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He'd Love to Talk . . . if Only He Could

November 08, 1996|LARRY STEWART

NBA Entertainment and Turner Productions have put together an excellent two-hour documentary, "NBA at 50," that will be shown a number of times on TNT, beginning Wednesday at 5 p.m.

Of course the Boston Celtics' great run of eight consecutive NBA championships and 11 in 13 seasons is one of the stories dealt with in the film. So is the Lakers' 1971-72 championship team that won 33 consecutive games and held the record of 69 victories in a season until the Chicago Bulls won 72 last season.

More than 100 people--just about everybody who ever was anybody in the NBA--were interviewed for the documentary. But not Bill Sharman, who played on four of the Celtics' championship teams and coached the 1972 Lakers.

Besides being an eight-time NBA all-star, Sharman won championships in three leagues as a coach--in 1961 with the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League, in 1971 with the Utah Stars of the American Basketball Assn., and in 1972 with the Lakers. He also has been a general manager and a team president.

It wasn't as though the producers of the documentary didn't want to talk to Sharman, who was recently named among the NBA's 50 greatest players. Or that Sharman didn't want to talk to them.

The problem is Sharman's voice. He barely has one.

It's as though he has had a bad case of laryngitis for 25 years. It was once so bad that for several years he had to communicate by writing. These days, he can talk, but not easily.

The trouble started in February 1972.

"It was a case of overuse and misuse," Sharman said. "I've always had a high-pitched voice and I was using my throat to talk rather than having the words come up from my diaphragm. And as a coach I was yelling a lot. Then on top of that I got laryngitis."

Since then, Sharman has been to dozens of doctors, dozens of throat therapists and dozens of throat specialists. No cure was found, and it has affected his life.

To give the voice a rest, Sharman went from coach of the Lakers to general manager in 1976. In 1982, he became the team's president, all the while battling the voice problem. He finally retired in 1988 to give the voice a real rest. He came back as a special consultant two years later, and still holds that position.

Sharman, as nice a man as you will ever meet, has so many stories to tell. The other morning over breakfast, the former outstanding all-around USC athlete from Porterville, Calif., told stories of his early days in the NBA, beginning with his rookie season with the soon-to-be-defunct Washington Capitals in 1950.

He told how the players on that team sometimes traveled from game to game in cars--the drivers being the losers of card games--and on occasion would have to change into their game uniforms in the cars on the way to the arena, or wherever they were playing.

He's quite a talker in private, but doesn't feel comfortable enough about his voice to go on television. And that's a shame.


The news of Jim Harrick's demise as UCLA coach started getting out late Tuesday night. A couple of radio talk-show hosts, Dave Smith and Joey Haim, who bill themselves as the "Sports Gods," say they heard about it from a source close to UCLA about 9 p.m.

They're on KWNK in the mornings, and KWNK at that time was carrying syndicated programming. So with nowhere to go with the story, they started calling the local stations, plus CNN and ESPN.

However, Channel 2 and Channel 4 were already working on the story by then.

The new "Fox Sports News" show, which employs Glenn Harrick as a production assistant, got the story on its own. But "Fox Sports News" fell flat on its face the next day when it didn't carry either news conference involving the Harrick firing.

Unbelievably, Fox Sports West was showing the previous night's edition of "Fox Sports News" at 1 p.m. Wednesday as UCLA Chancellor Charles Young was making the Harrick announcement. And then at 3 p.m., Fox Sports West was showing taped women's college soccer as Harrick was meeting with reporters.

Meanwhile, ESPN, ESPN2 and the upstart ESPNEWS all carried Young's announcement live, and Harrick was on via satellite with Bob Ley on the 3:30 edition of "SportsCenter."


Broadcasting may be in Harrick's immediate future. CBS used him as a studio analyst during last season's Final Four, and on Thursday, Rick Gentile, the man in charge of production at CBS sports, said he would be interested in talking with Harrick.

CBS' first college basketball telecast this season is Kansas at UCLA on Dec. 7. Having Harrick do the commentary might prove interesting.


It's still not official, but it's a foregone conclusion that Sean McManus will soon become president of CBS Sports. He will replace David Kenin, 55, who was ousted this week after an unspectacular 2 1/2-year stint.

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