As the Clippers moved closer to hiring Larry Brown as their new coach, they paused Tuesday night for the Mack Calvin Era.
Calvin, making his long-awaited NBA coaching debut in the same building in which he played while starring at USC, got a victory his first time out as the Clippers used beat the Dallas Mavericks, 97-80, at the Sports Arena.
Calvin knew coming in that he would only have two games as the Clipper interim coach in the wake of Mike Schuler's firing, a back-to-back session that concludes tonight against the Lakers at the Forum. He prepared for it Monday at practice by installing some new wrinkles for the defense, and then Tuesday by practicing his crouch to one knee with his foot still in a walking cast after recent Achilles' tendon surgery.
A brief stay at No. 1 or not, he made the most of the moment and savored it.
"It was an emotional feeling inside to get the victory, knowing we accomplished something," he said, quick to give credit to assistant Coach John Hammond on what has temporarily become a two-man staff. "It's been a goal of mine to be a head coach in this league. Not under these circumstances, but it felt good.
"I just wanted to do my job. It's what I have trained for. I was around Del Harris in Milwaukee for four years, I was a head coach for the Virginia Squires (of the American Basketball Assn.) on an interim basis. So I know what it takes. I wasn't trying to prove anything, I just wanted to get the guys to play to the best of their abilities."
Said Ron Harper, who led the Clippers (22-24) to their second consecutive victory with 18 points, 11 rebounds and seven assists: "He called a timeout in the first half, and he was sweating more than the ballplayers. He was nervous and we were nervous. That showed in the first half."
Calvin got a nice hand from the sparse crowd, but that was not a sign of things to come. Both teams were booed during one brief stretch of the first quarter.
Dallas led at halftime, 40-38, but had shot only 38.1%, to 42.5% for the Clippers.
The Clippers, whose first lead didn't come until Gary Grant made a straight-away jumper with 1:57 to play in the second quarter, moved ahead for good during the third period. They opened a 72-61 lead on Ken Norman's scoop shot along the left baseline with 1.2 seconds left.
The Clippers made 15 of 22 shots (68.2%) during the third quarter, outscored the Mavericks, 34-21, and led by 11 heading into the fourth. They pushed that to 90-70 with 4:24 remaining, sending Dallas (13-33) to its seventh loss in a row.
Clipper players presented interim coach Mack Calvin with the game ball afterward. . . . Gary Grant made his first start since Dec. 26 at Utah, replacing Danny Young at point guard. James Edwards suffered a bruised right knee during the third quarter and did not return. He is expected to play tonight.