• Print
Wednesday March 17, 2010 3:48 PM

Jim Foley Fun Facts


Rockets' legend shares his unique insight on the game

Jim Foley
Special contributor to Rockets.com

HOUSTON - Jim Foley recently retired after 36 seasons with the Rockets, the longest term of service in franchise history. He was the Director of Public Relations from 1972 through 1987 when he became the team's full-time radio color man. His "Foley Fun Facts" have been a popular addition to the Rockets radio pre-game program. Jim will continue to produce his "Fun Facts" for the radio broadcasts and will also be furnishing the team website with Rockets and NBA history.

March 17, 2010

Recently I asked for help in securing some information about a Houston Mavericks team which played in a short-lived, three weeks in existence, Professional Basketball League of America. And thanks to Ron Vuy of Naples, Florida for supplying me with information on that team and league as compiled by the Association For Professional Basketball Research.

While most of the 16-team league played between five and eight games, the Houston team played just two and won them both on their home court, the Municipal Auditorium. The Mavericks defeated the St. Joseph (MO) Outlaws and the Oklahoma City Drillers. According to the ABPR, the General Manager was Whitlock Zander, Jr., and the player-coach was Bill Closs.

The nine-man roster consisted of former college players from Texas; including five Rice Owls.

Rice: Frank Carswell '41; Bill Closs '42; Bill Henry '45; Harmon Walters and Harold Lambert

Sam Houston State: Frank "Needles" Gates and Ben Gardner

Texas: Roy Cox

Houston: Willie Wells '46

Craswell, Closs, Henry, Gates abd Garder all went on to play in the National Basketball League, a forerunner of the NBA, after the PBLA folded.

The Houston Mavericks, 1947, 2-0, the only undefeated professional sports team in Houston history!

March 10, 2010

The Rockets Main Starting Centers:

John Block, Southern California, 1967-68

Elvin Hayes, Houston, 1968-72

Otto Moore, Pan American, 1972-73

Zaid Abdul-Aziz, Iowa State, 1973-74

Kevin Kunnert, Iowa, 1974-76

Moses Malone, Petersburg, VA HS, 1976-82

Caldwell Jones, Albany St., 1982-83

Ralph Sampson, Virginia, 1983-84

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston, 1984-2001

Kelvin Kato, Iowa St., 2001-02

Yao Ming, China, 2002-09

Chuck Hayes, Kentucky, 2009-

**********

The Houston Mavericks of the American Basketball Association played here at the Sam Houston Coliseum for two years, 1967-69. The Rockets have been here in the National Basketball Association since 1971. I'd love to hear from someone who can fill me in on a much earlier try at professional basketball in Houston. In 1947 the Houston Mavericks played in the Professional Basketball League of America. The league was started by the owner of the Chicago Gears who had superstar George Mikan.

There were 16 teams in the league which began play October 25. Due to financial losses the league folded a month after its inception. The Houston team played - and won - two games. The other pro league at the time, the National Basketball League, a forerunner of the NBA, held a dispersal draft of PBLA players and that's how George Mikan became a Minneapolis Laker. But I don't have any record of anybody who played in Houston.

**********

Consensus All-Americans from Texas Colleges:

Jack Gray, Texas, 1935

Price Brookfield, West Texas St., 1942

Bob Kinney, Rice, 1942

Bill Closs, Rice, 1943

Bill Henry, Rice, 1944

Jim Krebs, SMU, 1957

Elvin Hayes, Houston, 1967, 1968

Hakeem Olajuwon, Houston, 1984

Chris Mihm, Texas, 2000

T.J. Ford, Texas, 2003

Andre Emmett, Texas Tech, 2004

Kevin Durant, Texas, 2007

D.J. Augustin, Texas, 2008

**********

Hall of Famer Bill Russell, who earned 11 championship rings with the Boston Celtics, never won a Finals MVP award. The award was not given until 1969, Russell's final season. Though his last team won the championship, the selectors gave Jerry West of the losing Lakers the Finals MVP.

**********

In 1977 Rockets Coach Tom Nissalke was voted Coach of the Year and General Manager Ray Patterson Executive of the Year. Patterson made three key moves prior to the 1976-77 season. He signed Nissalke as his Head Coach and made trades which borught Moses Malone and John Lucas to Houston. Nissalke then led the team to its first ever winning season, 49-33, and a Central Divison championship.

**********

Guy V. Lewis not only led the University of Houston Cougars to the Final Four five times, he saw 29 of his players drafted by the NBA, including an amazing 11 first-round selections. Those first rounders: Gary Phillips, Don Chaney, Elvin hayes, Dwight Davis, Dwight Jones, Otis Birdsong, Rob Williams, Clyde Drexler, Hakeem Olajuwon, Michael Young and Greg Anderson.

**********

Though Duke University ranks right near the top in supplying NBA players, only two former Blue Devils in the 63-year history of the NBA have won NBA championship rings. The two, Jeff Mullins of the 1975 Golden State Warriors and Danny Ferry of the 2003 San Antonio Spurs.

**********

German-born Dirk Nowitzki of the Dallas Mavericks several times has ranked among the top scorers in the NBA. But thus far the only scoring champion not born in America was Dominique Wilikens of Atlanta in 1986. The "Human Highlight Film" was born in Paris, France in 1960.

**********

NBA Highest Playoff Scoring Averages

Michael Jordan 33.4
Allen Iverson 29.7
Jerry West 29.1
Tracy McGrady 28.5
LeBron James 27.5
Elgin Baylor 27.0
George gervin 27.0
Hakeem Olajuwon 25.9
Vince Carter 25.9
Bob Pettit 25.5

Remarkably, Wilt Chamberlain who had a 30.1 regular season scoring average, scored just 22.5 points per game in the playoffs.

February 10, 2010

The Rockets make their annual visit to Madison Square Garden on March 7. I have great memories of visits to the world's most famour arena and will pass them along, but first, a little history.

The current Madison Square Garden is the fourth building with the name, the first having opened in 1879. Garden I was actually located at Madison Square, 26th Street and Madison Avenue. It was built by P.T. Barnum, was roofless, and held meeting, exhibitions, horse shows and boxing until its demolition in 1889.

Garden II was opened in 1890 on the site of Garden I. It had an 8,000 seat main arena, a concert hall and a theater plus an indoor swimming pool. Famed architect Stanford White designed Garden II and was killed in the Garden's rooftop garden by an irate husband whose wife had a long affair with White. The love triangle became the basis for the 1955 movie "The Girl In The Red Velvet Swing." Garden II featured boxing, wrestling, six-day bike races, horse shows and the 1924 Democratic National Convention. Garden II closed in 1925 and today is the site of the New York Life Building.

Garden III was built in less than a year at 49th Street and 8th Avenue for $5.6 million. Basketball, hockey, boxing and track were its mainstay attractions.

It was in Garden III on February 25, 1965 that I saw my very first NBA game, the New York Knicks defeating the Cincinnati Royals, 109-104, before 9,204 fans as Willis Reed had 22 points and 22 rebounds to offset a 40-point game by Oscar Robertson.

I was not involved in sports at that time, but working in public relations for the New York Central Railroad. My base was in Chicago but I was in New York on a business trip. A few years later I joined the Milwaukee Bucks and worked with three players from that game, Robertson, Bob Boozer and Wayne Embry. When I joined the Rockets in 1972, Johnny Egan, who played with the Knicks that day, was playing here and later would become the Rockets coach. That same afternoon while the game was being played, Malcolm X was assassinated in Harlem.

The Knicks played their first game at Garden III in 1946. In 22 years in that venue they sold out exactly six times. Of course this was prior to their World Championship seasons of 1970 and 1973. One of the sellouts was for the professional debut of Princeton All-American Bill Bradley in 1967.

From 1965 until 1969 I was the Sports Information Director at Marquette in Milwaukee, where I was privileged to work with Hall of Fame Coach Al McGuire. A native New Yorker who recruited many players from his hometown, Coach McGuire usually scheduled a game in the Big Apple each season.

On December 9, 1966 Marquette defeated NYU in Garden III. For me, as a young P.R. guy, a big thrill was two days in Manhattan working with the Garden staff, John Goldner, Jimmy Wergeles and the P.A. voice of the Garden, the late John Condon. Through them I was able to meet lots of the vast media group and was able to spend a great deal of time with noted columnists Jimmy Breslin of the Herald and Pete Axthelm, then with Sports Illustrated.

