Kings Blog and Q&A

News, observations and reader questions about the Sacramento Kings and the NBA.

June 6, 2009
Another loss for NBA ...

I'm off for a week's vacation, but wanted to offer some final thoughts about Randy Smith, the former NBA star who died of an apparent heart attack while working out on a treadmill. Smith, who was only 60 years old, is the latest of three former Clippers to die prematurely - all of whom happened to have the same last name. This is particularly weird for me, because I covered all three during my first few years as an NBA beat writer. Derek Smith (35), Phil Smith (50) and now Randy Smith (60) died of different causes, but much too young.

Smith, who was later traded to the Kings in the deal for MIke Woodson and Larry Drew, died of cardiac arrest in 1992 after suffering a reaction to anti-nausea medicine while on a cruise for the Washington Wizards. At the time, he was an assistant coach for Jimmy Lynam, who gave him his start in the NBA with the 1983-84 San Diego Clips. Phil Smith, who is best known throughout the Bay Area as the former USF and Golden State Warriors star, died of cancer in 2002 at age 50. He played for the Clips in 1980-82, but after suffering a ruptured Achilles, was never the same player. I remember Phil showing up at practice one day with his twin toddlers, Phil and Martin, and when he saw me sitting in the gym watching practice, sheepishly asked if I would babysit. He placed his sons on my lap and went about his business. It was hilarious ....

Randy Smith moved west with the Clips in 1978, was re-signed by the team in 1981-82, which happened to be my first year covering the league. He was a great guy on a team filled with wonderfully rich, entertaining characters, among them Bill Walton, Jerome Whitehead, Tom Chambers, Jim Brogan,Terry Cummings, Brian Taylor, Lionel Hollins, Joe "Jellybean" Bryant, and Michael Brooks. The only downer was the owner - Donald Sterling - who became notorious for failing to pay the team's hotel and restaurant bills, stripping team employees of their insurance, and trying to force the squad to travel coach instead of first class - a violation of the collective bargaining agreement for all flights exceeding two hours.One night, after a flight landed in Seattle - and keep in mind that teams traveled commercial back then, usually with beat writers on the same flight - Kobe's Dad pulled me aside and told me he had a story for me. I immediately called the late Larry Fleisher, who was head of the Players Union, and Sterling was busted!

Randy was just a sweetheart, though, and a wonderful influence on youngsters Cummings and Chambers. Same for Taylor, who played for Pete Carril at Princeton. I saw Randy on occasion in later years, mostly when he was working for the league. I wonder if he was working at the Mohegan Sun casino when the Monarchs played the Connecticut Sun during the 2005 WNBA Finals? I surely would have looked him up. You never forget the people who are so kind and professional, especially when your career is just starting.

Still confused by this one ...

Nothing against Kings coaching candidates Kurt Rambis, Paul Westphal and Tom Thibodeau, but Mike Fratello continues to reach out to team officials, and can't even get an interview? I understand Geoff Petrie's desire to hire someone whose personality meshes with his own introverted nature, but this is ridiculous. In terms of credentials and accomplishments - not to mention , it's not even close. At the very least, Joe and Gavin Maloof should insist that Fratello be granted an interview. Then, talk personalities, styles and contract.

This has nothing to do with the Kings, but ....

While Fratello was guiding the young Atlanta Hawks of Dominique Wilkins, Doc Rivers, Spud Webb, Randy Wittman, a young lefthander named Tom Glavine was the lone bright spot on a lousy Braves team that played to 2,000 or so fans nightly. Glavine endured the bad times and in the 1990s went on to become one of the most popular and successful sports figures in the city's history. He was MVP of the 1995 World Series - he pitched a classic series-clincher against the Cleveland Indians after Greg Maddux had been roughed up in Jacob's Field. Beyond all that, he represented everything organizations claim to want in their players. He was a class act, an incredible competitor, and deserved to be treated better than being waived Friday in a blatant salary dump. Braves president John Schuerholz had a sleepless night? Yeah, well, guess he won't be invited when Glavine is inducted into the Hall of Fame ....

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