The Annotated Bill Walton: UCLA at Oregon EditionPosted by Andrew Murawa (@amurawa) on January 31st, 2014
So much fun was had creating this column last night, and so enticing was Bill Walton’s introduction for last night’s UCLA/Oregon game, that we’re back again, trying to help you decipher the Big Red Head’s comments throughout two hours of fun.
For last night’s musical accompaniment, we point you to January 22, 1978, at MacArthur Court, the night following a 14-point Oregon home loss to Oregon State, when the Grateful Dead played their second of just three concerts ever in the Eugene landmark. Arguably the best Dead show of 1978, the highlight of the night comes in a second set jam beginning with Terrapin Station that clocks in at more than hour. The whole thing should be required listening for any sentient being, but if you’re pressed for time, jump ahead to The Other One, so long as you promise to finish up the rest of your homework later.
Without furthur ado, Bill Walton:
Intro – “Dave, once upon a time there was a great notion that basketball players, we were born to run. So now as we converge here on track town USA in honor of the late great Steve Prefontaine, we are ready to roll tonight.
Comment: The splashy reference is to Prefontaine, the famed and ill-fated long-distance runner of Oregon fame, but Walton slyly dips in a reference to his friend Ken Kesey, alluding to his best work, Sometimes A Great Notion, not only one of the great American novels but certainly the great Oregon novel. While One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest is Kesey’s best-known work, Notion is his masterpiece. There’s also a little nod to Bruce Springsteen and Born to Run here.
18:56 – Following a play where a Kyle Anderson pass gets deflected by Dominic Artis straight to Travis Wear for a layup: “Perfect execution.”
Comment: Walton’s use of sarcasm is top-notch.
16:50 – Following Dave Pasch’s comparison of Kyle Anderson to a conductor: “Speaking of a conductor, the first concert that they had here in Matt Knight Arena – Elton John, who started it with Funeral For a Friend in honor of Matt Knight and then ended it with Don’t Let The Sun Go Down On Me. What a night, thank you, Elton, for keeping it real.”
16:43 – On Jonathan Loyd, playing with a broken nose: “In talking to him, looking at him face-to-face, or maybe face-to-hip – he’s only about four feet tall – his eyes are all watery, tons of blood in his eyes, his face is all swollen.”
15:45 – Coming back from the first timeout: “Steve Prefontaine, one of the greatest athletes the world has ever seen, he once held seven middle distance American running records from 2,000 meters to 10,000 meters. One of his brilliant quotes was ‘To give anything less than your best is sacrificing the gift.’”
Comment: Sacrifice, clearly the theme of the week for Walton.
15:40 – “More of the Pac-12 schools have to have early season games against BYU. The BYU/Oregon game, the BYU/Stanford game both were fabulous basketball games, entertaining, profitable. The entire conference needs to get BYU more involved.
Comment: Given that schools like UCLA, Cal and even Stanford were among those diametrically opposed to BYU being even remotely considered for inclusion in the Pac-12 a couple years back, this idea is somewhat humorous.
14:29 – “Much like Santa Clara’s Steve Nash, Jonathan Loyd doesn’t give up a lot defensively, particularly if the guys are not adept at getting into the paint and scoring.”
Comment: Dave Pasch responds with “Wait, did you just say Steve Nash doesn’t give up a lot defensively?” Score one for Pasch. That brings his total on the year to, hmmm, checking my math, yep, one.
13:24 – Perhaps the first of many times tonight Walton gets the Wear twins mixed up: “Not a good sign that they’re over there having to glue Travis Wear’s face back together.”
Comment: It was David Wear whose chin got gashed early in the game.
13:07 – “Kyle Anderson, he’s just doing everything out there. He’s running the offense, he’s getting the defensive rebounds, leading the breaks,” and then as Anderson gets the ball stolen from him “…turning the ball over.”
11:50 – The Walton’s World segment: “Oh my goodness, MacArthur Court, so many fine and High Times in this place. What a temple, what a shrine, what a Mecca. There was no louder crowd in all of basketball and that scoreboard at the top, it used to bounce up and down. It was absolutely a remarkable and surreal experience. But now they’ve made the transition, Matthew Knight Arena, named after Phil’s son who died tragically so many years ago in a diving accident. And the amenities, the facilities, all the many opportunities to train and develop and build and grow: a celebration of life. And then the media room, honoring all the stars, Ridnour, Ballard, Aaron Brooks, Luke Jackson, Ronnie Lee, that left-handed powerhouse who would come in and deliver. Notable visitors, Bobby Kennedy, Bill Clinton, Barack Obama, Bob Hope, Elvis Presley and the Grateful Dead. Saw the Grateful Dead at Mac Court, saw the Grateful Dead at Autzen Stadium, saw them outside at the Country Fair here in Eugene. Eugene rocks. I mean, this is about as cool as it comes. Which brings me back to the discussion we had last night about the best conference, because not only do you have the history, not only do you have the legacy, not only do you have college basketball what it is because of this great conference, you have all the great places to be and live. You tell me, I know you were raving about the Big Ten, you tell me which Big Ten city you’re going to move to?”
