Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason

Mikan, Pettit, Celtics dynasty, Wilt, and early expansion

Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason

Postby rlee » Tue Nov 10, 2009 12:44 am

Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason
By Jerry Crowe
LATimes.com

When art professor Melanie Marchant started dating former NBA player Tom Meschery a few years ago, male friends weren't shy about sharing their thoughts on her new man.

"They'd pull me aside," she notes, smiling and lowering her voice conspiratorially, "and they would say to me, 'He was the meanest S.O.B. I ever say play.' "

You wouldn't know it today.

It's not that the 6-foot-6 Meschery, who played most of his 10 NBA seasons in the 1960s, is any less imposing.

It's just that he is a thoughtful, compassionate man who looks less like what he may have been years ago and more like what he became afterhis playing days ended in 1971: owner of a bookstore-tea shop and later, for more than 20 years, a high school and junior college English teacher in Reno and Truckee, Calif.

A son of Russian refugees, Meschery, 71, has long been a study in contrasts. Known by turns during his NBA career as "The Mad Russian" and, on the flip side, "Renaissance Man," he is a longtime poet. In retirement, he recently completed a first draft on a debut mystery novel and is about halfway through a sequel. He also has penned a memoir and started work on a third novel.

In 2002, the NBA's first Russian player and the first player to have his number retired by the Golden State Warriors was inducted into the Nevada Writers Hall of Fame. But even the Writers Hall couldn't help but notice the contradiction, noting in a story announcing Meschery's enshrinement that he "doesn't fit the traditional image of a poet. He's neither physically slight, anemic, pale, [nor] sissified."

What he is, Meschery says, is passionate -- and eclectic. "I realize I've lived an unusual life," he says. "It definitely hasn't been a vertical life. It's been much more horizontal. My interests are varied, and I think that kept me from simply focusing on basketball. I can get so interested in so many different things."

Seated in the living room of the condominium where he and Marchant were married Feb. 14, Meschery says his on-court ferocity and combativeness -- he once picked a fight with Wilt Chamberlain -- were products of his unusual background.

He was born Tomislav Nicholiavich Mescheriakov in Harbin, Manchuria, his parents having fled their homeland for China after the 1917 Bolshevik Revolution. His father, Nicholas, got a visa in 1938 to take a job as a longshoreman in San Francisco but had to leave the rest of the family -- Tom, his mother and a sister -- behind.

Tom and the others didn't make it to San Francisco until 1946 -- after spending World War II in a prison camp in Tokyo.

The Mescheriakovs later changed their name to Meschery to avoid the stigma of being Russian during the escalating Cold War and Tom saw sports as a way to gain acceptance.

"I'm pretty sure the reason I played basketball had very little to do initially with some kind of love of the game," he says. "I think initially it had a lot to do with becoming an American.

"I was an immigrant, so to me playing basketball was crucial. When I think of poor kids who play basketball to get out of their situations -- African American kids, in particular -- I understand that, because I think for me it was a way to get out of being an immigrant and being this foreigner to becoming an American.

"So, for me, it was a very intense experience. Playing basketball, I had to succeed because the more I succeeded, the greater the American I was."

Meschery took his tenacity all the way to the NBA, where he averaged 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds while playing for the Philadelphia and San Francisco Warriors and, after a short-lived retirement, four seasons with the Seattle SuperSonics.

"I always thought I was the underdog," he says. "It made me a better player. I always felt like I was battling uphill."

Against Chamberlain, he was.

"He laughed at me," Meschery says of their confrontation. "Actually, if you'd made a movie out of it, it would have been hilarious because I was swinging at him and he was holding my forehead. So, it was a classic cartoon-like position.

"He kept saying, 'Tommy, what are you doing?' "

After he stopped playing, Meschery says he was "lost" for a while. "I came down very hard from basketball."

He tried coaching but says he didn't have the knack for it. "I didn't have a lot of patience," he says. "I couldn't stand to see players not work hard, and I wasn't very subtle about telling them they were lazy, so they didn't like me very much."

A father of three, he studied poetry with Mark Strand, the U.S. poet laureate in 1990-91, and later turned to teaching.

"I loved teaching," Meschery says. "It was sort of like playing professional basketball again. Every day, you had to be up. Every day was a new game."

He retired in 2005 and started writing in earnest, spurred in part by bad news: He was diagnosed with multiple myeloma. In December 2006, he underwent a stem-cell transplant."It's in remission; that's the good news," he says. "The bad news is, it's incurable. It's going to come back and kill me." Doctors tell him he might have as many as 10 years left.

