Sharing Doug Moe Memories - Doug Moe

Doug Moe himself

Doug Moe served as head coach of the Nuggets from 1980-90. In those 10 years, his teams qualified for the playoffs nine times including a trip to the 1985 Western Conference finals. He was named NBA Coach of the Year in 1987-88 and is still the Nuggets all-time winningest coach (432-357). Three of his players, David Thompson, Alex English and Dan Issel were inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame. Estragned from the the team since he announced his own firing in 1990, Moe returned to Denver and the Nuggets this summer to serve as a coaching consultant and adiver within the organization.'s Jonathan Goldstein sat down with Moe heading into Thursday's night's tribute to the legend, to get some of the Big Stiff's favorite memories and stories.

I just wanted to stir up a few memories from those Nuggets glory years

“It’s tough to get memories from me, I can’t remember yesterday.”

Do you remember your first win in Denver?
“No, I don’t. I wish I did, but unfortunately I don’t."

What are some of your favorite memories from your time here?
“Gosh, it kind of all runs together. All I remember is every year I had a great year except one. There was year that was not a fun year, one out of ten, but other than that, I had great players, who were fun to be around. It was just a good atmosphere for me. I can remember a few individual things – probably a little fool’s gold in the playoffs. We split with the Lakers out in L.A. (1985 Western Conference finals) – we had a pretty good team – and we came back here and we ended up losing the two games. One of ‘em was on a what we thought was a bad call, but that was our opportunity to beat the Lakers but they were a little bit too good.
It’s tough to remember the individual games. We really had so many good, fun games that it’s kind of hard to put your finger on one.”

Are you a coach that remembers the losses better than the wins?
“No. No, no way. I totally forgot the losses. In fact, if anything the only games I can remember are wins. No, the losses you try and quickly get out of your mind so there’s no holdover effect.”

So what has brought you back to Denver 11 years later?
"It’s been 10, 11 years and I never thought I’d get back into it. I knew I didn’t want to coach again. And Kiki (Vandweghe, former Moe player and Nuggets general manager) called me this summer and we talked for a half-hour, 15 minutes and he called me back the next day and asked if I’d be interested in doing something kind of like consulting and stuff.
I said ‘You know what, let me talk to Jane and see and we’ll talk about it.’ If I was ever going to anything again this was the time and I thought it would be fun being around Kiki and stuff. I didn’t really have a clue what I’d be doing or anything at the time. So I said ‘Let me see what it’s like.’ So I said ‘Yeah’ and I’m glad I did because it’s been fun. It’s been fun being around Kiki and the guys. It’s a very relaxed, good atmosphere and it’s fun watching (Head Coach) Jeff (Bzdelik) with this team. I think he’s done a fabulous job getting a young team together where they’ve got energy and they’ve done a terrific job. It’s just a fun deal to be around right now. I’m happy I did it.

They’ve got themselves in position. Kiki made some deals to get rid for of guys that had no chance of winning. It just put the whole organization in a good light with a chance to go up. It’s kind of fun. I just kind of hang out and have a good time. That’s it. You can’t complain about that."

You don’t see many coaches, or players for that matter stay in one place for 10 years anymore. How has the game changed from when you were here?
"Well, free agency has changed and that has changed where players won’t stay around as long. There’s been a few coaches that have stayed around in one spot for a long time, I think (Jerry) Sloan, but not many though. Most of them move around. Things have changed a lot. The talent, I think, keeps getting better and better. But its like everything else, it keeps evolving and changing.
Thinking back to the old days, you were on commercial flights and you were in hotels each night. It’s totally different now. You were pampered then, now you’re pampered beyond belief. Everything’s changing, but I think everything changes for the good."

You are kind of known for your temper. Do you remember a night when you absolutely lost it?
"I can remember when I threw the water on the ref. That was in San Antonio. I had a half-a-cup or a quarter-cup of water left and it was the end of the half. I was trying to say something to the ref and he kept walking away from me. I couldn’t get his attention so I just tossed the water on him. That got his attention and I got a fine and suspension for it. That was one of the things."

