Sonics Q&A: Xavier McDaniel
On Saturday, former Sonics All-Star Xavier McDaniel will be the second player honored as part of the Sonics & Storm Legends Tour (along with former Storm player Simone Edwards). The NeighborHoops court at Benefit Park will be renamed for McDaniel and Edwards. SUPERSONICS.COM sat down for a quick Q&A with McDaniel to talk about the honor and his relationship with Seattle and the Sonics.
What was your reaction to hearing about having a court renamed after you by the Sonics and Storm?
I was kind of excited, knowing that 21 years ago I was drafted by them. For them to remember, it's pretty cool, knowing the type of player I was and how hard I worked and things I did and being active in the community. I'm ecstatic about it, to be honest.
I follow NBA basketball period. When they come on TV, I watch it. I look to see what the guys are doing. I would say besides South Carolina, Seattle would be a place I'd call home. I love Seattle. It's a beautiful place. I'll always root for them, but I'm an NBA fan period.
What did you know about Seattle when you were drafted?
To be honest, in 1985, I might have said I thought it was in Washington, D.C. I didn't know a lot about it. It was out West. The only thing I knew about it was it was in the Pacific Northwest. That was about it. I didn't know anything about Washington state at all. I didn't have any idea what I was getting into. Then when I got out there, it was nice. I liked it.
How quickly did you feel comfortable?
Lenny made me feel right at home. Gary Wortman and another assistant coach, Lorin Miller, he was the one who really pushed and brought me up to Seattle on two or three different visits under different names. That's when you could fly under a different name and go under a different name at a hotel with no problems. I was in the U-District area a couple of times and there were sightings of me being there. I was pretty much there the whole time. It was a situation where I came out there so much, I really wanted to get out there and show them because there was a big thing about 'Who should we draft, Detlef Schrempf or Xavier McDaniel?' I was just eager to show the people of the Pacific Northwest why they should draft me. I think I showed that the first five and a half years I was in Seattle as far as my scoring ability and my jumping ability and my rebounding ability.
What have Seattle and the Sonics come to mean to you now?
My home away from home. Even when I got traded, a lot of people were really upset. When I came back, they treated me like I was from Seattle. I just always appreciated the fans responding to that. When I went to Phoenix and came back, I went to New York and came back, each time I came back with Boston and New Jersey, it's always been a very special feeling for me to play against Gary and Shawn or whoever was in that Green and Gold uniform. It meant a lot. I cherish those days.
I always enjoyed playing in Seattle for the Sonics. I wish I would have finished my career with them, but it didn't happen that way. It would have been great for me as a player because I played at one high school, I played at one college and I would have played at one pro team. It didn't happen. I always wanted my jersey to be retired by Seattle, because I had my high-school jersey retired and my college jersey retired. I said to myself, 'I'm going to come up and I'm going to make a name for myself and I'm going to have them retire my jersey too.' Until they do that, I guess I'll always look forward to it.
I would say going to the Western Conference Finals against the Lakers - having an opportunity really to beat them, playing four tough games. We lost all four of them. The two in Los Angeles could have gone either way - it felt like Magic Johnson got some calls he didn't deserve. Dale (Ellis) got his shot blocked by Michael Cooper in Game 3. I hit a 3-pointer at the buzzer to lose by one, being down by four. It was a tough series, but it was a situation where we didn't win that many games the year before, we were picked to be the worst team in the league again and we all just came together and meshed. Bernie was the mastermind behind everything. Tom Chambers and Dale were the go-to guys. I was that third go-to guy where, if one of them was slacking off, I could pick it up offensively. We ran a trap defense. I think that was a great year. The only part about that is I'm sad we never built on it. That kind of always spoiled things for me.
You coached Slamball a few years ago. Are you still coaching now?
I'm coaching 11- and 12-year-olds. My daughter was playing on the team and her mama just up and moved, so I don't know what's going on with that. I've been coaching 11- and 12-year-olds out here in South Carolina. I also was coaching 11-and-under AAU with a guy named Roger Wiley, the South Carolina Lady 76ers. We finished fifth in the nation this past summer in Springfield, Miss. My daughter is the center on the team - she's about six-feet, 11 years old.