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Stu Inman, 80; helped assemble Portland's NBA champion team

February 01, 2007|From Times Staff and Wire Reports

Stu Inman, who helped build the Portland Trail Blazers' 1977 NBA championship team, has died of an apparent heart attack. He was 80.

Inman collapsed Tuesday at his home in Lake Oswego, Ore., and was pronounced dead at a hospital, his son, David, said Wednesday.

One of the first executives to consider -- when preparing for the draft -- team chemistry and a player's psychological makeup in addition to his physical talents, Inman picked Bill Walton, Geoff Petrie, Larry Steele, Lloyd Neal, Lionel Hollins, Bobby Gross, Wally Walker and Johnny Davis. He helped sign Dave Twardzik after the American Basketball Assn. folded and selected Maurice Lucas in the ABA dispersal draft of 1976.

The Trail Blazers began the 1976-77 season with seven new players and a new coach, Jack Ramsay. Since joining the league as an expansion team in 1970, the franchise had not had a winning season. But the young team led by Walton went 49-33 in the regular season, got hot in the playoffs and won Portland's only NBA title.

Not all of Inman's decisions were winners. In the 1984 NBA draft, he selected Sam Bowie of Kentucky with the second pick, leaving Michael Jordan of North Carolina to the Chicago Bulls at No. 3. (Hakeem Olajuwon was the No. 1 pick of the Houston Rockets.) Bowie was hindered by injuries over his 11-year career, while Jordan went on to become one of the NBA's greatest players.

"There's stories like that in any sport," Inman said when Jordan retired in 1999. "You can look at any draft, and there's going to be those questions raised."

Inman set scoring and rebounding records as a player for San Jose State, graduating in 1950. He was drafted by the old Chicago Stags of the NBA but didn't play pro basketball.

He played for a San Francisco team in American Athletic Union competition and was a high school coach in Fresno for three years.

In 1953 he was hired to coach at Santa Ana College, then moved to Orange Coast College before returning to San Jose State, where he was coach from 1957 to 1966.

He joined Portland as chief scout, helped prepare the team for its first draft in 1970, became vice president of player personnel two years later and was general manager from 1981 to 1986. He also compiled a 6-20 record as interim coach in 1971-72.

After he left the Trail Blazers, he was director of player personnel for the Milwaukee Bucks and the Miami Heat. Four years ago he began helping coach basketball at Lake Oswego High School.

Inman is survived by his wife, Elinor; five children; and 17 grandchildren.

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