He tells them he'll keep fighting.
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From 2006: Meschery interviewed by Russian "Sport Expre

Postby rlee » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:00 am

A year and a half ago the first deputy editor-in-chief of the “SE” Vladimir Titorenko and the paper’s observer Igor Rabiner were in Los Angeles for the NBA All Stars weekend.

By Slava MALAMUD
From Truckee
And watching the play of the “Utah Jazz” leader Andrey Kirilenko they learnt a staggering fact. It turned out that the ex-CSKA player was not at all the first Russian in the history of the star event! Back in 1963 in the number of the chosen there was the “San Francisco Warriors” forward who in spite of his quite an American name – Tom Meschery – was our compatriot.
God grant everyone the details of his biography. Tom was born in the Manchurian town of Harbin, which was the center of the Russian post revolution emigration. Being just a baby he went through a Japanese concentration camp. And in the Stars match Meschery was by no means an accidental person: in the 1960s he was considered to be one of the toughest forwards of the league, he was the master of rebound, he was proud of his nickname “the Furious Russian” and he spent 40 minutes on the court in the match when the great Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points. His number 14 has been retired by the “Warriors” as Meschery’s number.
As you can see, this information alone is enough to remember the name of this miraculous player. Even if the origin of this name is quite a mysterious one. And as a consequence several weeks ago the “SE” correspondent in the Northern America was asked to find Tom Meschery and interview him. The pilot analysis in the Internet showed a lot of important information. The figure of Meschery stubbornly refused to become less interesting! After the completion of his sport career the ex- Furious Russian chose the path of a school-teacher and peacefully worked in the town of Reno (the state of Nevada), teaching literature. The conversation with the school superintendent brought slight disappointment: exactly in July the 66-year-old favourite of the schoolchildren and colleagues retired.
But the journalistic profession is full of detective tasks of various complexity and this one was not the most puzzling. It turned out, that Meschery is also a poet! Several years ago he published a collection of poems for which he was inducted into the Hall of Fame of the Nevada’s writers (there is such one). In the Internet the book was found easily. The title – “What is lost can not be gotten back”, on the book jacket – the Saint Basil’s Cathedral, on the title-page – the publisher’s address. The rest, as they say, goes without saying…
MR. MESCHERY, WHAT IS YOUR NAME?
So that was the day of the revelation of the mystery of the first Russian in the NBA. We are in a spacious sitting room of his home in the Californian town of Truckee which is on the beautiful mountain lakeside. There are book shelves from floor to ceiling (so rare for the American homes). One can see a book of verses by Velimir Khlebnikov on the magazine table. The host, a vigorous old man with the appearance of a retired hussar colonel, does look well like the majority of the Americans of his age.
The first question is a silly but an important one:
- So, Mr. Meschery, what is your real name?
- At present – Thomas Nicholas Meschery, and at birth – Tomislav Nikolayevich Mescheryakov.
- How did it happen that you got your present name?
- The name was abbreviated by my father when we arrived in America after the Second World War. The thing is as you obviously know we had the McCarthy era. Senator McCarthy was a sinister person then, a hunter for communists. So people with Russian names were not too popular. Well, Tomislav is Tom, and as to Meschery… Until now I have no idea why my father wrote the last name exactly this way – Meschery. If he wanted such a conspiracy he could have put “i” at the end and it would have looked like an Italian name (Laughing).
- Tomislav is a rare name. How would your parents call you?
- Tomichka. Both my father and my mother were Russians. They met each other in the emigration, in Harbin. My father moved to America not long before the War: my mother worked at the American Consulate and somehow managed to get a green card for him. We were supposed to join him right away but as you see we just could not.
- Tell us in more details about your family. How did your parents find themselves in Manchuria?
- Right after the Civil War. My father was on the Western Front in the admiral Kolchak’s Army. He studied at the Military Academy and after the February Revolution he was promoted to lieutenancy (apparently, first lieutenant – S.M.). And my mother came from the ancient noble family of the Lvovs, she was born in the family estate in Buguruslan. Her father, Vladimir Vladimirovich, was the apostolic synod’s Ober-prosecutor, the deputy of the third and the fourth Dumas, the provisional government’s member. As a matter of fact, my grandfather was an outstanding personality. He was one of the leaders of the Kornilov’s plot; he tried to overthrow Kerensky whom he just hated. He was a true monarchist and a fierce counter-revolutionary. And I am, just imagine, a socialist, so my poor grandfather turns over in his grave (Laughing). Kerensky, as you know, disclosed the plot and my grandpa was put under arrest in the Winter Palace. Together with Nicholas II. Well, after the Bolshevik revolution he escaped to Paris. Truth to tell, he did not die there. In 1932 Stalin lured emigrants back to motherland, and my grandfather came back. Nobody knows what happened to him afterwards. Now no one can learn if he was shot or banished to the Siberia.
