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THE INSIDE TRACK | MORNING BRIEFING

Back Then, He Probably Thought Armani Was a Car

May 09, 1997|STEVE SPRINGER

Seeing Pat Riley win his third NBA coach-of-the-year award Thursday, it might have been easy to forget that Riley once had serious doubts that he would ever get a chance to coach at all.

Riley will never forget.

The year was 1981. The Lakers, in Salt Lake City for a game against the Jazz, were torn by dissension. It was assumed that Coach Paul Westhead was about to be fired.

As Westhead's assistant, Riley figured he was gone as well.

Riley was despondently sitting in a bar in Salt Lake City when a friend came over, put his arm around Riley and said, "Don't worry, Pat. You never know how things are going to turn out."

Riley, of course, was named Westhead's successor.

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And the friend? He got a job too. Then a Jazz assistant, Bill Bertka was hired by Riley and is still with the Lakers 16 years later.

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Trivia time: Riley is only the second man to win the NBA's coach-of-the-year award three times. Who is the other?

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Time for a change: Red Auerbach, 79, who stepped down Thursday as team president of the Boston Celtics to make room for Rick Pitino, was involved in some capacity in all 16 of the team's NBA titles.

That total is one more than the number of victories the Celtics had this season under departing coach M.L. Carr.

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Having it both ways: Former Olympic gold-medal winner Rebecca Lobo, now of the New York Liberty of the WNBA, says the public is finally ready for professional female athletes.

"People accept now that a woman can be aggressive and competitive on the floor, and off the floor, be a feminine woman," she told Vibe magazine.

All that glitters . . . Ken Thimmel of All American Collectibles warns souvenir hunters to buy with a wary eye.

"There are an immense number of forgeries out there," Thimmel said. "One estimate is that 70% of all signed items are forgeries."

The best of the rest: USC will stage a mass induction into its Hall of Fame at a dinner May 17. In all, 21 athletes will be honored.

This is the third such ceremony. The Trojans inducted 16 athletes in 1994 and 24 in 1995. Members of the current group were involved in 36 national championships, 20 individual NCAA titles, 13 Rose Bowls and won six Olympic gold medals.

And remember, this is only the third string.

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Trivia answer: Don Nelson, twice with the Milwaukee Bucks and once with the Golden State Warriors.

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And finally: Scott Kerman has written a book about his hobby--sneaking into athletic events and concerts. In "No Ticket, No Problem," he says the two toughest spots to gate-crash are the Forum here and Madison Square Garden in New York.

Among the easiest, according to Kerman? The Pond of Anaheim.

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