Comment: Average temperature in Big Ten cities today? Not gonna do the actual math, but let’s give them the benefit of the doubt and say 23. By contrast, Los Angeles had its coldest whether since Thanksgiving when daytime highs dipped into the 60s. Brrrrr… Eugene was up in the 50s. Tucson, 70. Palo Alto in the 60s. Even Boulder and Salt Lake City were up in the 40s. Speaking of which, can we possibly export Pullman to the Big Ten?
8:38 – As the refs try to determine which Wear twin should be going to the free throw line and as the Pit Crew chants “which one are you?,” Walton proves once and for all that he doesn’t have a future as a comedic writer: “That’s material for a Saturday Night Live skit right there. A guy gets in foul trouble, they go back in the locker room and switch uniforms so he can keep playing. A guy can’t shoot free throws and he gets hurt, the other guy steps forward and says ‘I’m him.’”
7:30 – “I used to play in this state, back when I had hair. Coach Ramsey, Maurice Lucas, Johnny Davis, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross. That was a team. Oh my gosh, people of Oregon have always been nicer to me than I deserve.”
Comment: Bill Walton, 1977 Trailblazers. Damn.
4:20 – “I saw Freeman Williams get 84 points in a college game. It was impressive.”
Comment: Well, it was actually 81 points, but that’s still pretty impressive. Wondering if Walton was actually there, as the Trailblazers had a home game that day. Possible.
4:18 – “I’d like to see the Pac-12 go to 22 conference games.”
Comment: Your ideas are intriguing to me and I wish to subscribe to your newsletter. While this will never happen, this is actually a far better idea than trading Washington State and a school-to-be-named-later to the Big Ten for a bag of baseballs.
2:00 – “Happiness begins when selfishness ends. Geez.”
Comment: Like, duh!
2:00 – “Norman Powell with the steal, Lincoln High School, San Diego, the high school that gave us Marcus Allen, not the Marcus Allen we saw play last night, but the Marcus Allen, who I got to see play high school football. I think the game I saw him play he had a thousand yards. Maybe seven or eight or nine touchdowns.”
Comment: Walton’s use of sarcasm is fine and well, but he is the master of hyperbole. Perhaps the greatest in the history of Western Civilization.
1:43 – Following a close up of Oregon’s 1939 NCAA Championship trophy: “Oregon, one of many schools in this conference that have won an NCAA championship and the other conferences can’t say that, they’ll have one or two schools that have won a bunch, but the Pac-12? Utah’s won one, Arizona’s won one, Stanford’s won one, Cal’s won one, UCLA has won more than one.” “It has the best of everything. It has the best players, the best coaches, the most Hall of Famers, the most on the NCAA all-time team, the most championships, the most guys in the NBA, the most draft picks. So how are you measuring the best conference?”
18:13 – “Have you had the privilege of watching Oregon State this year? Excellent. Excellent team. Craig Robinson, the most dynamic personality and coach in the entire conference finally has some players there. Eric Moreland there is a huge addition.” Dave Pasch throws water on the party, noting, “they’re 11-8.” Walton is undeterred: “That’s okay, they are fun to watch, they are up and down, they’re coming. Oregon State, the second-toughest job in the entire conference.”
Comment: Oh, so many comments. First, I’ve got minor disagreements with Walton about the most difficult jobs in the Pac-12. Second, and perhaps most importantly, I grew up listening to Bill Walton team with Ralph Lawler on Clipper broadcasts (that is, at least on nights when the Lakers weren’t playing), and this comment reminds me of some of his monologues referencing the proud and distinguished history of the Clipper juggernaut.
17:07 – “One of the coolest things about this game is how many legendary basketball names are in this game. You’ve got Jordan (Adams). You’ve got Elgin – Cook, but as in Elgin Baylor. You’ve got Artis, like in Gilmore, but that’s Dominic Artis. And then you’ve got Tony Parker.”
15: 48 – “It’s was New Year’s Eve down in San Francisco with the Grateful Dead, the band is playing on, its just an incredible scene, everybody is dancing, having the time of their life. Ken Kesey, Ken Babbs, a bunch of the (Merry) Pranksters, they roll out this revolutionary war cannon onto the stage and they’re dressed in all this wild regalia, it’s just this incredibly intense scene, they stuff the cannon with ammunition, they shoot off the cannon, the band never even looked up, they never acknowledge them and they just kept going on. And then Ken and Ken wheeled the cannon off the stage, where they ever here at all?”