In addition, my mother was a close relative of Aleksey Konstantinovich Tolstoy, the poet, who, as far as I know, was a relative of Leo Tolstoy. So I have some count’s blood (Laughing). According to the maternal blood they all were noblemen. I always joke with my friends that had it not been for the Bolsheviks I would have been a rich man now. But the Mescheryakovs were not noted in such respect (Laughing). It was just an ordinary soldier's family. My father was a hereditary officer originally coming from near Samara.
- Have you specially studied the history of your origin?
- I generally take a keen interest in history. Next summer for the first time in my life I’ll go to Russia. I’ll visit my relatives (it turns out that I have cousins there!) and I’ll try to stay there at least for three months to learn Russian. In childhood I used to speak good Russian but without practice I lost a lot. I understand everything but I find it difficult to speak on complex themes – just my vocabulary is not rich enough and I have a strong accent.
- And why do you, an American, need it?
- Because I feel Russia in my heart. And now when I have retired on a pension I can finally devote a lot of time to it. I want very much to see Saint-Petersburg, I am dreaming for a long time to travel to the Siberia where my father fought.
- What was your father busy with while he was in the emigration?
- He earned on the side everywhere he could. He was one of these young unlucky soldiers who were deprived of their motherland and the meaning of life by the revolution. There were plenty of them in Harbin. Someone earned with manual labour, someone started drinking. There is a legend in our family that the father and some of his friends would get drunk to muster up their courage and would secretly cross the frontier to kill one of the commissars and to get back right away. By the way, this story could have been repeated here in America but this time like a farce. After the war when Kerensky came to lecture at the Stanford University, my father and some of his friends got dead drunk, jumped in the car and tried to make it from the San Francisco's Russian Hills to Palo Alto to shoot down the old man. Fortunately they were so drunk that they crushed half-way to their destination. (Laughing). Oh, my father really hated this poor fellow Kerensky! As for me, I think he was not a bad guy, a Social Democrat. But as a leader he was too weak. I don’t think Lenin found it difficult to outwit him.
CONCENTRATION CAMP, TINNED STEW AND BASKETBALL
- Tell us: how did you find yourself in America?
- As I have already said we could not follow my father immediately. Japan occupied Manchuria and my mother and I were sent to a concentration camp in Tokyo where we spent the rest of the War.
- So it turns out that your first child's recollections …
- Yes they are about the concentration camp. I do remember the end of the War when the Americans were bombing Tokyo every day. It was frightful. Most of the time we spent in the underground premises. Finally, the camp was destroyed and the last month of the War we spent in the streets with the guards.
- Do you remember the conditions in the camp?
- I wouldn’t say that the conditions were terrible. That was the camp for women and children. The Japanese did not applied cruelty against prisoners. We did not have much food but they fed us with rice. Plus, the Americans dropped from the planes the Red Cross packages. Something was taken by the Japanese and what they disliked was given to us. More often we got the “spam”, tinned pork stew. Until now I just can’t see it (Laughing). And after the war we finally managed to get over to the father to San Francisco where we settled in a spacious Russian neighbourhood.
- It looks like it was your father who inculcated in you the love for your Russian origin.
- My mother too. In any case she insisted that I and my sister should go to the Russian Orthodox Church. Unlike my father she was very religious. And the father … He simply could not get used to the American life. He did not have a gift for foreign languages and to his dying day he still could not speak English fluently. But I in my childhood wanted very much to become an American and finally I refused to speak Russian. And now I do regret that.
- Was it the reason that your relations with the father went bad?
- Yes they were not simple. Besides he never went to my basketball matches. He considered basketball the silliest business and he wanted me to join the Army. He would explode: “What kind of work is this for a man?!” Naturally, I had ideas of my own in this respect. But I must say that till the eighth or the ninth grade I nevertheless was more of a Russian than an American.
- When have you got interested in basketball?
- In the eighth grade. I was rather tall for my age, had a good coordination of movements, played tennis not so bad. And in the upper school I was lucky to meet an excellent basketball coach who started my career. In the graduation class I became a member of the U.S.A. symbolic schoolboys’ national team and I received many invitations from numerous universities.
