Dreiling willing to wait a little longer for ring
"You know what?" he said. "I've waited 48½ years, I can wait a little longer."
Dreiling, who spent seven seasons (1986-93) as a backup center with the Pacers, is entering his 12th season with the Dallas Mavericks, sixth as an advance scout. Though the job usually keeps him on the road scouting upcoming NBA opponents, Dreiling was able to sit on the bench and assist head coach Rick Carlisle during the NBA Finals victory over the Miami Heat.
"Just to be a part of that, the memories are still fresh and have got me feeling good," Dreiling said. "The Finals series is the best because you get to enjoy it a little bit. You're still listening for calls and yelling out things when you can help but your work has been done and you can enjoy it just a little bit -- especially when things are going your way."
Dreiling joined the Pacers as a second-round pick in 1986 and played 322 games, averaging 2.1 points and 2.0 rebounds.
His best season came in 1990-91, when he started 42 games during the regular season and all five in the team's memorable but frustrating 3-2 loss to Boston in the first round of the playoffs. Dreiling averaged career highs of 3.5 points and 3.5 rebounds that season, 2.8 points and 3.6 boards in the playoffs.
His current job brings him to Conseco Fieldhouse a few times a year and, even though his homecourt with the Pacers was Market Square Arena, Dreiling said he feels very much at home when he visits.
"The big thing I remember being there at Indiana was the franchise itself, just so classy," he said. "First of all, you're working for the Simons and they were always so good to the people that work for them. I say that as a player but I saw how they were good to everybody.
"It made you feel like it was a big family that you all were a part of, as much as any place I've ever been. You felt like you could stroll into the office and chat with the secretary at the front or a guy counting beans in the back. It was just a good feel. I really feel a lot of warmth when I get back to Indiana and see the people that are still there."
After leaving Indiana, he spent three more seasons playing in the NBA, two with the Mavericks, and shortly after retiring as a player he moved into the front office. After the Mavs lost to the Heat 4-2 in the 2006 NBA Finals, then-coach Avery Johnson opted to make some changes to the staff. One of those involved taking Dreiling out of his role in player development and putting him on the road as a scout.
"At that point, when you lose in the Finals, you're willing to do anything the coach thinks is necessary because we all do our parts to try to get us where we want to go," Dreiling said. "At the time, my youngest (son Scott) was in high school and they're doing their own thing. I think it was definitely tough on my wife (Kelley) even though she's a veteran of many years of basketball.
"When I was there in Indiana she was with me from the very beginning. You never like time away from your family but when you're involved in athletics it's just part of the sacrifice the employees and their families make."
Dreiling won three state championships in high school (Kapaun in Wichita, Kansas) and reached the Final Four in his final season at Kansas in 1986, losing to Duke in the national semifinal. Until the 2010-11 season, those memories were good enough to last him a lifetime.
"Winning is the best," he said. "I've got good high school memories. The trip to the Final Four was awesome. The Final Four? Not so awesome. They say that if you don't win it all, over time you can learn to appreciate what you did and the successes that you had. But, man, when you win it all, it's the best.
"This is something I've been chasing since I first laced up my shoes as a Pacer."
Already a grandfather at age 48, Dreiling hopes to move into coaching full-time. Until then, he will continue to do as he always has done -- play his role with pride to the best of his ability.
"From my position as a scout, I feel as competitive and into it and revved-up," he said. "Everybody that's involved is putting something into it or you wouldn't be involved in the game. You can talk about the kid that hands you towels during the game or the head coach.
"To win it all, you have to realize what it takes from everybody."