Behind the Bench: Q&A with former Bucks trainer Arnie Garber

May 3, 2011 interview with Arnie Garber. Milwaukee Bucks team trainer from 1968-1978.

Arnie Garber
Arnie Garber served as the Bucks team trainer from 1968-1978.
  • Championship Anniversary Index
  • What are some of your favorite memories from the Bucks NBA Title?
    Arnie Garber: “The night we won it all in Baltimore. But from the first day we started training camp, there was an air about the 14 of us that we were going to win the championship. I think with Oscar Robertson coming to lead the show, we just had an air about us that we knew that we could win.” Did you have a favorite part about the Finals, one defining moment?
    Arnie Garber: “When it was winding down and there was about two minutes left, Larry took Oscar out - Oscar came to the sidelines and said, ‘we did it.’  Just the look on his face of knowing that in all the years he played in the league and it hadn’t happened. Just to see him with the elation of being a World Champion.” What was the atmosphere like during the home playoff games?
    Arnie Garber: “We played in Madison at the UW Fieldhouse (during the 1st round) because the sports show was held at the Milwaukee Arena. It was unbelievable - like a college atmosphere. They had 12,000 people in the stands stomping their feet So even though you weren’t playing in the Milwaukee Arena, the excitement was still there?
    Arnie Garber: “That year, we also played four or five times in Madison in the regular season in the Dane County Coliseum. When the playoffs came, Dane County was tied up and you could fit more people into the venue at UW, so that’s where we played the whole opening round. It was electric. That must have been an incredible experience.
    Arnie Garber: “The whole year was incredible. We set a record that year- we won 20 straight, then LA beat us in a game that was very close. Otherwise, if we had won that game, I believe we probably would’ve won 30-35 straight games. That’s how good the Bucks were.” What kind of characteristics did the team have that gave them such confidence?
    Arnie Garber: “It was a whole bunch of things. First off, I think Larry (Costello’s) ability to coach the game. Larry wasn’t the greatest communicator as far as putting his arm around people or stuff like that, but Larry was precise in what he did. He did his homework, worked real hard and the players appreciated that.

    “Number two - we had the ‘Big Kid’ (Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) going into his second year. He was at that time Lew Alcindor. He was a special type of athlete. The puzzle was finished with Oscar. Oscar made everybody so much better. Oscar made Jon McGlocklin a complete player. Oscar made the ‘Big Kid’ better even - as great as he was, Oscar made him better. Bobby Dandridge and Greg Smith were exceptional – they were little guys, but they ran the tails off of most of the players in the NBA.

    “We played hard from beginning to end. We practiced hard. And there was a thing about the Bucks – the Bucks always were together. Didn’t matter where you went. You went down for breakfast on the road, there were 12, 14 Milwaukee Bucks, including the coaches and the trainer, at breakfast together. We went to lunch together, we traveled together, we went to the movies together. It was a complete team thing. There was an air about that team that said, ‘we are gonna win and we’re gonna do it now.’ It was the total package. And it went from everybody that was involved, including our radio broadcaster, Eddie Doucette. Eddie made things come alive. The Bucks were alive. Everybody in the state of Wisconsin was talking about the Bucks. It was a great time to be a part of the Milwaukee Bucks.” Do you have any memorable stories from that season or from the Playoffs?
    Arnie Garber: “I think the turning point happened with the electricity from that first round, when we annihilated San Francisco. The players themselves knew that nobody was going to beat us.

    “Most of the parts were still there, we only filled in a few people like Oscar, McLemore and Bob Boozer. Again, the Bucks were so close. We cared about each other and we worked hard with each other. I will never forget: the closeness from the time we started in ’68 to the time we won the championship in ’71. It was just a buildup. People forget, it has never happened before and it has never happened since that a team that was an expansion team, three years later were World Champions. The team came from never-beens and has-beens to World Champions in three years.” Do you have anything else you’d like to share about the season?
    Arnie Garber: “A lot of people thought that Kareem was so aloof. That he wasn’t really a good person and that was absolutely not true. He was friendly with everybody on the team. He wasn’t aloof. He was fun to be with in the locker room. Because of some things that were written and some things that  happened to him, he became very guarded around the press.

    “I was sick a few years back and one of our former teammates called Kareem and told him that I was sick. Kareem was the first one to pick up the telephone from California and call my wife to find out how I was. Then I got a big plant while I was in the hospital, and a phone call. That was many years later. It showed the type of person that Kareem really was. Within the locker room and with our teammates, Kareem was a great kid. He really, really was.”

    “Overall, you can talk about the Celtics, you can talk about the Knicks and LA, but I believe there was never a team like the 1970-71 Milwaukee Bucks. It was a special time. It electrified the city. It was a magnificent time to be a part of a team. There were very special people. When we do get together once in a while, it’s almost like the time has never passed. I don’t think there were too many teams that were that close.  I’m glad that people never forget about the 1970-71 Bucks.”