- Symbolic national team? In other words you were among the five best schoolboys basketball-players of the country?
- Yes, just so. The legendary Jerry Lukas, the member of the Hall of Fame, was in the same team with me. And the same year Wilt Chamberlain was a member of the national student team. I remember we met in New York when both teams were filmed for a TV show. After school I decided to stay in the Northern California and continued my education at the Saint Mary’s University. There I grew up in a top-level power forward. It also helped that I could play in summer at the U.S. National Team Olympic Base.
- Have you been a candidate for the national team?
- Of course I have. Oh, damn! Until now I am boiling over with rage since they did not take me to the Olympic Games in Rome in the 1960. Pete Newell was the then head of the team of the University of California. He knew me pretty good: in the U.S.A. Student Championship his team defeated the “Saint Mary” in the final of the Western Division. I hoped I would be included, up to now I am sure I’d deserved it. But Pete decided otherwise. What a pity! As at that time to be a member of the U.S.A. Olympic Basketball Team meant a guaranteed Gold medal.
CHAMBERLAIN AND HIS TWENTY THOUSAND
- Was it at once that at college you were recognized as the NBA “material”?
- At first I was not sure that I was good enough to be a professional. But I played better and better with every year in the “Saint Mary”. By the fourth year I had no doubts about my enrolment in the NBA. During the last two years I was chosen for the U.S.A. symbolic student national team. Generally speaking, when the “Philadelphia Warriors” chose me in the first round of the draft (1961, #7 – S.M.) I was not surprised.
- I wonder if you were happy. For all that it was Chamberlain’s team.
- Of course. I am even happier now. After all I was fortunate enough to play in the Wilt’s famous 100-points match.
- What kind of a person was Chamberlain both as a player and as a man?
- I consider him to be one of the most incomprehensible athletes of all time.
- In what sense?
- I think he was too often compared with Bill Russell and it came to a situation when Wilt developed the image of an egoist, a self-centered player, a “lone wolf” and a boor. This is a very unjust comparison: Bill and Wilt were two different people who played in different teams but with equal level of mastery. Chamberlain never had such partners as Russell had. As for personal qualities, Wilt was a wonderful man but he never made a show of his good qualities. For instance, he made donations to children's funds of a lot of money but he always did it quietly and never spoke of it.
- But many people remembered him as a boaster.
- Oh, that. He was just unbelievable. He was always striving for being the best even when he played poker with us. But he was a good-for-nothing card-player; if he had good cards one could see it at once in his face. Besides, he never bluffed and if he raised the stake we simultaneously quit the game. But Wilt wanted to win so much … Can a person behave differently who contends that he had 20 000 women?! How many of them did he have? Some absurd, nightmarish number. On the whole, you understand, he was a personality of great ambition. But we were good friends. Everybody who knew him was like thunderstruck by his death. It might seem impossible that such a big, such a strong man could just die all of a sudden of heart attack.
- Could you expand on him as a player?
- Well, he could have played better in defence. When I got in the “Philadelphia” I was amazed how poorly Wilt acted under his backboard. But he constantly worked on it. During my second year in the NBA the “Warriors” moved from Philadelphia to San Francisco but three years later Wilt was taken back home in the “Philadelphia-76”. When we met in the 1967 final he was already simply invincible under the basket. And in his last years when Wilt shone in the “Lakers” everybody admired particularly his play in defence. He blocked the shots, he passed, on the whole he could do everything.
CHAMBERLAIN AND HIS 100
- But let us return to March the 2nd, 1962. The “Philadelphia Warriors” vs. the “New York Knicks” – 169:147. The one hundred point match of Chamberlain …
- That was the greatest sport achievement I saw with my own eyes.
- One could hear that 100 points was not too reliable a number. They say, at that time the score-sheets were not kept too thoroughly.
- (Laughing) No kidding? Baloney, just baloney. When in the middle of the fourth period he had 80 points, the score was watched very closely and not only by the referees but also by all who was present there. And at the beginning of the game who needed to add points? In the first half of the match he scored 41 points – it’s a lot of course but for Wilt – it’s normal. In addition, I knew very well the referees, who looked after the score – they were the most qualified people. Moreover, I can guarantee that Wilt counted the points himself.
- At what moment did you understand that the “New York” had suffered defeat and concentrated all your attention in order to help Wilt achieve his record?