So I couldn't have been more excited when Marquette accepted a bid to the NIT at Garden III in March, 1967. Underdogs in each game, the Warriors led by Brooklyn native George Thompson and Pat Smith from Harlem, knocked off Tulsa with Bobby Smith, Providence with Jimmy Walker and Marshall with George Stone, before losing the championship game to Southen Illinois and Walt Frazier. Frazier, later to be the Knicks top choice in the draft, had 21 points, 11 rebounds and five assists and took over the game in the second half. Marquette led by 12 at intermission but was outscored 48-22 in the second half to lose by 15.

But that week in New York again provided introductions to some of the top basketball writers, folks like Leonard Koppett and Gordon White of the Times, Sam Goldaper of the World, Norm Miller of the Daily News and Murray Janoff, Leonard Lewin and others as well as Breslin and Axthelm.

And the tournament also gave me my first opportunity to spend a St. Patrick's Day in New York City.

That 1967 NIT was the last played at Garden III. The Knicks played their last game there in February, 1968. After the Westminster Dog Show Feb. 12-13, 1968, Garden III was demolished and the Worldwide Plaza now occupies the site.

The "New Garden," Garden IV, was designed by Charles Luckman who also did the old Forum in Los Angeles and the Johnson Space Center. Garden IV opened Feb. 11, 1968 with a USO benefit hosted by Bing Crosby and Bob Hope. Three days later, the Knicks played their first game, a victory over the San Diego Rockets in the second half of a double-header.

My first visit to Garden IV came with Marquette, a Feb. 13, 1969 loss to St. Bonaventure, my sixth and final game in Manhattan as a college S.I.D. Big Bob Lanier had 36 points and 16 rebounds for the Bonnies and a year later would be the top pick of the NBA 1970 college draft, taken by the Detroit Pistons just ahead of Michigan's Rudy Tomjanovich by the San Diego Rockets.

In May, 1969 I became the Public Relations Director of the Milwaukee Bucks who won a coin flip for the rights to Lew Alcindor of UCLA. My next trip to Garden IV would be with the Bucks for Alcindor's return to his hometown Nov. 1, 1969. The former Power Memorial High star scored 36 points but the Bucks lost to the Knicks who would go on to win their first NBA title that season.

There would be many trips to Garden IV for me after 1969 but two in particular stand out. In 1993 the Rockets went into New York with a 14-game winning streak and needed a victory to tie the NBA record for the best start in league history. They got win No. 15 in Garden IV with Hakeem Olajuwon leading the way with 37 points in front of a Finals-like media atmosphere. The streak would end in a tough back-to-back situation in Atlanta the next night.

Then there was the week in New York for games three, four and five of the 1994 NBA Finals. Having split the opening two games in Houston, the Rockets needed at least one victory in the three games to be sure of returning the series to Houston. Rookie Sam Cassell made sure the Rockets were coming home by winning game three with a clutch three-pointer and four free throws to end the game. Many of our traveling party celebrated at a New York night spot called Manny's Car Wash.

The visiting radio broadcast position at Garden IV was an elevated platform right above a mid-court exit, perfect viewing for me and partner Gene Peterson. And my seat was right next to regular seating in the stands. I had a different person on my left for each of the three games, actor Peter Boyle, model Cindy Crawford and New York Mayor Rudy Giuliani.

Prior to game five, Houston mayor Bob Lanier, in New York for the games, visited Giuliani's office and posed for a photo which ran in the Houston Post. The Houston newspapers were airlifted to New York for us every day, so I was able to get those Mayors to autograph the paper. I still have that. Sorry, but I didn't get Cindy's autograph.

There are just a few of my Garden memories. I thank past and present staff of the Garden and the Knicks for their help in this trip down memory lane. Truly, Madison Square Garden is a "magic world," and a "mecca of basketball."

January 15, 2010

The Rockets Franchise First Playoff Team - 1969

After suffering through their expasion season of 1967-68 with a 15-67 record which earned them the No. 1 pick in the college draft, the San Diego Rockets were ready to make a big jump. Veteran Coach Jack McMahon selected 6-9 center-forward Elvin Hayes of the Univeristy of Houston with that top pick. Hayes averaged 31 points and 17 rebounds during his three-year college career, twice leading the Cougars to the Final Four.

In one of their best college drafts ever, in addition to Hayes, the Rockets also picked foru more collegians who would make their roster that season: John Q. Trapp of Nevada-Las Vegas, Stu Lantz of Nebraska, Harry Barnes of Northeastern and Rick Adelman of Loyoloa-Marymount (CA).

Holdover veterans included Don Kojis, John Block, Jim Barnett, Pat Riley, Toby Kimball, Art Williams and Henry Finkel.

The rookie Hayes would score an NBA high 28.4 points a game as well as 17.1 rebounds, 4th in the league. Kojis, an all-time great and one of my classmates in the class of 1961 at Marquette, scored 22.5 and added 9.6 rebounds that season. Forward John Block and guard Jim Barnett each averaged around 15 points a game. An injury limited Riley to 56 games and Adelman picked up some of that time, averaging 19 minutes in 77 games.

The Rockets won six of their final eight games to post a 37-45 record, a 22-game increase over their expansion season, and grabbed the final playoff spot in the Western Division. By playoff time, the bulk of playing minutes fell to five players - Hayes, Kojis and Kimball on the front line, and rookie Adelman and Lantz in the backcourt.

The first round opponent was the Atlanta Hawks, in their first year in Georgia after 13 seasons in St. Louis where they won their one and only NBA championship in 1957. In the playoffs for the 7th straight year, the Hawks were coached by a veteran Rickie Guerin, who still insterted himself into games as a player. They were a veteran team with six players scoring in double figures led by Lou Hudson's 22 and they had strong rebounders, Bii Bridges, 14.4, Zelmo Beatty from Prairie View, 11.1 plus 21.5 points, and Paul Silas, 9.4. Walt Hazzard, later to become Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, was the playmakers with 5.9 assists a game. He had joined the Hawks prior to the season after a trade with Seattle due to a salary dispute with Lenny Wilkins.

The series opened in Atlanta with the Hawks winning both games, Hudson scoring 39 in the opener and Beatty 31 in the second game to offset 31 points by Hayes in Game 1 and a playoff career high 26 points from the rookie Adelman in Game 2.

Going home to San Diego, the Rockets were able to get two home court wins to even the series as Hayes hit 26 and 30 points. The Hawks took Game 5 back in Atlanta getting 26 points from Jumping Joe Caldwell to offset 27 from Hayes. The Hawks took a 2-point win in Game 6 in San Diego to end the series with Hudson scoring 27. Not even 26 each by Hayes and Kojis was able to salvage the series. Hayes averaged 15.8 points and 13.8 rebounds in the series, Kojis 17 and 10, and the rookie Adelman 11.7 points and 4.8 assists while playing 31 minutes a game.

The 1969 playoffs would be the last for the Rockets until 1975 when Coach John Egan and the Rockets gave Houston its first NBA playoff team.

December 7, 2009

I had a call from Hall of Famer Rick Barry recently. In addition to noting that Rick and his sons, Jon and Brent, each played his final NBA game in the uniform of the Houston Rockets, Rick in 1980, Jon in 2006 and Brent last season, we talked a little about the 1975 Golden State Warriors.

The Warriors did not make the playoffs the previous season but over the summer added some aggressive defense with veteran center Clifford Ray coming from Chicago and two terrific rookies, Jamaal Wilkes of UCLA and the late Phil Smith of hometown San Francisco. Barry scored a league-leading 31 points a game to lead the Warriors to the best record in the West and the 4th best mark in the league.

Golden State knocked off Seattle in round one and upset the Chicago Bulls in a seven-game thriller. The Warriors then swept the Washington Bullets for their only championship since moving to the Bay Area from Philadelphia in 1962. Rick averaged 28 points in the playoffs and won the Finals MVP award. He just turned 65 and is enjoying an active retirement in Colorado Springs. Am excellent golfer, Rick says fishing may be his next favorite sport.

