somebody from the Cal badminton team rapidly solves a Rubik’s Cube in the background: “This game tonight is so reminiscent of our great governor here in California, Jerry Brown, who is a Cal-Berkeley alum. And the turnaround that Jerry Brown has made for our great state here in California is so reminiscent of what has gone on here tonight. The first part of the game was all Stanford, the private sector getting it done over there, perimeter jumpers, six-for-12 from behind the line, most of those early on. But then it all turned around for California behind the senior leadership of the conference’s all-time leading assist-maker Justin Cobbs, the reigning conference player of the week and David Kravish very strong when he was hitting quickly. Now we’ll have to see if Cal can sustain their coming out of the slumbering hibernation that plagued them in the first 10 minutes of the game.”
Comment: I was looking forward to hear Walton finish his analogy, but after comparing Stanford to the private sector, his comparison broke down in the second half of the intro. Sometimes brilliant inspiration fizzles out in practice.
19:07 – How about Josh Huestis’ younger brother Chris, who went to college here and was just chosen #3 overall in the MLS Draft? Vancouver Whitecaps. He’s down in Tucson right now in training camp for the pro soccer league. He’s a big rugged left-side defender.”
16:09 – “End to end basketball. Mike Montgomery. Creation. Imagination. Illumination. And he sits over there so patiently, waiting for it to come his way.”
15: 45 – “Steve Fisher, what he has been able to do. Eventually Steve Fisher and Mike Montgomery, two teaching legends will make it to the Basketball Hall of Fame. Builders of programs, developers of young men on and off the court. What Steve Fisher has been able to do is as remarkable as some of the great coaches ever.”
Comment: Couldn’t agree more. While guys like Mike Krzyzewski and Jim Boeheim rightfully are regarded as deans of coaching in the modern era, it seems like the best of the best on the West Coast – of which Fisher and Montgomery are clearly one-two – get short shrift.
15:40 – Pasch brings up that Walton’s son Chris played at San Diego State: “He was Coach Fisher’s first recruit when he came there many years ago, maybe 14 years ago now. But you cannot get a ticket t here now at Viejas Arena, absolutely incredible, every game sold out, phenomenal student support, the noise in there is unparalleled in West Coast basketball.”
15:18 – After Pasch continues with the Walton family tree in an effort to angle for a night in the Walton teepee, noting that Cal assistant Gregg Gottlieb was on the SDSU staff when Chris played there and that Gottlieb’s father coached another Walton son, Adam: “I’m concerned. I think you’re stalking me. I’m going to have to expand that prayer circle that I’ve got going for you for your salvation.”
14:16 – “If you don’t call a foul there, that’s the kind of non-call that leads to violence. The Dalai Lama would have a problem.” After Pasch notes that one reference to the Dalai Lama in a college basketball game is enough: “What do you have against peace, compassion, kindness, humanity?”
13:21 – During another interminable visit by the refs to the monitors: “So while they figure that out, why don’t we talk about John Fogerty, who just happens to be from right here in Berkeley.” Pasch then leads them to talk about some boring decision about whether there was a flagrant foul or not. “I can’t believe that in the drought that we’re having, the man who has some of the most famous songs about rain ever – Who’ll Stop the Rain, Have You Seen the Rain?. We finally had a little bit of rain here in California, maybe saved our lives for yet another day and you’re saying ‘no, let’s talk about a replay.” Come on. We’re in Berkeley. Get’s your hands dirty. Let’s go.”
Comment: Seriously. These trips to the monitor are getting absurd. Sure, get the call right. But more importantly, do it in under 60 seconds.
12:00 – Walton: “The season goes to quick. It’s too short.” Pasch: “Speak for yourself. Ha. Ha. Kidding.” Walton: “Some of us like our jobs.”
Comment: I for one am perfectly pleased with the length of the college basketball season. Does that make me Baby Bear?
11:45 – About Stanford alumni: “Train the mind. 31 Nobel Laureates. Senators, congressmen, please heed the call. Astronauts up in space. The Pulitzer Prize winner.” On Cal-Berkeley alumni: “22 Nobel Laureates of their own. They’re up in space themselves. Pulitzer Prize winners on their own ledger. Home of the Free Speech movement, Mario Savio, thank you for your sacrifice for our sins, Mario. My dad. My dad, who went to Cal. When I went to UCLA, that was tough enough on him. But when I went to Stanford, oh my gosh.”
9:56 – “I had invited Robert Reich here tonight for the game, but he sent his regrets because he was screening his new movie tonight at Wheeler Auditorium on campus, Inequality For All. One of the 10 most important cabinet members in the history of our country, now a professor here at Berkeley.
9:31 – “I was drifting and dreaming about Oski and about the Bears going for the pot of honey, I was thinking about Winnie the Pooh and what he used to tell us all the time: ‘Have you ever stopped to think, and then forgot to start again?’”
9:22 – “Postgame concert tonight at the Sweetwater: Bob Weir and Ratdog before their February tour starts in Philadelphia a week from Friday.” Pasch plays mother hen: “You’ve got a game in Tucson tomorrow. Take it easy tonight.”
8:31 – “I was hoping to see more from these talented freshmen, Jordan Matthews and Jabari Bird, but basically we’re just seeing one-on-one efforts of just jacking up perimeter jumpers.”
Comment: There is enough talent on this Cal team to make a splash in March. But Montgomery has somehow got to get through to these freshmen in particular. And he’s knows it.
6:49 – As Richard Solomon and Justin Cobbs argue: “And when you’ve the other team arguing and the two seniors walking away from each other in angst. Goodness gracious. Almost seems like this broadcast table here.”
4:06 – Pasch on what might be next for Walton’s World in Thursday’s game between Oregon and Arizona in Tucson: “I find out when the rest of America finds out.” Walton: “As do I.”