Posted: June 13, 2003
One of the more intriguing stories to come out of the Phoenix Suns’ 1992-93 season was that of rookie forward Richard Dumas. Originally drafted in the second round of the 1991 draft, Dumas was suspended for the 1991-92 season for violating the league’s substance abuse policy, but returned and became a major contributor to the Suns’ 1993 playoff drive.
Unfortunately, the success of his rookie season did not continue as Dumas check himself into rehab the following summer. He would return to the Suns for a brief stint late in the 1994-95 season and then go on to play for the 76ers for one year, before playing overseas and in some minor leagues back in the U.S.
Suns.com caught up with the former Oklahoma State star from his home in Tulsa, where is currently preparing for a career in coaching basketball, to talk about that memorable season with the Suns and his life since.
Suns.com: Why don't we start at the very beginning. What do you remember about the moment the Suns drafted you?
Richard Dumas: I was sitting here (in Tulsa) and I was watching TV, watching the draft. I didn’t see my name come up so I decided I was just going to go out somewhere and then right when I was ready to go out the door, they announced my name.
Suns.com: Did you know much about the Suns’ organization at the time?
Dumas: When I talked to them (at the pre-draft camp) in Chicago they seemed like a nice organization. I knew about the Phoenix Suns. I knew a lot of basketball history, so I knew everything was good.
Suns.com: How tough was it for you to sit out the year you were drafted after being suspended by the league?
Dumas: It was rough, but I just used it as an advantage so I could get a lot more mature, learn about the game and see what was going on. In a way, I just used it to motivate myself.
Suns.com: You probably followed the Suns while you were at home. What was your reaction to the trade that brought Charles Barkley to Phoenix in the summer of 1992?
Dumas: I was surprised really, but I just wanted to come and play. I was happy to see Chuck because Chuck was my guy. I was like, “This will be cool for me, because I don’t have to worry about anything but getting him the ball and just learn to play off of him.”
Suns.com: You joined the Suns 19 games into the '92-93 season. What was that like?
Dumas: It was happy just to be there so I could get a chance to show everybody that I could play with these people. I just went out there with a bunch of emotion and just played my game, "be calm about it and do what I do."
Suns.com: What do you remember about your first NBA game?
Dumas: James Worthy trying to get me on the block the first time I got into the game. I passed the ball to KJ and he bounced it back to me, and I dunked. I had my first NBA dunk. I watched Worthy coming up so it was very exciting.
Suns.com: Did Charles welcome you on board when you first arrived?
Dumas: Actually, Charles and I never really sat down and talked but once. He was heart-to-heart, that’s what I appreciated about him. I won’t tell you what we were talking about, but he had faith in me and I knew that he was The Man. I understood that already. He just knew that I had the potential to be a good player.
Suns.com: Can you recall any particular crazy or funny Barkley stories from that year?
Dumas: Chuck’s done so much, it’s hard to say. But Chuck made you feel comfortable going out there, because when he went out there he did go to work. He came to work every night and that’s one thing I appreciated about him. His thing was, “I will go to work, let’s go.” That’s all he was. He was all business. He would joke and he would have his so-called scuffles with the mascots and stuff, but that was Chuck. He liked to be in the media and I appreciated that, because I didn’t really like to be in the media. I just wanted to come in and play basketball against some of the best players, and that’s all I did.
Suns.com: At the time you joined the team, how confident were you that your personal problems were under control?
Dumas: I was doing okay. I was ready to play. They drug tested me every day, for alcohol, too. I knew I was doing the right thing, so I wasn’t really worried about it.
Suns.com: What did you hope bring to the team from a basketball standpoint?
Dumas: Just to excite the fans who understood the game and (be someone) knew where his place was, coming in trying to do whatever we could to win the game.
Suns.com: Who were you closest with on the team?
Dumas: Actually, I hung around Oliver Miller a lot. We shot pool at his house a lot. We’d sit there and talk about basketball and everything. That’s the only person I really hung out with, because I was more to myself and I had my kids to worry about. So I just wanted to get ready for each game.
Suns.com: It must have been nice to have another rookie around to share your experiences of rookie life.
Dumas: He had his problems. His problem was he liked to eat, but when he got on the court he gave you everything and that’s what I appreciated about him. We understood that, yeah, we’re the young fellas. We both understood that. We had our own little ways of doing things and they have their ways. The veterans sometimes will shoot some golf or do whatever. We just had our different ways, but we understood each other. So being with Oliver was like being with a big brother.
Suns.com: Did you feel in the early stages of the season that you would have a legitimate chance to contend for the NBA championship?
Dumas: Before I got there, they were already doing good, if I remember right, and the cohesiveness started to just gel. Everybody knew what everybody else could do and what to do. All we had to do was pretty much look at each other and just do a little hand sign like in baseball, and they knew what to do. We had a lot of old-school cats and they understood that you have to know the game. It’s become too much about money issues now, so the game isn’t really as exciting as it used to be. We came in there with pride and wanting to play, not trying to get another contract bonus.