The Barry's Rocket Years

Name Years Games FG Pct. FT Pct. Reb. Ast. Pts. Avg.
Rick 1978-80 152 .444 .941* 3.4 5.1 1948 12.8
Jon 2004-06 73 .435 .874* 2.3 2.3 458 6.3
Brent 2008-09 56 .407 .950* 1.7 1.4 208 3.7

*Rick's .941 career free throw percentage is the Rockets record. Brent's .950 came on 19 of 20, too few attempts to qualify. The Barry's combined free throw percentage: 398-429 (.928)

**********

More than 50 years ago three young men were roommates at Niagara University in New York State. All three became NBA Head Coaches and they combined for more than 1,100 victories. Larry Costello died at age 70 eight years ago. He led the Milwaukee Bucks to the 1971 NBA Championship in only their third year in the league. Frank Layden, 77, is the Godfather of NBA basketball in Utah, having coached the Jazz for eight years. In 1984 he became the only dual winner ever of both the Coach of the Year and Executive of the Year awards. The third roomie is current ABC?ESPN broadcaster Hubie Brown, 76. Five years ago at age 71 Brown became not only the oldest head coach in NBA history but guided Memphis to a 50-win season and won Coach of the Year honors. Hubie Brown was once an assistant to Larry Costello in Milwaukee. Frank Layden once assisted Hubie Brown with the Atlanta Hawks.

**********

I've often said we are privileged to be part of a living Basketball Hall of Fame. The latest induction ceremony solidifies that belief. Millions of you have watched Jerry Sloan coach more games against the Rockets than anyone in history during his three years as the head coach in Chicago and his 22 as the head man at Utah. And then there's John Stockton, whose 19-year career, when he became the NBA's all-time assists and steals leader, earned him the wrath of Rockets fans when he delivered many of those assists and picked up mnay of those steals against the Rockets.

And how about the Admiral, David Robinson? 14 seasons with San Antonio and memorable battles with Hakeem Olajuwon. And then Michael Jordan, 14 seasons with Chicago and two with Washington, and everybody in Houston claiming they were at every game he ever played here. A remarkable end to his career, in 2002-03, at age 40 he averaged 20 points a game, giving him 15 straight years of 20 or more points per game.

**********

Four teams from the American Basketball Association - Denver, Indiana, New Jersey and San Antonio - came into the National Basketball Association in 1976 when the ABA folded its tent. Four years later the NBA adopted the ABA's three-point field goal. But the real credit for the three-pointer belongs to an earlier league.

Abe Saperstein, the founder of the Harlem Globetrotters, wanted an NBA franchise. When he didn't get one, he started his own league, the American Basketball League, in 1961. With a franchise in the major cities of Chicago, Los Angeles and New York, the eight-team league would last only a season and a half despite star players like Dick Barnett, Bill Bridges and Connie Hawkins, and coaches like Bill Sharman and Jack McMahon, who would be the first head coach of the San Diego Rockets in 1967. But one legacy left by the ABL was the three-point shot, in that league a real "home run" ball at a distance of 25 feet, a foot and three inches longer than today's NBA distance.

**********

In a new book about University of North Carolina basketball, author author Art Chansky makes a great point. UCLA had the greatest college basketball dynasty, but it ended with John Wooden. The Boston Celtics had an awesome 14-year run with 11 titles but then went through 11 losing records in 14 seasons before winning the 2008 NBA Championship, their first in 22 years. Oklahoma football won 31 and 47 games in a row and seven national championships but there were ten-year intervals between coaches Bud Wilkinson, Barry Switzer and Bob Stoops. The NFL's Dallas, Green Bay and Pittsburgh all had long dominance but none for more than 20 years at a time. Even the great New York Yankees didn't sustain for half a century.

But in the last 54 seasons North Carolina has never gone more than five years without a conference championship and a top-ten ranking. And the last time I looked, the defending national champions are right back there near the top of the rankings.

**********

October 26, 2009

Our current 30-team National Basketball Association, now in its 64th season, actually is an amalgamation of three leagues. The Basketball Association of America, the forerunner of the NBA, was founded in 1946 and began play that year with 11 teams, the only holdover franchises from that first season: the New York Knicks and the Boston Celtics. Most of the league’s membership was composed of hockey people or arena management and they tabbed Maurice Podoloff, president of the American Hockey League, as the BAA’s first commissioner.

The Washington Captiols, coached by Red Auerbach, had the best regular season record in that inaugural season, 49-11, but were upset in six games by the Chicago Stags in the first round. After the Baltimore Bullets upset Chicago, the Philadelphia Warriors, led by league scoring leader Joe Fulks out of Murray State and coached by Eddie Gottlieb, won the first BAA title.

Meanwhile the BAA rival for newspaper space and for players was the National Basketball League, which had been around since 1937. Among the founding teams were the Akron Goodyears and Firestones, and the Ft. Wayne General Electrics, as corporations found public relations value in fielding a pro team. But that league found real legitimacy in 1946 when the Chicago American Gears signed 6-10 George Mikan of DePaul University, a three-time consensus All-American who would go on to be named the Greatest Basketball Player of the first half of the 20th century.

That signing of Mikan moved the NBL from its industrial league phase into more of a pro league. After an initial contract holdout, Mikan joined the Gears in time to lead them to the 1947 NBL championship.

But an overly ambitious Gears owner, Maurice White, tried to build an entire new league around the Gears and Mikan. His new league, which was called the Profressional Basketball League of America, lasted about two weeks. The relieved NBL officials moved quickly to organize a lottery of sorts of distribute the players and a new Minneapolis team called the Lakers received the rights to Mikan. That new Lakers team was coached by John Kundla, who a year earlier had been the head man at St. Thomas College in Minneapolis. Minneapolis won the NBL championship its first year in the league and Mikan had his second title.

But the death blow was about to strike the NBL. Mikan’s Lakers, along with the Fort Wayne Pistons, the Rochester Royals and the Indianapolis Kautsky’s all defected to the Basketball Association of America, not only bringing them Mikan but stars like Jim Pollard, Bob Davies, Bobby Wanzer, Red Holzman and Arnie Risen. The NBL would last only one season after the defections.

The BAA would grow from eight to 12 teams with the NBL additions in 1948. And the remarkable Mikan and the Lakers would create the first pro basketball dynasty, winning the championship in five of its first six years in the league. The BAA would change its name to the National Basketball Association prior to the 1949 season.

NBA expansion since 1966 brought in 16 more teams, including the Rockets in San Diego in 1967. The expansion price for the Rockets was $1.75 million. In the league’s last expansion in 1995, Toronto and Vancouver (now Memphis), were admitted for $125 million.

The third and final league contributing to the current make-up of the NBA was the American Basketball Association. That league was founded in 1967 and suffered through nine turbulent seasons. The ABA used the red, white and blue basketball and also introduced the 3-point field goal. And in its final season staged a memorable first-ever slam dunk contest featuring Julius (Dr. J) Erving and David Thompson. But economic reality set in. Down to six teams, the ABA agreed to terms with the NBA. The league would take in four teams – Denver, Indiana, New Jersey and San Antonio – and make a financial settlement with Kentucky and St. Louis. New star power like Erving and Thompson, as well as George Gervin, George McGinnis and Moses Malone were welcomed into the NBA.

Three of the four franchises taken in from the NBL still exist: the Minneapolis Lakers, now in Los Angeles; the Fort Wayne Pistons, now in Detroit; and the Rochester Royals, now the Sacramento Kings. Only the Indianapolis Kautsky’s failed to make it. And all four ABA franchises continue to flourish, with San Antonio’s four NBA championships the most successful of that quartet.

