Broadcasting Legend Bill Raftery Looks Back on His Nets Days

Raftery catches up with former Nets partner Ian Eagle on YES We're Here

In addition to his legendary career calling college basketball games for ESPN, CBS, FOX and others, Hall of Famer Bill Raftery had a 20-year run as the color analyst on Nets broadcasts, working for much of his second decade alongside current Nets play-by-play broadcaster Ian Eagle up until 2002.

Wednesday night on YES We’re Here, Eagle caught up with Raftery to look back on his days with the Nets and significant figures in franchise history such as Jason Kidd, Chuck Daly, Derrick Coleman, and John Calipari.

Here are some highlights from that conversation, edited and condensed for clarity:

On his early days with the Nets:

“They beat Philly in the first round (in 1984). Philly had won the year before, the NBA championship. Billy (Cunningham) was the head coach and obviously Julius (Erving) and that gang, (Andrew) Toney and (Maurice) Cheeks. Just a great team. All of a sudden the Nets come down with Micheal Ray (Richardson) and (Otis) Birdsong and end up clipping them, won the deciding game in Philly, which shocked people. We really had some quality players and guys, and then all of a sudden it went sideways a little bit.”

On Derrick Coleman:

“I wonder at some point, you should get Derrick Coleman on, only because I have to think he’s got some regrets. He could’ve been one of the greatest power forwards ever to play in the NBA and you know, he would tease you, as you know, maybe just showing little blips of what he could do. I always liked Derrick and we both had a great relationship. There was just something about that kid. If he had ever just let it all out, boy, he would’ve been an All-Star every year and a potential Hall of Famer.”

On Jason Kidd:

“You’ve heard me say this, and I’ve said to people: if he were playing for the Knicks during that time, there’d be a statue (of Kidd) in front of the Garden. The things he did in a creative way on the basketball floor, they were eye-popping.”

On Jason Kidd’s leadership:

“I think you (Eagle) were standing there with me when Kenyon Martin was leaving practice one day and he went through the tunnel (at the Meadowlands) and Kenyon was saying, ‘I’m not making my jumper’ or like ‘I’m off my game,’ and Jason Kidd said, ‘Well, you’re the first one to leave (practice).’ That’s all he said. And then Kenyon Martin started staying after (practice), working on his jump shot.”

On Hall of Famer Chuck Daly, who coached the Nets from 1992 to 1994:

“I remember him saying that he can’t see and he can’t hear; by that, what he meant: nothing would faze him. His ability as a psychologist — he’s got a lot of strengths, but that to me was one of the biggest, his ability to take care of situations without it hitting the press or causing friction amongst one another on the team. He just possessed an understanding of human nature and also of the individual corporation, that he was dealing with, with the 12 players. He was a very giving, caring guy. He understood the game; he had won, he had been an assistant, he had been everything in the league.”

On John Calipari as Nets coach:

“I don’t think he knew what he knows now. I don’t think he understood the mentality of players — getting back to Chuck’s understanding of each guy is an individual who’s got a support system that may not think the same way that you do as a head coach or as management does. I don’t know if Cal really understood that then. I don’t think it was a basketball difficulty, but just gathering the troops and getting them putting their luggage aside and pointed in the right direction. I think now he really understands players because he’s developed NBA talent year-in, year-out, which is really difficult.”

On NBA vs. college:

“To really love the NBA, you’ve got to go to a lot of games. You don’t go to one game or two games, you go to a lot of games, and you see; they finish plays. They create a situation, and you’d better make that jump shot, because that’s what you’re getting paid for. The athleticism, the strength, the speed, all those qualities, they have them.”

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