Clipper Coach Gene Shue reached a milestone he'd rather not think about. He became the first pro basketball coach to lose 800 games when the Lakers crushed the Clippers, 117-86, Thursday night before a sellout crowd of 15,167 at the Sports Arena.
"I hate to lose," said Shue, who needs another loss like Laker center Kareem Abdul-Jabbar needs another haircut. Shue, 56, has compiled a record of 767-800 in 21 seasons as a coach of some of the worst teams in National Basketball Assn. history.
When Shue was reminded that he had made NBA history by becoming the first member of the 800 club, he laughed and said: "Is that some kind of club? Am I the only member? I'm a very competitive person, so losing is very frustrating. Losing is the tough part of coaching. Thank God for the good things I've gotten. If they were all losses, I'd be terrible disappointed."
Pat Riley, who has compiled the highest winning percentage for regular season (.736) and playoffs (.713) in seven seasons as coach of the defending world champion Lakers, sympathizes with Shue, who has been stuck with coaching awful teams.
"If I coach 20 years, I'll probably lose 1,000 games after Kareem and Magic are gone," Riley said. "Gene's a coach's coach. He's a lifer. Guys like Gene Shue and Dick Motta and Bill Fitch are lifers. They're coaches for life, and to have a record around .500 for life is great."
Although the Clippers have lost 32 of 42 games heading into the All-Star break, Shue hasn't lost his cool even after losses such as the 31-point setback to the Lakers.
The Clippers gave the Lakers a game for a half, but the Lakers (35-8) blitzed the Clippers, 30-19, in the third quarter to win their seventh straight. Forward A.C. Green scored 10 points of his 14 points in the third-quarter surge. The Clippers shot just 25% in the third quarter, missing 15 of 20 shots.
"I thought we could win (at halftime)," Shue said. "But we just caved in."
Magic Johnson warmed up for Sunday's All-Star game by registering his sixth triple-double of the season with 18 points, 11 assists and 10 rebounds.
"We took it to them," Johnson said. "Last time, they took it to us. Last time, they were the aggressors. This time, we were."
Byron Scott scored a game-high 21 points and had 7 rebounds and 7 assists as the Lakers avenged a 110-109 overtime loss to the Clippers on Jan. 13 at the Sports Arena.
"The last loss to the Clippers was on our minds," Scott said. "We came out with a desire to win and showed them who the best team was."
Abdul-Jabbar (13 points, 10 rebounds) and backup center Mike Smrek (9 points, 3 blocks) did a good job of neutralizing Clipper center Benoit Benjamin and forward Michael Cage, who had hurt the Lakers in the last game.
Benjamin had 12 points, 8 rebounds and 4 blocks, but he wasn't nearly as effective as he was last month against the Lakers, when he scored 18 points and grabbed 16 rebounds.
Shue is the fourth-winningest coach in league history. The only coaches who have won more games are Red Auerbach (938), Jack Ramsay (847) and Motta (808).
"As far as I'm concerned, everything about Gene was a winner," said Wes Unseld recently. Unseld, the first-year coach of the Washington Bullets, is one of four current NBA coaches that played for Shue.
"Gene was my first coach and my last coach. He had a winning attitude and he got it across to the team. The team I joined (1969 Baltimore Bullets) was a loser and he turned it around. Gene has coached some bad teams. That's why he's lost 800."
Said Clipper captain Mike Woodson: "It's a shame that people only remember the losses. He's won a lot of games too."
Said Clipper General Manager Elgin Baylor: "Most coaches would be happy to be around that long and to have coached as many games as Shue has coached."
Shue, who has played and coached in more games (2,265) than anyone in NBA history in 31 years, is an old pro at recycling awful teams.
This is the third time Shue has taken over a team that posted the NBA's worst record the previous season. The Clippers were 12-70 last season, the third-worst record in history.
Shue, who also rebuilt the worst team of all-time, the 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers (9-73 record), seems resigned to coaching bad teams.
"I'm never going to have a great record," Shue said. "But I'd love to get into a championship series again and win a championship."
Shue is first on the all-time losers list, followed by Ramsay (754 losses over 20 years), Motta (750 in 19 years) and Bill Fitch, currently of the Houston Rockets (702 defeats in 18 seasons).