Oldest NBA Coaches

Age Coach Team Birthdate
69 Don Nelson Golden State 5-15-40
69 Larry Brown Charlotte 9-14-40
67 Jerry Sloan Utah 3-28-42
64 Phil Jackson LA Lakers 9-17-45
63 Rick Adelman Houston 6-16-46
59 Gregg Popovich San Antonio 1-28-49
58 Paul Westphal Sacramento 11-30-50

Youngest NBA Coaches

Age Coach Team Birthdate
39 Erik Spoelstra Miami 11-1-70
39 Lawrence Frank New Jersey 8-3-70
39 Mike Brown Cleveland 3-5-70
43 Vinny Del Negro Chicago 8-9-66
44 Scott Brooks Oklahoma City 7-31-65
45 Nate McMillan Portland 8-3-64
45 Scott Skiles Milwaukee 3-5-64

May 27, 2009

Texas Connections in the NBA Final Four 2009

Denver - Chris Anderson: Iola, TX HS, Blinn, TX JC

Kenyon Martin: Bryan Adams HS, Dallas, TX

George Karl: Played with San Antonio Spurs 1973-76, assistant to Doug Moe with San Antonio Spurs 1978-80

LA Lakers - Assistant Coach Frank Hamblen: Assistant Coach/Scout for San Diego/Houston Rockets 1970-72

Cleveland - Daniel Gibson: Jones HS, Houston, TX, University of Texas

Coach Mike Brown: Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs, 2000-03

Assistant Coach Hank Egan: Assistant Coach, San Antonio Spurs, 1994-2002

Assistant Coach Melvin Hunt: Assistant Coach, Houston Rockets 1999-2004

Assistant Coach Chris Jent: Houston Rockets 1994

General Manager Danny Ferry: San Antonio Spurs 2000-2003, Director of Basketball Operations San Antonio Spurs 2003-2005

Assistant General Manager Lance Blanks: Director of Scouting San Antonio Spurs 2000-2005, McCullough HS, The Woodlands, TX, University of Texas

Orlando - Rafer Alston: Houston Rockets 2005-09

Tony Battie: South Oak Cliff HS, Dallas, TX, Texas Tech University

Rashard Lewis: Alief-Elsik HS, Houston, TX

Tyronn Lue: Houston Rockets 2004

Coach Stan Van Gundy: Brother of Jeff Van Gundy, Houston Rockets Head Coach 2003-2007

Assistant Coach Patrick Ewing: Assistant Coach, Houston Rockets 2003-2006

Assistant Coach Steve Clifford: Assistant Coach, Houston Rockets 2003-07

**********

Rockets Lakers First Playoff Match-Up

The first Rockets-Lakers playoff matchup came in the mini-series, best two of three, in 1981. Coached by Del Harris the Rockets made the postseason with a 40-42 record and had won only five times in 34 visits to the Forum. But apparently the old green-eyes monster raised its head in LA. 20-year old rookie Magic Johnson had been the Finals MVP the previous year but missed 45 games after knee surgery the next season. His return moved Norm Nixon from point to shooting guard and Nixon didn't like the change and was quite vocal about it.

In Game 1 at the Forum Moses Malone had 38 points and 23 rebounds, outplaying Kareem Abdul-Jabarr who had a dunk attempt blocked by Bill Willoughby. The Rockets won, 111-107. The Lakers then evened it up in Houston with a 111-106 win.

It was back to the Forum for the deciding Game 3. Trailing by a point in the waning moments, the Rockets set up Calvin Murphy for the last shot. Mike Dunleavy passed the ball to Murphy, but when Calvin found himseld double-teamed, he passed back to Dunleavy who put up the game winner from about 16 feet. With 15 seconds left, Magic Johnson brought the ball up into the lane, but closely guarded by Tom Henderson, shot an airball.

Rockets-Lakers Second Playoff Match-Up, 1986

The next time the teams met in the postseason was 1986. This time it was the Western Conference Finals and again the Lakers were the NBA's defending champs with an All-Star line-up of Kareem Abdul-Jabarr, Magic Johnson and James Worthy.

The Rockets had been dealt a staggering blow in March when point guard John Lucas was suspended after failing a drug test. But Robert Reid moved into the starting point guard position and was backed up by Allen Leavell, and the team responded well. Houston swept Sacramento in the first round and then knocked off Denver in a double-overtime Game 6 in the Mile High City. Two nights later they were in Los Angeles to start the conference finals.

The Lakers took Game 1, 119-107. But the Rockets surprised LA in Game 2, as Ralph Sampson and Lewis Lloyd each scored 24 points. Back home at the Summit it was two big wins for the Rockets with Hakeem Olajuwon scoring 40 and 36. Game 5 turned out to be the Rockets fourth straight win in the series, and it was a thriller, decided at the buzzer by Sampson's turning, twisting jumper, one of the most electrifying shots in NBA history, and it sent the Rockets to the Finals. The 1981 and 1986 Lakers' setbacks at the hands of the Rockets marked the only times in a ten-year span that the Lakers were not in the NBA Finals.

Same Players on Dominating NBA Championship Teams

Minneapolis Lakers

1949, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954

George Mikan

Jim Pollard

Boston Celtics

1959-1966 (Eight Straight)

Bill Russell

K.C. Jones

Sam Jones

Los Angeles Lakers

1980, 1982, 1985, 1987, 1988

Kareem Abdul-Jabarr

Magic Johnson

Michael Cooper

Boston Celtics

1981, 1984, 1986

Larry Bird

Robert Parish

Kevin McHale

Detroit Pistons

1989, 1990

Mark Aguirre

Joe Dumars

Vinnie Johnson

Isiah Thomas

Bill Laimbeer

Dennis Rodman

John Salley

Houston Rockets

1994, 1995

Hakeem Olajuwon

Sam Cassell

Mario Elie

Robert Horry

Kenny Smith

Chicago Bulls

1991, 1992, 1993, 1996, 1997, 1998

Michael Jordan

Scottie Pippen

San Antonio Spurs

1999, 2003, 2005, 2007

Tim Duncan

**********

The top players on the Houston Rockets first playoff team in 1975 were Rudy Tomjanovich, Calvin Murphy, Mike Newlin, Ed Ratleff, Kevin Kunnert, Ron Riley, Steve Hawes and surprising rookie Gus Bailey, a second round draft pick from Texas-El Paso.

The Summit, later called Compaq Center, didn't open until November that year so Hofheinz Pavilion on the campus of the University of Houston hosted the Rockets first playoff games here.

Coached by former player Johnny Egan, the Rockets made the New York Knicks their first ever playoff victim. The Knicks had won NBA titles in 1970 and 1973. Their coach was Hall of Famer Red Holzman. The Knicks roster included future Hall of Famers Walt Frazier, Earl Monroe, Bill Bradley and Phil Jackson.

Rockets rookie Bailey was particularly effective against the Knicks guards Frazier and Monroe. The Rockets sandwiched wins in games one and three at Hofheinz around a game two loss at New York to knock out the Knicks.

But the Rockets were then knocked off 4-1 by a Celtics team which was the defending NBA champion and would add another title the following year. Those Celtics were coached by another Hall of Famer, Tom Heinsohn, and included on their roster five future NBA head coaches: Don Chaney, Dave Cowens, Don Nelson, Paul Silas and Paul Westphal. Added to that fivesome were the likes of John Havlicek and Jo White.

**********

Rockets Vs. Previous Playoff Opponents

Team Games Won Lost Series
Utah 39 18 21 2-5
Seattle 31 11 20 1-5
LA Lakers 28 12 16 3-4
Boston 21 5 16 0-4
San Antonio 16 10 6 3-0
Phoenix 14 8 6 2-0
Dallas 11 4 7 0-2
New York 10 6 4 2-0
Atlanta 8 2 6 0-2
Portland 8 6 2 2-0
Sacramento 8 7 1 2-0
Denver 6 4 2 1-0
Philadelphia 6 2 4 0-1
Washington 6 4 2 1-0
LA Clippers 5 3 2 1-0
Orlando 4 4 0 1-0
Minnesota 3 3 0 1-0
Total 224 109 115 22-23

**********

Tuesday, March 17, is the feast of St. Patrick, the patron saint of Ireland. That date has had special meaning to me as one whose great-grand parents came to America from Ireland in the 1850's, just after the famine had wiped out a major portion of the Irish population.

The Foley's came from County Tipperary and the McGuire's from County Roscommon. Great-grandfather James Foley worked for the city of LaSalle, Illinois while Great-grandfather Dennis McGuire ran a saloon and was a champion fiddler.

St. Patrick's Day was always a major event in my hometown of LaSalle, where the city government would be turned over to the Irish for the day - mayor, city council, magistrates and so on. The Irish would levy fines which were collected and used to help those less fortunate. I remember my father being the Irish Mayor for the day several times. Ironically later in his life he would become the real Mayor for four years in the mid-1970's.

I have very special memories of St. Patrick's Days past and many have something to do with this great sport of basketball. In 1967 I was the sports information director at Marquette University. The Warriors, coached by native New Yorker Al McGuire, were invited to the National Invitation Tournament at Madison Square Garden in the Big Apple. It immediately occurred to me that if the team won its first two games, I would be in New York City on St. Patrick's Day for the biggest Irish celebration of them all.

