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Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Sam Mitchell: The B-sides

Not everything can make it into a newspaper article on a given day, which is why we have the blog.

I wrote a story for today's paper about Columbus native and former Raptors coach Sam Mitchell. His name has been rumored for the Auburn job, although he says he has not had any contact with anybody from the school. It's still early in the process, so who knows how everything will play out.

Anyway, here's some stuff from my interview yesterday that didn't make the paper or was cut down so it would fit. Also, follow the blog on Twitter.

(What do you think about the Auburn job? Would that be something that interests you?)
"I mean, I'm a coach and I want to coach. I haven't closed my mind off to having an opportunity to coach in college. Sure, I think Auburn would be a great job. I think you have a lot of potential, a lot of possibilities. I just think the most important thing for Auburn, and they would say the same thing, is getting the right person who is going to push the program and how to build a program to a national power, like it used to be in the early '80s. We've got enough talent in the South to do that. I just think somebody's got to come in and stop everybody from all around country from walking off with all the talent in the South."
(What have you been doing since being fired by the Raptors in December 2008)?
"I've been doing TV. I've been doing some NBA TV. I'm actually doing some NBA TV tonight. And really just truly sitting down and looking at things and just going over things and learning. My whole thing is just continuing to learn. And not necessarily what happened with me in Toronto. Obviously you look back at some things you try to improve or what you did, and look at some things that you could have done different, that you could have done better. I just think everybody does that. I think as you grow as a person, you get better at what you do, if you have a passion for it. Now I like to pride myself and I like to think that there is always room for growth and improvement in everybody. And I always feel comfortable and confident that I'm a work in progress. And I like to think I'm a work in progress until the day I die. Because I always want to improve who I am and what I am."
(Do you fear you're too institutionalized in the NBA to get a college job?)
"I think coaching is coaching. You hear that all the time, but you're coaching young men. I had players on my team that had one year of college. So what's the difference? It amazes me. People are like, 'Well, can you go from the NBA to college?' Well, when you think about what the NBA coach is doing, you've got teams with half a roster or a third of your roster who have one or two years of college. So, you're basically coaching sophomore and juniors that would have been in college. And the tough thing about the NBA is you're coaching a kid and you have to ask him to grow up overnight. And some do, but in some cases they don't. So you're dealing with them even on a tougher basis because you're trying to teach these young men how to be professionals. And a lot of them are not ready to be professionals, so you have to be ready to navigate and go through that adjustment, because there are a lot to carry. It's tough."
(Would recruiting be a difficult adjustment)
"I don't think so. I know a lot of prospects this year. I know a lot of AAU coaches. I know a lot of the high school coaches from the state of Georgia. I do a lot of clinics and camps and things of that nature, so I'm familiar with a lot of the players and a lot of the coaches and things of that nature. I don't look at it as being difficult. I look at it as being something that you look forward to. Basically, you're walking into a young man's home and, I kind of think of my college coach recruiting me. And I tell people this all the time: My father did an unbelievable job raising me to a certain point. But my college coach (Bill Bibb) took over when my father dropped me off. Not that he became my father, but he became a male figure in my life that was influential, because I was with him every day. And so I learned a lot from my college coach. ... And so when I look back on those things, the college coach has a chance to be a huge influence in life."
(This is slightly off topic, but did you see the ESPN "30-for-30" documentary about the Reggie Miller Pacers teams of the mid-'90s, which you were on, going up against the Knicks in the playoffs?)
"Yeah, I watched it. It was kind of comical to my kids. My youngest kids don't remember me playing. They don't. And so when I work with them on certain things, they always see how focused and how intense I am, but they never got a chance to see. Then they were like, 'Wow, dad. Those games were tough. And y'all played so hard and it was so physical.' And I told them. That was a special team, because we were committed to one another. We weren't just committed to the Indiana Pacers. When you build a team, the players have to be committed to one another. And the coaches were committed to the players. We were all committed to each other. We would have ran through a wall for Larry Brown. We would run through a wall for each other. It wasn't us and the coach. It was all of us together. Because we had a common goal. I mean, at the time, we just disliked New York and they disliked us so much. It was amazing how much we didn't like each other. And you forget a lot of that stuff, but watching that short movie,it brought back a lot of memories. I mean, I started sweating staring at the TV, ready to go out and play again."
(Those games were so physical, they looked like football games)
"Hey man, I'm telling you, it was brutal. And you think about playing those guys, you play them four times in the regular season and then you play them seven times in the playoffs, you're talking about playing those guys 11 times. It was just brutal. And we knew going into the game it was going to be that way. You just knew. And the thing about it, it was just a fight. And I tell people every day, life is just a big struggle, and the people who make it are the people who keep getting up after they get knocked down. Because you're going to get knocked down. I don't care who you are. You're going to get your nose bloodied. The ones who keep getting up ... and I learned how to get up. I mean, my coach, Coach Bibb in college, Bill Musselman, Larry Brown, I learned so much from those guys about getting up. We lost that first year in Game 7 to those guys after being up 3-1, that was just brutal. My daughters were looking at the tape and they were showing Reggie in the locker room crying. They were like, 'Dad, y'all were crying?' I was like, 'Yeah.' I mean, we were committed. And when you lose, when you're committed like that, you feel like you let everybody down. We came back strong that following year. Like Reggie said about it: the only thing that was bad about it was that it was the second round. But you really learn what being on a team is all about when you play on a team like that. I feel very fortunate to have played on a team where every single player and the coach were committed to each other."

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