"There were a few incidents when I’d be getting onto players and some funny things happened. One of them had to do with Kiki and that involved the referee also. To make a long story short, I was getting on Kiki so bad that the ref came over from the scorer’s table and told our press crew ‘Kiki can do whatever he wants. I ain’t calling any fouls on him. Nothing. As much abuse as he’s taking from Moe he doesn’t need anymore.’
Things like that I can remember that happened. Some of the fun times on the road involving (the late Nuggets trainer) Chopper (Travaglini). A lot of good times. When you sit down and think about them, they all come back. It was fun.”

Do you still keep in touch with a lot of your old players?
"Yeah, I get to see most of them once in a while or I’ll talk to them once in a while. I talked to Alex (English) a couple months ago, before I ended up doing this and before he took the Atlanta job (Director of Player Personnel). He was in South Carolina and we just talked for a while. That was right before he got the Atlanta job, and that was good. You know, you just run into Fat (Lever), and Calvin (Natt), a lot of the old guys. I used to runny into Danny Schayes all the time. And of course I’m stuck with Kim (Hughes, Nuggets scout) being around. I run into Michael Adams a lot, all the guys."

Do Kim or Kiki or any of the other guys give you a hard time about trading them away?

“No, they actually don’t. Those are the unpleasant things of coaching. Kiki’s deal was really tough. That was the one bad year we had, his last year (1983-84). We had some guys with problems and the team didn’t do any good and we were kind of forced into a trade. And Portland kept offering us more and more and we kept saying no and no, but it was just one of those deals that you were kind of forced to make."
NOTE -- Vandeweghe was dealt to Portland June 7, 1984 in exchange for Wayne Cooper, Fat Lever, Calvin Natt, a 1984 second-round pick (Willie White) and a 1985 first-round pick (Blair Rasmussen).

I guess things worked out since you made the Western Conference Finals that next year?
"Is that right. See I can’t even remember what year that was."
NOTE -- (It was 1984-85).

What about your very fashionable wardrobe? Would you like to forget some of those suits?
“Are you kidding me? They were classics. That’s about all I can remember is my brown jacket and my blue jacket. Nowadays everyone looks good. Heck, in the old days you could look bad. But no matter how bad I looked, I always had Frank Layden around to look worse. I was kind of caught, I kind of wanted to be the best at what I did and look the worst. No matter what I did I couldn’t. Frank kept beating me out. He had combination of the weight and dressing bad."

Thoughts on being back in Denver?
"It’s nice being back. And it’s really nice being back from a coaching standpoint, looking from the outside watching (the coaches) work with the team. It does get a little frustrating from the standpoint that you really want them to do good, like the other night in Houston. They outplayed Houston, they hustled all over the place, but they couldn’t put the ball in the basket. It’s kind of a depressing loss and one you where you just felt bad for them. Then they turn around at win at Portland, which was just an unbelievably great win. So from that standpoint there highs and lows, but it’s fun watching them improve and watching them play. Like I said before, Jeff (Bzdelik)’s done such a great job with them that it’s a pleasure watching them. I’m just hoping that they can get the ball in the basket enough and that a couple of guys – that Whitney gets healthy and Camby gets healthy. That would help them a lot. But from my standpoint it’s been great."

How does the Pepsi Center compare to old McNichols Arena?"
“You know what, I love McNichols. The Pepsi Center is a little upscale from McNichols, but when you are attached to a place – it wasn’t Madison Square Garden or the Boston Garden or anything like that – but it was McNichols around here. I kind of have an attachment to McNichols even though the Pepsi Center is a lot nicer. It’s like my old brown coats, that’s McNichols.”

What are your thoughts on the Nuggets honoring you on Thursday? I know you aren’t anxious for a lot of attention.
“I’m not, but it’s exciting and you know, it’s a thrill. I do wish it was Friday already, but it’s a big deal and I’m looking forward to it. I don’t know how to say it. I’m uncomfortably looking forward to it. It’s a great honor, but I don’t want to be the center of attention. But what can I say, it will be a thrill."