While Coach McGuire was stressing the X's and O's, my pep talks to the players emphasized that we just had to win two games to make sure I would be in New York City for the big day. On March 11 Marquette defeated Tulsa and future pro Bobby "Bingo" Smith 64-60. On March 14 the Warriors knocked off Providence and another future pro Jimmy Walker in overtime, 81-80.

Those wins meant that win or lose their third game - back then there was a consolation game for third place - we were there for the duration. Marquette did knock off Marshall 83-78 to advance to the championship game on the day after St. Patrick's Day but a guy named Walt "Clyde" Frazier rallied Southern Illinois from an 11-point deficit to a 71-56 victory.

In 1984 on St. Patrick's Day morning my wife and I and some out of town friends were getting ready to head to downtown Houston for the annual parade. That evening we would all head to the Summit to watch the Rockets meet the Los Angeles Lakers. A special part of that evening would be the retirement ceremony for Calvin Murphy's jersey No. 23. Our plans for the day changed dramatically when I received word before leaving home that my father had died that morning in Illinois at age 73.

On Macrh 17, 1985 the NBA schedule-maker gave us the back of his hand by sending the Rockets to play the Boston Celtics in the Boston Garden. Larry Bird had 48 points that night, the most ever by a Celtic against the Rockets, and his team won 134-120. Since then the Rockets have played on St. Patrick's Day eight times, though never again in Boston, and have won seven of those encounters.

Twenty years ago, on March 17, 1989, I was honored by being selected as the Grand Marshall of the Houston St. Patrick's Day Parade by the parade commission and the Ancient Order of Hibernians. What a glorious day that was for me, my family and friends. That parade was the 30th in the series started in 1960 and this year's parade on March 14 will be the 50th.

In 1997, the schedule-maker made amends for me by sending the Rockets to New Jersey March 18. I was able to fly in early the previous day since I had reviewing stand tickets for the New York parade. My seat was at Fifth Avenue and 60th Street. A six-hour parade, it steps off from 44th and 5th, and passes in front of St. Patrick's Cathedral on 50th. More than a hundred thousand marchers participate and I was happy to be in the company of one of my favorite Irishmen, Brian McIntyre, the Senior Vice-President-Media Communications, of the NBA.

St. Patrick's Day memories - I have a ton of them! Here's wishing you a smooth road all the way to your door.

**********

Final Four Appearances

University of Houston, Coach Guy V. Lewis - Five Times

Year Site UH Stars Result
1967 Louisville Hayes, Chaney L, UCLA, Semis
1968 Los Angeles Hayes, Chaney L, UCLA, Finals
1982 New Orleans Drexler, Olajuwon L, N. Carolina, Semis
1983 Albuquerque Drexler, Olajuwon L, N.C. State, Finals
1984 Seattle Olajuwon, Young L, Georgetown, Finals

Shane Battier, Duke - Twice

Year Site Result
1999 St. Petersburg L, Connecticut, Finals
2001 Minneapolis W, Arizona, Finals

Joey Dorsey, Memphis - Once

Year Site Result
2008 San Antonio L, Kansas, Finals

**********

Rockets On The Air

Former Head Coaches

Jeff Van Gundy, ABC, ESPN (02-07)

Tom Nissalke, Utah (76-79)

Don Chaney, FSN Houston (88-92)

Former Players

Matt Bullard, Houston (90-94, 96-01)

Clyde Drexler, Houston (95-98)

Jon Barry, ABC, ESPN (04-06)

Mark Jackson, ABC. ESPN (04-06)

Charles Barkley, TNT (96-00)

Kenny Smith. TNT (90-96)

Eddie Johnson, Phoenix (97-99)

Jim Petersen, Miinesota (84-88)

Jon McGlocklin, Milwaukee (67-68)

Stu Lantz, LAL (68-72)

Jim Barnett, G.S. (67-70)

Matt Guokas, Orlando (73-74)

Cedric Maxwell, Boston (87-88)

Hank McDowell, Memphis (84-86)

Calvin Murphy, Houston, 97.5 (70-83)

**********

44 years ago this month, I attended my first NBA game. Two months out of the Navy and in my second month in the Chicago office of the PR department of the New York Central Railroad, I was asked to spend a few days at their New York main office. Off I went on the company's featured property, the 20th Century Limited, one of the most famous trains ever.

Finding myself in the Big Apple on a Sunday, I found out that the Knicks were hosting the Cincinnati Royals that afternoon at Madison Square Garden.

Five future Hall of Famers performed that day, veteran Tom Gola and rookie center Willis Reed of the Knicks, and Royals veterans Oscar Robertson, Jack Twyman and Wayne Embry.

Several years later I would work with Robertson, Embry and Knicks forward Bob Boozer when I was with the Milwaukee Bucks, and with Knicks guard John Egan who would become the head coach of the Rockets.

Despite 40 points from the "Big O", the Knicks won the game by five points. Cincinnati would make the playoffs that year, New York would not.

The story of the game would be lost in much bigger news that day. A few miles from the Garden, while giving a speech in Harlem, Malcolm X was assasinated. The date was Feb. 21, 1965.

Late Night Out

The Rockets made the playoffs in 14 of Hakeem Olajuwon's first 15 years with the team. The only time they missed was in 1992, the year that Rudy Tomjanovich replaced Don Chaney as the head coach on Feb. 18. The Rockets needed a win in the season's final game, but lost to Phoenix to finish at 42-40. They still had a chance to make the playoffs but needed a Lakers loss to the Clippers. It was well past midnight in Houston when out in California Sedale Threatt nailed a jumper to give the Lakers a one-point overtime victory, their 43rd of the season, and the final Western Conference playoff spot.

Most Playoff Games Played

Robery Horry, who played in 65 playoff games with the Rockets, is the NBA's all-time leader in post-season games with 244. Horry's mark should last quite a while as the only player in the top ten active right now is 37-year old Shaquille O'Neal at 203. Kareem Abdul-Jabbar is second on the list at 237 while in third place is Scottie Pippen with 208, four of which were with the Rockets in 1999.

Oscar Robertson's Five Amazing Seasons (with the Cincinnati Royals)

Year PPG RPG APG
1960-61 30.5 10.1 9.7
1961-62 30.8 12.5 11.4
1962-63 28.3 10.4 9.5
1963-64 31.4 9.9 11.0
1964-65 30.4 9.0 11.5
Averages 30.3 10.4 10.6

Though Oscar had only one season during which he averaged a triple-double, his combined averages for his first five seasons in the NBA give him a five-year triple-double.

Bill Russell's 21 Amazing Close-Out Games

Bill Russell won two NCAA titles (1955 and 1956) with the University of San Francisco, an Olympic Gold in Australia (1956), and 11 NBA championships in his 13 years as a Boston Celtic. Thanks to Bob Ryan of the Boston Globe and Basketball Times for pointing out that there was no one better in a win or go home scenario. Russell played in 21 of those games; in the NCAA, in Olympic medal round games, NBA 5th games in best of fives, and NBA 7th games in best of sevens. His record: 21-0.

**********

Gene Peterson and I each received a wonderful letter from the White House for the Dec. 16 tribute to us at Toyota Center.

The White House

Washington

December 8, 2008

Mr. Jim Foley

Houston, Texas

Dear Jim:

Congratulations on being honored by the Houston Rockets after more than three decades of service.

This remarkable achievement is a fitting tribute to your spirit and love for the game of basketball. The strength you have displayed on and off the court has set a fine example for your fans, and your courage and determination reflect the true character of America.

Laura and I join your family, friends and many fans in saluting you on this special occasion. We send our best wishes to you and Carolyn.

May God Bless You.

