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The Day in Sports | COUNTDOWN TO 2000 / A day-by-day
recap of some of the most important sports moments
of the 20th Century: MAY 13, 1980

A Bad Turn of Events for a Former Laker

May 13, 1999|EARL GUSTKEY | TIMES STAFF WRITER

It's one of the strangest NBA coaching stories.

On Nov. 8, 1979, Laker Coach Jack McKinney left his Palos Verdes home for a morning bicycle ride.

He couldn't remember later how it happened, but he fell off his bike and suffered a serious head injury. He was put on medical leave and his assistant coach, Paul Westhead, took over.

Rookie Coach Westhead and a rookie player named Earvin "Magic" Johnson proceeded to lead the Lakers to the 1980 league championship.

As for McKinney, he learned 19 years ago today he wouldn't get his old job back. Team owner Jerry Buss made the announcement at a Great Western Forum news conference but didn't say Westhead would be given the head coach's job.

Possibly shoring up defenses for contract talks with Westhead, Buss threw out the name of Nevada Las Vegas' Jerry Tarkanian as another candidate for the coaching job.

"I really like them both [Westhead and Tarkanian]," Buss said. "I'm going to go with the guy I can run and chum with, and have a beer with--who I really feel at ease with."

Westhead got the job . . . but lost it two seasons later, when Pat Riley took over.

Also on this date: In 1979, Bill Walton briefly became the NBA's highest-paid player when he signed a $1 million-a-year contract with the San Diego Clippers. The previous highest-paid player was the Nuggets' David Thompson, at $800,000. . . . In 1912, Telegraph operator Lou Proctor transmitted the box score of a St. Louis Browns- Boston Red Sox game and inserted his name as a pinch-hitter (0 for 1). Decades later, Proctor's name appeared in early editions of "The Baseball Encyclopedia" as having a major league at-bat. . . . In 1958, Stan Musial knocked a double to left field at Chicago's Wrigley Field and became the eighth player with 3,000 hits. When this season began, there were 21 3,000-hit batters and Musial, who finished with 3,630, stood fourth.

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