Suns.com: You entered the playoffs after going 62-20 in the regular season and then dropped the first two games at home. How disappointing was it to lose those games to the Lakers at America West Arena in the first round?
Dumas: In a way, it was kind of good for us. It was like maybe we had to be behind to get ahead. I don’t know. It showed character that we didn’t give up. We’re going to keep fighting, "you better put us out when you have a chance."
Suns.com: What kind of boost did it give the team to have Paul Westphal make his now-famous proclamation that you would win the next three games and advance?
Dumas: It was a big boost, but he was supposed to say that. Everyone seemed so shell-shocked going into the playoffs with the best record and home court advantage. We lost most of our games at home in the playoffs, so the home court advantage didn’t mean anything. We did better on the road. I think it was just the pressure. Winning one and knowing what went on with Charles winning the MVP. All he needed was the championship and I think everybody felt that they were going to try their best to get him one.
Suns.com: What do you remember about the crowd for Game 5 against the Lakers back at AWA?
Dumas: It was electric, because they knew that we had to win. It’s bad enough to struggle in the first round. We had to win and that’s it, or the whole season was all over with.
Suns.com: How satisfying was it to advance to the next round then score 22 points in Game 1 against the Spurs in the Semifinals?
Dumas: I was feeling pretty good, of course, knowing that (Spurs coach and Dumas' mentor) John Lucas was on the other end of the court. I let him know that I was taking care of myself and doing what I need to do, and just going out and playing the game I was supposed to play.
Suns.com: Were you surprised when Barkley took the outside shot to win Game 6 against San Antonio instead of driving the lane?
Dumas: That’s one thing about Chuck. Chuck is a smart basketball player. The shot that he took was because David Robinson is 7-foot, long and agile. He’d get a better shot shooting a three, because (David) was not going to guard him out there and he had that ability to hit that shot. I’d seen it at practice a lot of times. He just figured it was better to shoot a jumper than go to the hole because David has a chance then, his length comes into effect. I wasn’t worried about it. Chuck can hit those shots. I knew he can hit that shot because he did it all the time.
Suns.com: Did Westphal talk to you about moving to the bench to start the Western Conference Finals against Seattle?
Dumas: No, he never talked about it. Actually, I’ve watched the games since and to me it was a smart move. They had more height at my position. They were more athletic at the time. So we had Tom Chambers at 6-10. We had big guys on our team and Charles played his role as the 6-4 power forward. I understood what (Westphal) was doing. He was trying to win the series.
Suns.com: What kind of impact did Cedric Ceballos going down with an injury in that series have?
Dumas: We had enough players that we were okay. We had the team. We knew we had the team. There were nights that we just didn’t come out and perform. That year we had really the best team overall, all the way to the subs and everything.
Suns.com: Was there a special feeling to see Chambers get the start in that game and play well to help the team advance?
Dumas: Yes. Being an athlete and playing against your old team with something as precious as the NBA Finals at stake, you’re going to bring your best when you get the chance. I think it was a smart move because he had rest and his body was healed pretty much. He was able to come out there and do the things he used to and he didn’t have to worry about the next game and recover.
Suns.com: What was it like to match up with Scottie Pippen in the Finals?
Dumas: He didn’t know much about me. He didn’t know that I understood the game mentally, what to do, back door, all these things. I think that Paul Westphal saw in me, that I understood what I was doing on the court. I think I caught Scottie off guard, but I was a rookie, so Scottie’s going to play more minutes than me anyway. If you put the averages together, if I remember right, and compare the time that he played and I played, actually I really did better than him.
Suns.com: What do you remember about Game 3’s triple-overtime victory in Chicago?
Dumas: To me, that’s a classic, because we had to have that game. You don’t want to give Chicago that much advantage. We had to have that game. The way everyone was shooting and hitting. That was one of the best games I’ve seen personally.
Suns.com: What are your memories of Paxson’s three-pointer to win Game 6?
Dumas: Ironically, when they called a timeout, Danny Ainge said, “Don’t leave Paxson open for three,” and that’s exactly what we did. We left Paxson open for three. We figured if we go to overtime we have a chance, but you can't leave Paxson open for three knowing he’s been hitting those. (Horace Grant) could have easily tied it and taken it to overtime because he had a lay-up. He threw out to John Paxson and he made the three. That just crushed me. That was one shot that was heard around the world.
Suns.com: How do you compare the 2003 Finals to the 1993 Finals as far as excitement and quality of play?
Dumas: Back then, everybody knew the basics. Of course, nowadays everybody’s athletic so they can anticipate a lot easier, that’s why nobody can score (in the Spurs-Nets series). That’s why defenses are so great. It’s easier to move just as fast as the offensive player if you don’t have the ball. The defense is just great. It’s just athleticism. Back then, everybody had to adjust to that, now everybody just gets a whole bunch of athletes. Sometimes you just have to have somebody who can score. That’s why I like Larry Bird, that’s why I like Charles.
Suns.com: What are your memories of the parade in Downtown Phoenix a week after the Finals ended?