- Oh, the “New York” lost before the match started. That year the “Knicks” was no team at all. If there is anything that can be said against the achievement of Wilt then it’s that he scored 100 points while playing against a poor team. And after the third period when there were about 30 points left, we understood that Wilt had a chance and we started playing only at him. Was there any other way? The fans strained themselves: “Give the ball to Wilt!” By the way, the rival was not going to become a part of the history. During last minutes the coach told them to foul anyone with the ball – anyone but Chamberlain. So we had to throw-in from the side line across the floor just to pass the ball to him.
- Usually, quite the contrary, the teams tried to foul Chamberlain in order not to let him score the points.
- That day Wilt could not miss even if he’d tried. He scored 28 times out of 32 from the free-throw lines, which was for him a fantastic result. For his whole career his percentage was less than 50 (in fact – 50.5 – S.M.), but that day everything worked all right. Normally it is not the case. I don’t think that anybody else can score 100 points in a match.
- But the conditions did not at all correspond to the magnitude of the event.
- Yes, the match was held at a small town of Hershey in the state of Pensilvania. The thing was that the “Warriors” owner and a local promoter arranged a deal: they placed a gym at our disposal for practising free of charge and we had to play three matches of the season in their god-forsaken place. The stadium was very old but not so bad, it accommodated around nine thousand. It was normal at that time. But actually the town of Hershey was built around a huge chocolate factory, everything there became permeated with the smell of chocolate. It was practically impossible to stay indoors, people felt sick. I was just dreaming to leave the place as fast as I could.
- Do you remember how many points you scored then?
- I remember – 16. I became number three in the team according to my effectiveness. Al Attles became the second with 17 points. It is a good question for a TV quiz show, is not it?
THE FURIOUS RUSSIAN
- As far as I know, you were considered to be a very tough player.
- Who, me? No, these are just rumors. I was a technique virtuoso (Laughing).
- And they called you “Furious Russian” without any reason?
- Well, I will not deny it. Everything was O.K. with my temperament and my physical strength. When at the beginning of my career with the “Warriors” an excellent forward Rick Barry joined the team the defence and getting the rebounds became my main duties. It was not that I was a poor shooter. But after all did we have to halve the ball between me and Rick? And under the basket, especially the rival’s one, I was always doing very well. That was where I scored the most. I don’t know if I could play as a power forward in today's NBA. Now the height of 6 feet and 7 inches (201 cm. – S.M.) is despairingly small for this role.
- So, a power forward, master of rebounds, temperament. You were Dennis Rodman of the 1960s?
- (A pause) I never wore a lady’s dress (Laughing). But roughly you can say so. Then in the NBA there were several basketball-players performing such a role. For example, Rudy Tomjanovich, who is a famous coach now.
- And who and what for named you the Furious Russian?
- A journalist, but I don’t remember exactly who. Maybe a New York reporter, they always had a sharp tongue. Maybe that was my pal Sandy Padve, a Philadelphia news-paper observer. I recall he always asked me about my origin and once he wrote an article on this subject.
- In other words you’ve never kept back your origin in spite of even the McCarthy era.
- Never! And I never thought it was necessary. I have always believed that to be a Russian is just wonderful, simply superb. Why not to be a Russian after all? The Italians and the Poles together with the Irish do run around America, are we, the Russians, any worse?
- And you did not have any complications because of that?
- Perhaps in my early childhood. But not so much that I was a Russian as I was an emigrant. I spoke broken English, I looked differently. Of course, my mother did not know the American fashions, that is why at first I went to school as the emigrants’ children did in Harbin – in shorts. Naturally, I got it hot. But after primary school when my accent was gone and I went in for sport, I was not a stranger anymore. By the way, in America (and, perhaps, in any other country) the shortest way for an emigrant to recognition goes through sport.
- Well, as far as “the Russian” is concerned, now it is clear. And what about “Furious”?
- With my temperament I simply gave everybody no quarter. If I was elbowed I elbowed twice. So gradually I built up my reputation. I do not exclude that I set a kind of a record as far as the number of expulsions for six fouls was concerned (in the 61/62 season Meschery was the NBA leader in the quantitatively received fouls – 330 – S.M.) Incidentally, I’ll tell you a funny story. I was often given technical fouls for shouting at umpires. Finally I got fed up with it and I decided to swear in Russian. Let them try to prove that something was wrong. Everything went smoothly but by the end of the match the umpire whistled and gave me a technical foul. I whipped round, made an innocent look: “For what?” And he said: “For your intonation”.
