One-on-One with George Lynch - 9/21/2011
After helping to lead North Carolina to the 1993 NCAA Championship and at the time recording the school's record for career steals, George Lynch was drafted twelfth overall by the Lakers in that year's draft and spent three seasons with the club, as well another two with the Vancouver Grizzlies after being traded there, before landing with the Sixers as a free agent in 1998. He spent the next three seasons in Philly, though nagging injuries kept him sidelined during the 2001 NBA Finals, and finished his playing career with the Hornets, retiring in 2005. In 2006, he joined the basketball staff at Southern Methodist University under fellow Tarheel Matt Doherty. Today he's on staff at University of California, Irvine.
Sixers.com: Last season you worked with SMU's basketball staff and you took a position with Cal Irvine back in March. Are you still with the Anteaters?
George Lynch: I'm still at Cal Irvine. They're working on moving me to Strength & Conditioning for Men's Basketball. My job title hasn't been changed yet (currently works in Community Development) but I have a meeting with the Athletic Director.
S.C: What are your career aspirations at this point?
GL: I want to coach. It's crazy how hard it is for a former NBA player to get into coaching. It's tough. If I would have known what I know now, I would have tried to get into it right after I finished playing but you try to do the right thing and spend time with your family and help raise your kids.
S.C: How has it been for you seeing more of the business side of sports?
GL: It's great because as a former player you see both sides of it. You understand some of the decisions coaches and GM's [general managers] have to make. In college, AD's [athletic directors] are the GM's. Coaching is the same, but you have to recruit the right players on the college level. I'm looking to either break into the coaching game on the NBA or college level.
S.C: What was going through your head in the 1993 NCAA Championship game between North Carolina and Michigan when Chris Webber called the infamous timeout?
GL: A couple plays before that, they [Wolverines] used their last timeout. We went to our bench and our coaching staff said they don't have any more timeouts. The game was happening so fast with the missed travel call and the trap in the corner, the only thing running through my head was I thought they didn't have any timeouts. It didn't take until I got to our bench and I saw everyone jumping up and down that it was a technical foul and we were going to put our best free throw shooter on the line.
S.C: You were drafted by the Lakers and Tarheel alum James Worthy was still on the team. How nice was it to have him help your transition into the league?
GL: It was great. Most rookies come in and don't have someone to mentor them. I think the NBA should do more of that. Teams should bring in former players to mentor the guys. Worthy was one of those guys who helped show me around. He helped get me settled as far as finding a place to stay. He was someone I could talk to if I had any questions. It was also like having a big brother who would keep you in line and make sure you were doing the right things.
S.C: How crazy was it for you going from playing for an established coach like Dean Smith in college, to joining the Lakers who had three head coaches your rookie year, including Magic Johnson?
GL: It was crazy. I did not expect that. Going to the Lakers, you would think they'd be more settled. It was definitely a wakeup call for me as far as the business part of professional sports.
S.C: Your third season with the Lakers was when Magic made his comeback. What was that like?
GL: Under the circumstances with the HIV, it was definitely a learning experience for everyone on that team. We embraced him just like a normal teammate. We didn't hold it against him. They educated us about HIV and how the disease is contracted. We were well educated and knew the risks of contracting it while practicing and playing with each other were very low. As a player, he brought a work ethic, professionalism, preparation... we couldn't have learned from a better pro. There were only a few guys who ever came through the league that put that type of work in. You don't get the chance to learn from those experiences very often.
S.C: What was it like playing in Vancouver? At one point, the locals took exception to a comment you made about having to drive to the state of Washington to buy potato chips.
GL: My wife and I used to drive down to Seattle because we had family there. The food there [Vancouver] tasted different. It was probably better, but being used to all the preservatives they put in American food, that's what your taste buds grow accustomed to. We used to make that trip constantly across the border, not only for the food but to visit family and visit the states. Vancouver was a pretty area to be in, but I didn't have the opportunity to take advantage of it because I was playing basketball.
S.C: What made you sign with the Sixers as a free agent? Was it the 'Carolina-connection' with Larry Brown?
GL: We were back in Chapel Hill watching the Alumni game, sitting in the stands and talking. I said 'Coach, save a spot for me on your roster.' He brought me in as a free agent and I worked hard, did the little things he liked from players and had a great run there.
S.C: What was it like playing for Coach Brown, who's so highly regarded for his basketball expertise?
GL: Looking back on my career now, I wish I could have played all my years for Coach Brown. I regret asking for a trade. At the time, you're young and you listen to people on the outside and sometimes make the wrong decision. I really enjoyed playing for Coach Brown, he's probably one of the few coaches, other than Dean Smith, who I thought helped me improve as a player.
S.C: How frustrating for you was it to not be healthy for the Finals, especially since you were going up against your original team, the Lakers?
GL: I tried to give it my best. I tried to come back that one game but it was still too much pain. I still feel today that if I was able to play, we would have won that series. I wish I would have sat out a few games to give myself a chance to heal. Maybe if I would have sat out, we wouldn't have gotten the No. 1 seed and would have ended up playing someone else in the playoffs and wouldn't have had the run. Looking back, it was a great run for that team and it was a learning experience for me.