The Way It Went
By David Benner
June 22, 2012
In 1987, I was the beat writer covering the Pacers for the Indianapolis Star. Draft time was always interesting because, unfortunately at the time, the Pacers were struggling and usually had a pretty good draft pick. They were coming off a 41-41 season and a quick out in the playoffs and would pick 11th that year. This draft was even more interesting because local hero Steve Alford was in the draft and public pressure to pick him was pretty significant.
Writers always do mock drafts. I did a bunch, published two, one the Sunday before the draft, the second the day of the draft. I can’t remember who I had the Pacers taking, but it wasn’t Steve Alford.
And it definitely wasn’t Reggie Miller.
I’ve said over the years, Donnie Walsh is one of the most honest men I have ever met. Except at draft time. He threw up smokescreens, used the media and played the draft like a championship poker player. So when the night of the ’87 draft came around, I had no clue which direction Donnie would go.
When it was announced that Reggie would be the pick, everyone was up in arms, partly because of the Alford/IU factor, partly because no one knew who this guy was. Remember, this was back in the day when college basketball wasn’t 24/7 and nearly every game was at your fingertips, especially for those teams playing on the west coast, like UCLA. Walsh was either a genius or an idiot. We obviously know which way that went.
On draft night in Market Square Arena, a media member – and we use that term generously – with a strong IU allegiance and maybe way too much affection for Alford, came into the press room screaming and cursing, “We’ll see how many bleeping tickets Reggie Miller sells.” We obviously know which way that went.
I also remember sitting down for the first time with Reggie in his motel room at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway to do an interview for The Star. I looked at that body and hoped he wouldn’t get broken into many pieces. As one of the franchise’s most durable players, we obviously know which way that went.
Never did I envision at the time this skinny, cocky kid would be a Hall of Fame player, let alone help the Pacers to heights they had not seen in their NBA history. I don’t think anyone did.
Except Donnie Walsh.