Sincerely,

George W. Bush

**********

Black History Month - Black Basketball Firsts

1947 - Don Barksdale, UCLA, First Consensus All-American

1948 - Don Barksdale, First Olympic Gold Medal, London

1950 - First in the NBA: Earl Lloyd, West Virginia State, drafted by Washington

Chuck Cooper, Duquesne, drafted by Boston

Nat "Sweetwater" Clifton, Xavier-New Orleans, signed by New York from the Harlem Globetrotters

* Lloyd's team played first that season so he is given the distinction of being the NBA's first black player

1953 - Don Barksdale, Baltimore, first in the NBA All-Star Game

1955 - Earl Lloyd, Jim Tucker, Syracuse, first on NBA Championship team

1966 - Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) first NCAA Champion with an all-black starting line-up

1972 - Wayne Embry, Milwaukee, first General Manager

1974 - Bill Russell, Boston, first in the Basketball Hall of Fame

2003 - Robert L. Johnson, Charlotte Bobcats, first majority owner

**********

UPDATE

After I gave my list of former Rockets players who became head coaches, Memphis tabbed Lionel Hollins to lead the Grizzlies one more time. Hollins played 80 games for the Rockets in 1984-85 under Coach Bill Fitch, averaging seven points and 5.2 assists per game (second on the team). Hollins was omitted from my first list because he was always listed as an interim coach with the Grizzlies.

**********

There currently is no Houston high school product on the Rockets roster. There have been seven former local players to wear the Rockets jersey. The last was Gerald Green of Gulf Shores Academy who played but four minutes in one game last season.

The first was McCoy McLemore who starred for the Jack Yates teams of the late 1950's. He attended Moberly, MO Junior College and Drake University. At Moberly he played for future NBA legendary coach Cotton Fitzsimmons. He was drafted in the third round in 1964 and began an eight year NBA career with San Francisco. He also played with Chicago, Phoenix, Detroit, Cleveland and Milwaukee where he was a member of the Bucks 1971 NBA Champions. He signed as a free agent with the Rockets Dec. 16, 1971 and played in 17 games that season, following which he retired after posting career marks of nine points and five rebounds. For four years in the late 1980's, McLemore served as Bill Worrell's color man on Rockets telecasts. McLemore, 64, continues to call Houston his home.

Houston Rockets Players From Houston High Schools

Player High School Rockets Years
McCoy McLemore Jack Yates 71-72
Dwight Jones Wheatley 76-80
Larry Micheaux Worthing 84-85
Clyde Drexler Sterling 94-98
Alton Ford Milby 04-04
John Lucas III Bellaire 05-07
Gerald Green Gulf Shores 07-08

**********

Rick Adelman with the Rockets, Scott Brooks at Oklahoma City, Mike Dunleavy with the L.A. Clippers and Mike Woodson of the Atlanta Hawks are four NBA head coaches who once played for the Rockets. Adelman, 62, was born in Lynwood, Califfornia and played at Loyola Marymount before being drafted by the-then San Diego Rockets in the 7th round in 1968. He spent two years with the franchise and played under coaches Jack McMahon and Hall of Famer Alex Hannum.

Brooks, 43, was born in French Camp, California and played at Cal-Irvine. He was acquired in a trade for a second round draft pick from Minnesota in 1992 and played here three seasons, all under Rudy Tomjanovich.

Dunleavy, 54, a Brooklyn, New York native who played at South Carolina, was signed as a free agent by the Rockets in 1977 and spent five seasons here playing under Tom Nissalke and Del Harris.

Woodson, 50, is a native of Indianapolis and played for Bobby Knight at Indiana. He was signed as a free agent in 1988 and spent three seasons here under Don Chaney.

Former Rockets Players Who Became NBA Head Coaches

Name Rockets Years Team(s) and Year(s) Coached
Rick Adelman 68-70 Port. 88-94, G.S. 95-97, Sac. 98-06, Hou. 07-
Scott Brooks 92-95 Oklahoma City 08-
Mike Dunleavy 77-82 LAL 90-92, Mil. 92-96, Port. 98-01, LAC 03-
John Egan 70-72 Houston 73-76
Matt Guokas 73-74 Phil. 85-88, Orl. 89-93
Avery Johnson 91-92 Dallas 04-08
Frank Johnson 88-89 Phoenix 01-03
John Lucas 76-78 S.A. 92-94, Phil. 94-96, Clev. 01-03
Pat Riley 67-70 LAL 81-90, N.Y. 91-95, Mia. 95-03, 05-08
Rudy Tomjanovich 70-81 Houston 92-03
Dave Wohl 73-77 New Jersey 85-87
Mike Woodson 88-91 Atlanta 04-

**********

Dikembe Mutombo's re-signing means that he again takes over as the NBA's oldest performer this season and he just adds on to his already legendary status as the oldest player in Rockets history at age 42. Charles Jones at 41 in 97-98 and Charles Oakley at 40 in 03-04 are the only other players in team history to have played in a game past the age of 40.

Mutombo also moved past Kareem Abdul-Jabbat to become the fourth oldest player in NBA history although the two oldest do come with asterisks. Nat Hickey who was born in 1902 was 46 when he played one game for Providence in 47-48 and Kevin Willis was 44 when he played in five games for Dallas in 06-07. Next at age 43 is Robert Parish who played in 43 games for Chicago in 96-97. Only 16 players in league history have played past the age of 40.

**********

NBA OLDEST PLAYERS EVER

AGE PLAYER TEAM LAST YEAR GAMES PT. AVG.
46 Nat Hickey Prov. 47-48 1 0.0
44 Kevin Willis Dall. 06-07 5 2.4
43 Robert Parish Chic. 96-97 43 2.1
42 Dikembe Mutombo Hous. 08-09
42 Kareem Abdul-Jabbar LAL 88-89 74 10.1
41 Herb Williams NY 98-99 6 1.0
41 John Stockton Utah 02-03 82 10.8
41 Charles Jones Hous. 97-98 24 0.6
41 Bob Cousy Cin. 69-70 7 0.7
40 Clifford Robinson NJ. 06-07 50 4.1
40 Karl Malone LAL 03-04 42 13.2
40 John Long Tor. 96-97 32 4.0
40 Rick Mahorn Phil. 98-99 16 0.8
40 James Edwards Chic. 95-96 28 3.5
40 Michael Jordan Wash. 02-03 82 20.0
40 Charles Oakley Hous. 03-04 7 1.2

**********

With three international players on the Rockets roster, Dikembe Mutombo, Luis Scola and Yao Ming, here's a brief geography lesson. Mutombo is from Kinshasa, the capital city of the Democratic Republic of the Congo. Kinshasa is located on the Congo River and has a population of five million in a country of 30 million.

Scola is from Buenos Aires, the capital city of Argentina. Buenos Aires is located on the Rio de la Plata and has a population of three million in a country of 32 million.

Yao Ming is from Shangai in the People's Republic of China. Shanghai is a seaport at the mouth of the Chang River and has a population of nine million in a country of a billion and a quarter.

Hailing from three major international cities whose combined population is more than 17 million, Houston shouldn't seem too big a city for this trio of Rockets big men.

**********

HOUSTON INTERNATIONAL PLAYERS ALL-TIME

PLAYER YEARS BIRTHPLACE
Carl Herrera 91-95 Trinidad-Tobago
Maciej Lampe 05-06 Poland
Dikembe Mutombo 04-08 Dem. Rep. of the Congo
Bostjan Nachbar 02-05 Slovenia
Hakeem Olajuwon 84-01 Nigeria
Richard Petruska 93-94 Slovakia
Luis Scola 07- Argentina
Vassilis Spanoulis 06-07 Greece
Zan Tabak 94-95 Croatia
Oscar Torres 01-02 Venezuela
Jake Tsakalidas 06-07 Rep. of Georgia
Yao Ming 02- China

**********

If you missed the tribute to Gene Peterson and me at the Denver game, I have taken the liberty of expanding my remarks and passing them along to you.

First, let me begin by thanking Owner Leslie Alexander, Chief Executive Officer Tad Brown, Director of Broadcasting Joel Blank, Promotions Leilani Borbon and all the members of the Rockets staff who were involved in putting together this very special evening.

And special thanks for attending to my brother, Jack, from Chicago, my brother-in-law Ken Goldin from Peoria, IL, my nieces Molly Winkler from Peoria, IL and Kelly Goldin from San Mateo, CA, and nephew Brian Kosidowski from Milwaukee, WI and all the other relatives and friends who have come in for this.

Having always been big on numbers, I have 21 million, 318 folks to thank so let's begin.

One wife for 41 years, my loving and very patient Carolyn. One broadcast partner and my friend for 33 years, Gene Peterson. Two franchises, the Milwaukee Bucks and Houston Rockets. Three NBA Commissioners Walter Kennedy, Larry O'Brien and David Stern. Four trainers, especially head athletic trainer the past 13 years Keith Jones. Five radio stations, especially Sports Radio 610 which has been the Rockets' home since the turn of the century.

