Keith Erickson and Dick Van Arsdale played together for the Phoenix Suns, but the Laker TV-radio analyst said he was just playing around last week in Phoenix when he stopped his former teammate and asked: "So what's this about you being the next coach of the Suns?"
Van Arsdale, then a member of the Suns' broadcasting team, did a double take. This was last Tuesday, remember, and although Sun Vice President Jerry Colangelo had talked to Van Arsdale about the job the previous day, it was all hush-hush.
"Where did you hear that?" Van Arsdale demanded.
Erickson told him he was just kidding, but the next night, in Los Angeles, he couldn't resist jabbing Van Arsdale again. "It's true about you coaching, isn't it?" Erickson said.
Again, Van Arsdale blanched, but Erickson thought nothing of it--until he turned on a radio Thursday afternoon and heard that Phoenix had fired John MacLeod and named Van Arsdale, the original Sun, as his interim replacement.
Van Arsdale thus becomes the latest National Basketball Assn. coach to make the jump from broadcast booth back to the bench. Pat Riley, of course, leads the list. Others include Billy Cunningham, who is back in the booth after coaching the Philadelphia 76ers; Matt Guokas, who succeeded Cunningham with the 76ers, and Doug Collins, with the Chicago Bulls.
Chuck Daly of the Detroit Pistons, Kevin Loughery of the Washington Bullets, and Hubie Brown, formerly with the New York Knicks, also had experience behind the mike.
Add Van Arsdale: He insists that he has no intention of remaining a coach. For one thing, he has his own real estate company.
"It's not like I didn't have another job," Van Arsdale said last week. "My business is suffering already because my two partners are out of town."
One of his partners is his identical twin, Tom. And yes, it already has occurred to Dick what to do should he decide to take a night off.
Add Suns: MacLeod, who was in his 14th season as Phoenix coach, took the rap for one of the worst trades in NBA history. That deal, in June of 1983, sent All-Star guard Dennis Johnson, who did not get along with MacLeod, to Boston for journeyman forward Rick Robey, who is no longer with the team.
Robey, of course, was supposed to be the answer to the Suns' perennial search for a muscular big man underneath to complement 6-9 Alvan Adams. Other nonanswers: Rich Kelley, Truck Robinson, Maurice Lucas, James Edwards, Georgi Glouchkov, Nick Vanos and William Bedford.
All they need is a compactor: The Atlanta Hawks' Dominique Wilkins, picking his All-Trash Talking team, named Charles Barkley of the 76ers, Chuck Person of the Indiana Pacers, Charles Oakley of the Chicago Bulls, Xavier McDaniel of the Seattle SuperSonics, and Gerald Wilkins of the Knicks.
He said: "These guys always talk serious trash, always tell you what they're going to do to you. Person talks more trash than any rookie I've ever seen. X is always serious; he's always telling Cliff Levingston how he should've started ahead of him at Wichita State."
Captain of the team? "Unquestionably, my brother Gerald."
Road warriors: The Bullets have beaten the Boston Celtics, Milwaukee Bucks, Dallas Mavericks, Utah Jazz, Detroit and the Lakers on the road this season, six of the eight toughest teams in the league to beat on their home courts this season. The Portland Trail Blazers, 24-5 at home, and Atlanta, 23-5, are the only teams in that group that haven't been ambushed by the Bullets at home.
Then there are the SuperSonics, who have not won a road game in 12 starts against Central Division teams in two seasons.
Home warriors: In their three wins at home against the Celtics, the Hawks had 19, 23 and 16 offensive rebounds. In their two losses in Boston, the Hawks had 6 in each game.
The Denver Nuggets, who also have the distinction of having lost three times to the Clippers, helped the Cleveland Cavaliers end their 15-game road-losing streak when it made two turnovers in the last 37 seconds and Bill Hanzlik blew a layup with two seconds left in a 119-117 defeat.
The loss dropped the Nuggets 10 games below .500 for the first time since Feb. 28, 1984.
Said Denver Coach Doug Moe: "It doesn't matter who we're playing right now. It could be Magic and Akeem or those Clipper guys who can't score. We just can't beat anybody."
Standing tall: 7-6 Bullet center Manute Bol has blocked 30 shots in his last three games, including 15 against Indiana, which tied his career high.
Just three nights after Michael Jordan of the Bulls had scored a team-record 58 points against them, the New Jersey Nets had to face Jordan again.
This time, Jordan scored only 30, four in the last quarter, and the Nets won.
Said Net guard Tony Brown: "It's tough to have to face him again after he's scored 58 on you. My head was messed up, man. But everyone got some of those 58."
Said Jordan: "They played defense with their feet and not their hands (reaching in) today."