Comment: It’s a good enough story. And like most stories, it doesn’t need to be explicitly true for it to be a good story. For instance, go check out The Electric Kool-Aid Acid Test, by Tom Wolfe, about Ken Kesey and Ken Babbs and those mythical Merry Pranksters. While any individual story in there may or may not have a nugget of truth at the center, who cares about the details that were made up or filled in; it’s a great book.
15:00 – About UCLA’s lost weekend, losing on consecutive nights to Oregon State and Oregon in 1974: “I thought this was supposed to be a fun show. That was a disaster, we only scored a total of 111 points, we used to get that in one game. How it all fell apart. The lost weekend.”
12:00 – Following a great pass from Kyle Anderson to Tony Parker, who mishandled it before recovering it and putting it in: “Tony Parker with the old Sidney Wicks play – knock it down and then pick it up and lay it in. Sidney, as great a college basketball player as has ever been. But as great as Sidney was, he did not have great hands.”
11:00 – Responding to Jimmy Dykes on best way to attack the press. “Turn what they’re trying to do into your advantage, fast break them to death. Inbound the ball to the free throw line to your post player who’s a great outlet man, have him pivot, look up the court, throw the ball up the court and turn it into a 3-on-2 or 4-on-3 fast break opportunity and get the 3-on-2 conditioner drill going in your favor. And make those people who were doing the count, make them sit back down in their seat and say your count is irrelevant because I’m gonna tell you how its gonna be, because we’re on the run.”
10:35 – Following Jason Calliste’s elaborate free throw shooting routine. “Remember how long Karl Malone would take? You could have a sandwich between a couple of free throws by Karl.”
9:09 – After Kyle Anderson gets on the floor to grab a loose ball and call timeout. “If you have to dive for the ball, you’re so far out of the play anyway, just let it go and get it back on the next possession.”
Comment: Much like Walton’s comment last night about just not playing defense once you’ve got a fourth foul, you have to wonder what Coach would have thought about such a sentiment.
4:10 – As Oregon is in the midst of a 14-0 run: “Chemistry, body language, commitment to the team, for Oregon all in question right now.
Comment: Just bad timing on an observation that would have been spot on four minutes earlier.
3:13 – Oregon pulling with two, 65-63. “For Oregon to come back and win, you’re going to have to think about great performances by somebody. And when you think about great performances in the history of Oregon, you gotta go with guys like Dan Fouts, Prefontaine, Ahmad Rashad. Who’s gonna be that guy right now for the Ducks?”
1:28 – Oregon up 66-65 – “You gotta have somebody who can create a shot, Kyle Anderson is that guy. People can make open shots but who can create that shot?”
Comment: Kyle Anderson earned a trip to the free throw line on that possession, and then on the following possession dripped a dime to Jordan Adams for a three-point play at the hoop.
1:17 – On Damyean Dotson’s box-out attempt on Kyle Anderson’s missed free throw attempt: “You see how he is stepping in underneath the basket? You need to step up towards the free throw line to get your good position and then once you’ve established your contact with the defender you go and attack the basket.”
Comment: He’s among the very best rebounders ever to play the game. Take his advice. Get contact with the man you’re boxing out, seal him off, see the ball, attack the ball.
0:36 – UCLA with the ball, game tied at 68: “They’re going to do exactly what they did the last time. They’re going to give the ball to him (Anderson) at the foul line with his dribble alive, drive it at the defenders who are going to be closing in on Kyle thinking that he is going to shoot, but he’s looking to pass the ball. If I’m Oregon, I make Kyle Anderson beat me with a shot, not with a pass.”
Comment: Anderson wound up missing a bad jumper, but was fortunate enough to tie up the ball underneath the hoop.
0:05 – “Wow, What a game, what a crowd, what an atmosphere. Anderson able to inbound the ball through the traffic, looks like he loses the ball Adams does, but it bounces perfectly to David Wear, who’s able to throw it up perfectly. Travis Wear? David Wear? You have to tell me which one it is.
Comment: Whichever one Walton thought it was, it was the other. And after watching these dudes for three years, I completely sympathize.
0:00 – “Now it is Oregon who find themselves deep in the woods as they lose yet another game, 2-6 in the conference, frustration, disappointment.”
Comment: Until next time. Not 100 percent sure where we’ll next catch up with Grateful Red (next Wednesday Stanford at Cal?), but good times await.