Seven General Managers, especially Ray Patterson who, thank God, brought me to Houston in 1972 and gave his heart and soul to this franchise for 17 years. Eight owners, especially Leslie Alexander who in his 16 years here has made this the best franchise of them all.

Ten Head Coaches, especially Larry Costello in Milwaukee and Rudy Tomjanovich here who put three rings on my fingers and Rudy for his 33 years with this franchise as player and coach.

Eleven Hall of Famers, starting with Coach Al McGuire at Marquette and especially Hakeem Olajuwon for his 17 years and Calvin Murphy his 13 as Rockets.

265 very talented players, 28 with the Milwaukee Bucks starting with Kareem Abdul-Jabar and ending with Bill Zopf, and 237 with the Rockets starting with Zaid Abdul-Aziz and ending with Yao Ming. I appreciate and love you all.

And finally, the more than 21 million fans who have attended games since the team came here in 1971. I hope you enjoyed the games and that many of you enjoyed the radio broadcasts.

In closing may I borrow from the race car drivers: WOW, WHAT A RIDE!

JIM FOLEY'S NBA RECORDS

Regular Season Won Lost Pct.
69-72 Milwaukee 185 61 .752
72-08 Houston 1531 1389 .524
Total 1716 1450 .542

Playoffs Won Lost Pct.
70-72 Milwaukee 23 12 .657 (playoffs 3 of 3 years)
75-08 Houston 107 111 .491 (playoffs 24 of 36 years)
Total 130 123 .514

**********

Boston's NBA Finals victory over the L.A. Lakers last June gave the Celtics their 17th championship. The Lakers have won 14, giving those two franchises exactly half of the league's 62 titles.

The Rockets back-to-back wins in 1994 and 1995 put them in the company of 13 franchises winning it all in their current locations. Half the league's 30 franchises have won a title but 17 are still seeking a flag for their local fans.

The longest franchise drought without a title would be the Sacramento Kings. Starting out as the Rochester Royals in New York, they won the 1951 championship. Since then they moved to Cincinnati in 1957, to Kansas City in 1972 and settled in California in 1985. 58 years and waiting.

The Atlanta Hawks franchise is not far behind. The St. Louis Hawks won the 1958 title and moved to Atlanta in 1968; 51 years since a title.

Boston's 17 title coaches

Red Auerback - 9

Tom Heinson - 2

K.C. Jones - 2

Bill Russell - 2

Bill Fitch - 1

Doc Rivers - 1

Los Angeles Lakers Title Coaches

John Kundla - 5

Pat Riley - 4

Phil Jackson - 3

Bill Sharman - 1

Paul Westhead - 1

Boston's Finals MVPs (award not given until 1969)

Larry Bird: 1984, 1986

John Havlicek: 1974

Jo Jo White: 1976

Cedric Maxwell: 1981

Paul Pierce: 2008

Lakers Finals MVPs

Shaquille O'Neal: 2000, 2001, 2002

Magic Johnson: 1980, 1982, 1987

Wilt Chamberlain: 1972

Kareem Abdul-Jabar: 1985

James Worthy: 1988

Jerry West: 1969 (team did not win title)

**********

Over their first five years in Houston under coaches Tex Winter and former player Johnny Egad, the Rockets came close to a winning record only twice, both times under Egan, at 41-41 in 1974-75 and 40-42 in 1975-76, and only once, in 1975, making the playoffs. That 1975 team lost its final eight road games but won its last four home contests to beat out Bill Fitch's Cleveland Cavaliers for the final Eastern Conference playoff spot.

All five Rockets starters scored in double figures that season, led by Rudy Tomonovich's 20.7 points per game. The other starters were forward Ed Ratleff, center Kevin Kunnert, and guards Calvin Murphy and Mike Newlin. Providing bench help were Zaid Abdul-Aziz, Ron Riley and Gus Bailey. The Rockets first round opponent was the New York Knicks, a team which had won two championships under coach Red Holzman, and still featured Hall of Famers Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley and Earl Monroe.

The Rockets dispatched the Knicks in the min-series but then met the defending NBA champion Boston Celtics in the next round. Coached by Hall of Famer Tom Heinson, the Celtics roster included future NBA head coaches Dave Cowens, Don Nelson, Paul Silas, Paul Westphal and Don Chaney. Boston won the best of seven series in five games. The Summit wouldn't open until November of 1975, so Rockets home playoff games that year, like regular season games, were played at Hofheinz Pavilion on the University of Houston campus.

**********

Oldest Living Former Rockets Players

Age Players Years with Rockets Birthdate Birthplace
74 Johnny Green 67-68 12-8-33 Dayton, OH
71 Dave Gambee 67-68 4-16-37 Portland, OR
70 John Barnhill 67-68 3-30-38 Evansville, IN
70 Johnny Egan 70-72 1-31-39 Hartford, CT
69 Larry Siegfried 70-72 5-22-39 Shelby, OH
69 Don Kojis 67-70 7-15-39 Milwaukee, WI
68 Art Williams 67-70 9-29-39 Bonham, TX

**********

The dunk has been around for a long time, but even the Basketball Hall of Fame is not sure who gets credit for the first dunk in organized play. Oklahoma A&M's 6-10 center Bob Kurland, who never played in the NBA, regularly dunked in leading his team (now Oklahoma State) to NCAA titles in 1945 and 1946.

In the NBA it was well known that 6-5 Minneapolis Lakers forward Jim Pollard used to dunk in practice in the 50's but never did it in a game because he didn't want to embarrass an opponent.

When the ABA began in 1967 the dunk was a much bigger part of their game than in the NBA. Many thought of the pre-game warm-ups as a slam dunk contest and players would grade each other. The dunk really caught on when Julius Erving and David Thompson put on a show during the ABA's All-Star Weekend in Denver in 1976. Dr. J won the contest with his take off from the foul line, bringing the ball from behind to ram it through the rim. Doc won $1,000 and a stereo for his effort and the dunk was on its way even though the competition didn't become part of the NBA's All-Star festivities until 1984.

**********

Most Regular Season Games As Player and Head Coach (Oct. 27, 2008)

1. Lenny Wilkens: 3,363

2. Don Nelson: 3,287

3. Jerry Sloan: 2,561

4. p - Pat Riley: 2,350

5. Gene Shue: 2,344

6. Phil Jackson: 2,201

7. Paul Silas: 2,009

8. c - Bill Fitch: 2,050

9. Dick Motta: 1,952

10. Kevin Loughery: 1,891

11. Larry Brown: 1,810

12. Al Attles: 1,787

13. pc - Rick Adelman: 1,777

14. pc - Rudy Tomjanovich: 1,709

15. p - Mike Dunleavy: 1,636

p - former Rockets player

c - former Rockets coach

**********

Here's an update on the NBA officials. The new man at the top is retired Army Major General Ronald L. Johnson, a native of Chicago. He has overall responsibility for the 62-man roster. There are three newcomers: Curtis Blair of Roanoke, VA, Eric Dalen of Minnetonka, MN and Haywoode Workman of Charlotte, NC.

Workman played eight seasons for five teams, becoming just the third former player - Bernie Fryer and Leon Wood are the others - to make the transition from player to referee.

Dick Bavetta, in his 34th season, is the senior official, while Joe Crawford and Jack Nies are in their 31st. Nies at 71 is the oldest official in league history while John Goble at 30 is the youngest member of the staff.

Bavetta, Crawford and Nies are the only active refs who have worked more than 2,000 games. Crawford, brother of major league baseball umpire Jerry and son of retired umpire Shag, has worked more playoff games, 241, and more Finals games, 40, than any active official.

Four referees have Texas connections: Jim Clark was born in Dallas and played basketball and baseball at the University of Texas; Monty McCutcheon was born in San Angelo and graduated from Texas-Arlington; Jason Phillips was born in Weatherford and is a Tarleton State graduate; Bill Spooner was born in El Paso but grew up in California.