Dumas: Just to see so many people out there and (I wondered) where they found places to park (laughs). It was enormous. It was exciting because I like old-fashioned cars and just riding in that old-fashioned car around the city, knowing we did something that only one other team had done, it felt pretty good.
Suns.com: What happened to you that summer?
Dumas: I got so excited about being in the Finals and doing well that I think I got too excited.
Suns.com: Did you have people that you could go to after that season that could help you?
Dumas: The only people I ever knew was my family back home, so I wasn’t with anybody in Phoenix but Oliver Miller. Me and him hung out sometimes. Other than that, I never really messed with anybody. I think it was a lack of maturity. I took care of myself all that time and trying so hard to get there that I felt like I was on top of the world. I think it was lack of maturity.
Suns.com: You checked yourself into rehab and were suspended for the next year and a half, but you returned to the Suns late in the '94-95 season. What was that like?
Dumas: Actually, I was just getting ready to be released (by the Suns). I was in great shape, I was looking good. I was talking to John Lucas and he was going to try to get me to Philadelphia, but two days before I was supposed to leave, (then-Suns forward) Danny Manning tore his knee up. They were getting ready to go to the playoffs, so I went back to Phoenix instead of going to Philadelphia with John.
Suns.com: How did it feel to get a warm reception when you did return to the Suns and what was your overall impression of the fans when you were here?
Dumas: They’re true fans. They love their basketball and they understand the game. They need to be blessed with a championship one time. I’ve seen all the old tapes and they had some nice players back in the day. They just could never win a championship.
Suns.com: You mentioned John Lucas a couple times. How did that relationship begin and what is it like today?
Dumas: I talked to John a couple of months ago when I was playing with John Stark’s team in New York. John’s a good guy. He’s always there. The way it got started was when I had my first suspension I came down (to Houston) and had to be with him, but he didn’t know I could play the way I could. So he took a mentorship towards me. He had me working out all the time, eating right, lifting weights, doing everything I needed to do. I was playing with some of the best players, Hakeem (Olajuwon), Robert Horry, Sam Cassell, Penny Hardaway. We used to play every day. They would just open a gym in Houston and we’d go there and play, and I would hold my own. I guess he figured I was a special kind of player.
Suns.com: What is the conversation like these days when you talk to him?
Dumas: It’s just the same. He’s happy to hear from me, which I can understand being where we’ve been. We just talk basketball a little bit and what I need to do, what I should work on. In fact, I kind of miss him. He was always a father-type.
Suns.com: You only played one more season in the NBA. How difficult was that for you after having such a successful rookie season?
Dumas: It wasn’t too bad because I had a chance to play a lot overseas and do some traveling which was good. I saw a lot of different countries. Sociology was my major, so I liked the different countries.
Suns.com: You mentioned playing for John Starks' team in the USBL. What led to your release from the Westchester Wildfire last month?
Dumas: I hurt my knee in the summer league here in Tulsa. I went to jump and tendonitis took over. I was in great shape. I just couldn’t maneuver like I wanted to because my knees were hurting.
Suns.com: What are you doing now?
Dumas: I’m supposed to be leaving for North Carolina. They have a league down there and I’m supposed to be a player-assistant coach. I’d like to coach when I get through really playing basketball. I feel like I can offer a little bit because I understand the game. I don’t just play the game. I’ve been at both ends of the sword. It’s a double-edged sword. You either do it this way or you do it the right way and I’ve been through both ways. I can give some type of contribution to kids coming up and show them what they need to do, and how to understand the game like it’s supposed to be played.
Suns.com: At this point in your life, do you believe all of your demons are behind you?
Dumas: It’s going good, but I keep all that to myself. It’s easier showing people than trying to tell them. That’s what I’m trying to do right now. This player-coaching job is what I want to do because really I want to go on to coaching. I feel that I got the bad part over with and had the chance to see every aspect. I feel like I can teach somebody.
Suns.com: Had you not had to deal with the problems that you encountered, where do you envision your career would have gone after your rookie season in '92-93?
Dumas: I probably would have been one of those making those $100 million contracts, but that is something I have to learn from and just go ahead and be happy to be alive.
Suns.com: Where does the '92-93 season in Phoenix fit into the events of your life so far?
Dumas: Behind my son being born that year, that would probably be second. Just to achieve that is a special situation.
Suns.com: How is your son and what is it like being the father of a 10-year-old?
Dumas: If I can get him off the PlayStaion 2 game, he’s okay (laughs).
Suns.com: Does he play basketball at all yet?
Dumas: He can shoot if he wants to, but he’s still in that kiddy stage. I think my older son is the one doing the best as far shooting and learning the game, because he’ll sit there and watch the game with me. He’s 13.
Suns.com: Do you envision them wanting to attempt a career in basketball down the road?
Dumas: Honestly, if they do they’ll be good at it, because they’ll put all the effort towards it. But I don’t push any of that on them, because they’re going to do what they want to do anyway.
Suns.com: Before we let you go, we wanted to give you a chance to talk to all your fans from your days with the Suns. Is there anything you would like to tell them?
Dumas: Thanks for everything. I love the town. I wish I could come back and I miss you. I hope you all get another chance at a championship.