Word is, the folks at the Marine Midland Arena are struggling to move tickets for Friday night's exhibition game between the Toronto Raptors and the Miami Heat. Maybe they could get Miami to activate a certain assistant coach, just for one night.
Why not? Bob McAdoo provided some of the top moments in the Aud's basketball history in his days with the Buffalo Braves. It would be a nice touch if he were somehow allowed to play in the first hoop contest ever played in the new arena.
It's hard to imagine him embarrassing himself. McAdoo turned 45 last month, but he's still in terrific shape. He led the Italian league in scoring just four years ago. Certainly, there would be worse players on the floor in a game like this. He'd probably go for 20 if they gave him enough shots.
McAdoo laughed at the notion. He's a coach now. That's where all his energies have been directed since Pat Riley gave him his first job a year ago. But he admits there are times when he gets the urge to put on a uniform.
"Oh yeah, it hits me now and then," McAdoo said by phone this week. "It hits once in awhile when the players are going five-on-five. Not to show off or anything, but to show some of our big guys things they can work on. You know, skill things -- like medium-range shots coming off pick and rolls, helping out on the weak side, going back door . . .
"Those are parts of my game you don't hear people talk about," he said. "All you hear about is the scoring."
Scoring is what McAdoo did best in a 20-year pro career. He led the NBA in scoring three straight years, from 1973-74 to '75-76, averaging 30-plus points each season. It's hard to believe that a lot of today's NBA players weren't alive when he was doing it.
"Some of them don't even know who he is," said Jack Ramsay, who coached McAdoo in those heady Buffalo days. Ramsay now does TV color commentary for the Heat and will be in town for Friday's exhibition.
"He gets into shooting contests with the players at practice," Ramsay said. "I warn them. I say 'Look, this guy won the NBA scoring championship three years in a row.' And they say 'Yeah?' "
As NBA fans know, these kids have a lot to learn. Many don't know their basketball history, and an alarming number don't know their fundamentals. That's what surprised McAdoo the most when he returned to the league.
"Today's players have unbelievable talent," he said. "But a lot of them come in with less fundamentals. Because their athletic talent is so great, they don't work on other things. They work on being human highlight films."
It's his job to teach them. He works primarily with the big men. McAdoo says he's fortunate to be surrounded by a group of industrious and attentive players. He says Alonzo Mourning often stays for an extra 45 minutes after Riley's three-hour practices.
McAdoo has gone through a learning process, too. The first year is an awakening for any NBA assistant, who must adjust to the long hours and tedious film work. It's an especially exhausting regimen under Riley.
"Managing time is different now," he said. "As a player, you're used to practicing two to three hours and you're off the rest of the day, recovering. The hours are different. It's a lot longer day, but I've adjusted to that.
"You learn to look at the game from a different perspective," McAdoo said, "almost from the perspective of a guard. When I played, I only had to learn my forward or center position. Now I have to know all the positions, all the movements going on at one time, the defenses, getting talent to mesh well on the floor.
"As a player, you only worried about your own game. Now you have to worry about all 12 guys."
The conventional thinking in pro sports is that superstars don't make good coaches. It always seems to be the marginal player, the career substitute, who becomes the successful coach. The fact is, McAdoo was a sixth man when he played for Riley with the Lakers, a star who sacrificed for the good of a championship team.
"Bob played the game to the very last ounce of his jump shot," Riley said Wednesday by phone from Miami. "He's always been a winner, one of the most competitive players I ever coached. He wanted to win in games, in practices. He wants to be in the mix."
Riley always had a high regard for McAdoo's big-man skills and his knowledge of the game. He knew "Mac" had worked in the NBA's rookie orientation program after quitting as a player. So when Riley left the Knicks for Miami last fall, he hired him as an assistant.
It was the first time Riley had hired one of his former players as a coach. The move was questioned in some quarters, and McAdoo still seems irked by it.
"When I first got the job, I saw things in the paper that people were shocked I even got into coaching," he said. "My thought was 'What's so surprising about a guy who got to the top as a player -- who played on a championship team, who played for 20 years -- getting into coaching, when so many coaches never got to the top of the game as a player?
"What's so surprising about that?"
McAdoo played for Riley and Ramsay, and for Dean Smith, three of the most respected coaches and teachers in basketball history. Something must have rubbed off. Some day he hopes to be a head coach, or a general manager.
"It'd sure be nice if Buffalo had a franchise," he said. "I'd love to be involved in that."
Youngsters to see Raptors
The Toronto Raptors will make 5,000 tickets available to area youngsters for Friday night's NBA preseason game at Marine Midland Arena against Miami.
Tickets for the 7:30 game will be distributed through the Buffalo Boys Basketball AAU to local schools, the Police Athletic League and community groups in conjunction with Team Up, an NBA program that encourages youngsters to become involved with community services.