Bring out the snow tires
Monarchs assistant and Kings radio analyst Tom Abatemarco is close to finalizing a deal to join Jay Humphries' coaching staff for the Reno Bighorns' inaugural season in the NBA Development League. If the deal materializes - and all indications are it will - the man known around town as "Coach T" will remain on Jenny Boucek's Monarchs staff, but drop the Kings radio gig.
Humphries, who played in the NBA for 11 seasons after being drafted by the Phoenix Suns in 1984, was looking for an assistant with considerable experience, and in that sense, Coach T certainly qualifies. A former head coach at Drake, Lamar and Sacramento State, the New York native also has been an assistant for two of college basketball's best minds - the late Jim Valvano and, most recently, former Utah head coach Rick Majerus.
The major downside here will be Abatemarco's absence on the Kings' postgame radio shows. His analysis is candid and informative, without being overly technical. Initially, he was a bit of a homer - overly conscious of not offending the hypersensitive Rick Adelman or ticking off any of the players - but his observations and insights have become increasingly daring and enlightening. I'll definitely miss his no-nonsense spin on the Kings.
A shout out to Cotton
Humphries is an interesting head-coaching choice for Reno owner David Kahn. Before spending the last few seasons as an NBA assistant in Phoenix and Denver, Humphries spent several years coaching in South Korea and China. He is a very charming, interesting fellow. I will always remember bumping into him at an airport - I can't even remember which one - in the late 1980s, and asking what it was like to play for the late Cotton Fitzsimmons during his first three years in the league. Humphries just laughed and shook his head. "Playing for Cotton is like being locked in a cage with a Tazmanian devil," he said, adding, "but he's a helluva coach."
Just can't forget Cotton
The diminutive Fitzsimmons - he of the gravel voice and barrel-chested laugh - is best remembered for his years coaching the Phoenix Suns. But my first impression connects Cotton with the Kansas City Kings: My first road game covering the Clippers for the San Diego Union was at the half-empty Kemper Arena. After the predictable outcome - Clippers lost - my former competitor from the Los Angeles Times, Chris Cobbs, and I waited for Cotton in the interview room. Taking mercy on a rookie NBA reporter, Chris advised me to check the battery on my tape recorder. "Just sit back and listen," he said, grinning. It didn't take long to figure out what he was talking about. Cotton didn't wait for questions. Cotton was on stage. He was scripted, Hollywood, all about theatrics. And absolutely fascinating.
What a character. Too bad the Kings never brought him West.