**********

NBA's Youngest Players 08-09 (Age as of Jan. 1, 2009)

Age Player Birthdate School Team
19 Anthony Randolph 7-15-89 LSU G.S.
19 Kosta Koufos 2-24-89 Ohio St. Utah
19 Michael Beasley 1-9-89 Kansas St. Mia.
20 Eric Gordon 12-25-88 Indiana LAC
20 Nicolas Batum 12-14-88 France Port.
20 Russell Westbrook 11-12-88 UCLA OKC
20 Derrick Rose 10-4-88 Memphis Chi.
20 Kevin Durant 9-29-88 Texas OKC
20 Kevin Love 9-7-88 UCLA Minn.
20 J.J. Hickson 9-4-88 N. Carolina St. Cle.

**********

Alex Hannum, Bill Fitch, Del Harris, Tom Nissalke and Don Chaney are all former Rockets head coaches and former winners of the NBA Coach of the Year award. But only Nissalke and Chaney earned the award coaching the Rockets.

Nissalke took over a break-even club and led the Rockets to 49 wins as well as the team's first ever division title in 1977. Prior to taking over the Rockets, Nissalke coached the ABA Dallas and San Antonio teams, giving him the distinction of being the only coach to have led the pro teams in each of the three major cities of the Lone Star State.

Chaney, a star at the University of Houston and in the NBA, was in his third season with the Rockets when he grabbed the coaching award in 1991 with a 52-30 season - at the time the club mark for wins. Nissalke, who later coached the Utah Jazz, currently hosts a radio show on the Jazz network while Chaney does pre-and-post game commentary for Fox Sports on Rockets road games.

**********

Teams with multiple NBA Coach of the Year Awards

No. Team Coaches of the Year
5 Atl. Hubie Brown, Lenny Wilkens, Mike Fratello, Harry Gallatin, Richie Guerin
3 Bos. Red Auerbach*, Tom Heinson, Bill Fitch
3 Chi. John Kerr, Dick Motta, Phil Jackson*
3 LAL Bill Sharman*, Pat Riley, Del Harris
2 Hou. Tom Nissalke, Don Chaney
2 G.S. Alex Hannum, Don Nelson
2 Ind. Jack McKinney, Larry Bird
2 Mil. Don Nelson (2)
2 N.Y. Red Holzman*, Pat Riley
2 Phil. Dolph Schayes, Larry Brown
2 Phoe. Cotton Fitzsimmons, Mike D'Antoni
2 Port. Mike Dunleavy, Mike Schuler
2 Sacr. Phil Johnson, Cotton Fitzsimmons

* Won NBA Championship that year

**********

Teams with multiple NBA Executive of the Year Awards

No. Team Executives of the Year
5 Phoe. Jerry Colangelo (4), Bryan Colangelo
3 Sacr. Joe Axelson, Geoff Petrie (2)
2 Atl. Stan Kasten (2)
2 Chi. Jerry Krause (2)*
2 Clev. Wayne Embry (2)
2 LAC Eddie Donovan, Elgin Baylor
2 S.A. Angelo Drossos, Bob Bass
2 Seat. Zollie Volchok, Bob Whitsitt
2 Wash. Bob Ferry (2)
2 Bost. Red Auerbach, Danny Ainge*

* Won NBA Championship that year

**********

As their father, Rick, was completing a Hall of Fame career with the Rockets in 1980, the Barry boys, Scooter, then 13, Jon, 11, Brent, 9, and Drew, 7, were often seen running around the Summit. All four grew up to be Division One basketball players, Scooter at Kansas, Jon and Drew at Georgia Tech and Brent at Oregon State. All played professionally, Scooter in Europe.

Drew had a brief three year career, mainly with Atlanta. Jon played 14 seasons, his final one with the Rockets in 05-06. New Rockets player Brent is in his 14th season, the last four at San Antonio where he earned two championship rings.

The Barry boys not only had a Hall of Fame Dad, but their grandfather, the late Bruce Hale, played basketball at Santa Clara and spent five seasons in the NBA. He also coached the NBA Indianapolis Olympians and the ABA Oakland Oaks. Among his coaching stops was the University of Miami where his star player was his future son-in-law Rick Barry.

**********

The NBA's Oldest Head Coaches

Age Name Team Birthdate Birthplace College
68 Don Nelson G.S. 5/15/40 Muskegon, MI Iowa
68 Larry Brown Char. 9/14/40 Brooklyn, NY N. Carolina
66 Jerry Sloan Utah 3/28/42 McLeansboro, IL Evansville, IN
63 Phil Jackson LAL 9/17/45 Deer Lodge, MT N. Dakota
62 Rick Adelman Hous. 6/16/46 Lynnwood, CA Loyola, CA
59 Gregg Popovich S.A. 1/18/49 E. Chicago, IN Air Force, CO
59 P.J. Carlesimo Okla. 5/30/49 Scranton, PA Fordham, NY

The NBA's Youngest Head Coaches

Age Name Team Birthdate Birthplace College
38 Erik Spoelstra Mia. 11/1/70 Portland, OR Portland
38 Lawrence Frank N.J. 8/3/70 Teaneck, NJ Indiana
38 Mike Brown Cle. 3/5/70 Columbus, OH San Diego
40 Michael Curry Det. 8/22/68 Anniston, AL Ga. Southern
42 Vinny Del Negro Chi. 8/9/66 Springfield, MA N. Carolina St.

**********

Leslie Alexander bought the Rockets in 1993 and his 16 years as the owner is far and away the longest of any of the local ownership groups. Wayne Duddleston, Ralph O'Connor, Mickey Herskowitz and the late Billy Goldberg brought the team here from San Diego in 1971. Charlie Thomas bought the club from the Maloof family in 1982 and held it 11 years before selling it to Alexander. Alexander's ownership is highlighted by the back-to-back World Championships and the acquisition of All-Star performers Clyde Drexler, Charles Barkley, Scottie Pippen, Steve Francis, Yao Ming, Tracy McGrady and Ron Artest. Alexander's 16 years as owner ranks him 11th in seniority among the NBA's 30 owners, a list headed by Abe Pollin who bought the Washington franchise in 1964 and recent Hall of Fame inductee Bill Davidson who has owned the Detroit Pistons since 1974.

**********

Texas High School Players On NBA Championship Teams

Player
High School
NBA Team-Year(s)
Walt Davis
Nederland
Philadelphia, 1956
Slater Martin Jeff Davis, Houston

Minneapolis, 1950, 1952, 1953, 1954 - St. Louis, 1958

McCoy McLemore Jack Yates, Houston Milwaukee, 1971
Greg Kite Madison, Houston Boston, 1984, 1986
Dennis Rodman South Oak Cliff, Dallas Detroit, 1989, 1990 - Chicago, 1996, 1997, 1998
Clyde Drexler Sterling, Houston Houston, 1995
Stephen Jackson Lincoln, Port Arthur San Antonio, 2003
Devin Brown West Campus, San Antonio San Antonio, 2005
Shaquille O'Neal Cole, San Antonio L.A. Lakers, 2000, 2001, 2002 - Miami, 2006
Kendrick Perkins Ozen, Beaumont Boston, 2008

**********

For a franchise that has been around for just 41 years, the Rockets are well represented in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, MA. The latest class this fall included three men with Rockets connections: the greatest Rocket of them all, Hakeem Olajuwon; former assistant coach Patrick Ewing; and the team's first-ever first round draft pick in 1967, legendary coach Pat Riley.

In addition to Olajuwon and Riley, other former Rockets players previously inducted into the Hall include Charles Barkley, Rick Barry, Clyde Drexler, Elvin Hayes, Moses Malone and Calvin Murphy. Alex Hannum, who coached the Rockets in San Diego, and Pete Newell, the General Manager their first year in Houston, also are in the Hall.

**********

Prior to the Rockets year two in San Diego, 1968-69, the team won a coin flip with Baltimore giving them the University of Houston's Elvin Hayes. The "Big E" went on to lead the NBA in scoring with a 28.4 average, still the third best mark in team history, and his All-Star teammate forward Don Kojis averaged 22.5; the combined 51 points per game remains the highest scoring twosome the Rockets have ever had.

Coach Jack McMahon's team made the playoffs that year in only their second year of existence but fell to an experienced Atlanta team in the first round. A key contributor to the Rockets success was a rookie seventh round pick, 79th overall, from Loyola Marymount. He averaged 19 minutes, six points and three assists. His name: Rick Adelman, the current head coach of the Rockets.

Have a question for Rockets.com? Send it to Jason Friedman via email at: jasonf@rocketball.com.