- Did you have a suitable training?
- My father’s school … In general, I often lost my temper. Besides, at that time practically every team had players who were called the enforcers, the brawlers.
- Just like in hockey.
- That’s it. If somebody hit the star they had to punish the offender. I often had to do this. Frankly, when Wilt Chamberlain played in the team there was not such a necessity. Wilt was unbelievably strong. Plus, in the “Warriors” there was Al Attles, one of the toughest guys in the history of the NBA. So the three of us represented a frightening sight. And then the fights were a usual thing. To day for such “devilry” the players are being fined for the sums which equal our two year wages.
- But your reputation did not prevent you from playing in the All Stars Match.
- I was not just an enforcer. You know, I was a pretty good player.
- Those years the NBA has not reached yet the popularity of to day. Were you a celebrity then?
- To certain extent yes. I was also lucky because the “Warriors” moved to San Francisco, the city of my childhood where I became famous in my school and student years. So they recognized me in the streets, I was filmed for the ads. Of course, it’s difficult to compare with to day, but still … My jersey numbers have probably been retired by the school, student and professional teams.
- Do you remember your personal records?
- The most effective game – 42 points. It was my first year in the League, against the “St. Louis Hawks”. I scored more points than Wilt himself!
- Has it happened often?
- Never again. That was my version of the 100 points game. In some matches I had around 20 rebounds. My average statistics for the whole 10-year career – 10 points and 12 rebounds (in actual fact: 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds. And plus – 89 expulsions before the end of the game in 778 matches of the NBA Championship – S.M.).
- You finished your career in the 1971. And do you remember the final game of the 1972 Olympics?
- The one with a long pass? Sure.
- What do you think about the scandal around this match? Does the U.S. national team refuse to take the silver medals as before?
- My opinion is that this is from the category of “the grapes are green”. The problems with the umpiring, with people who are in charge of the clock have always been and always will be. It’s a part of the game. The American team should not be ranting and raving now. If our players were really as strong as they thought they were the score difference by the end of the match should have been much more than one point. As it is, it’s their fault. None of the U.S. national teams did take the fate of the match to the last second.
- And who did you support?
- America, of course. But if our invincible guys were to be defeated by somebody, I am awfully glad that it was Russia and not some Lebanon. After that match I understood that America would not always be the undisputed leader of the world basketball. And, look, what we have now: players from Europe, Africa, Asia, South America. And as a result the NBA has become even better!
- How often do you watch the play of Andrey Kirilenko?
- That Russian of the “UTAH”? The guy understands the game. I just love to watch him. What a foolhardy, even a reckless player!
- What kind of a future would you foretell for him?
- Firstly, he was fortunate to have such a coach. Jerry Sloan, when he played in Chicago, he was one of the strongest guys in the League. I respect him very much. I think Andrey will have a radiant future. On the other hand, if he stays in the “Utah” he will not be able to become a sound star. He will be known and respected by the basketball experts but it is impossible to become a national celebrity in such a non-glamour provincial team.
“TAP-TAP, RAT-TAT”
- After the completion of your player’s career you tried yourself as a coach.
- Yes, in the ABA. But I was a very bad chief coach. I was impatient, could not control my temperament. And I poorly saw the game. I could not catch the nuances of what was happening on the floor. But I was doing much better as the second coach. In the “Portland” it was much better with Lenny Wilkens. The second coach is more a teacher than a strategist.
- But then why as a result did you quit basketball?
- First Lenny was fired from the “Portland” and together with him all the members of his headquarters. With my wife we had already three children and we decided that it was the time to settle down. And we moved to Truckee and bought a bookstore. But the life of a businessman turned out to be a very dull thing for me. So I became a teacher.
- Why a teacher? Is it because of your coaching experience?
- No. It is a long story. I’ve had my writer’s ambitions for a long time, when I already was a player. At first I wrote essays about the life of an athlete, but prose was not to my liking. I switched to verses. Unlike the majority of the American guys I have never considered poetry to be a feminine pastime. For us, the Russians, poetry is a part of our soul. My father, a huge and strong soldier, recited verses for me and there were tears in his eyes.
- And what verses if it is no secret?
- Plenty of Pushkin, something written by our relative Aleksey Tolstoy. In my childhood I learnt many verses by heart. My father liked the old poetry which had to be beautiful, with rhythm and rhyme. He did not accept either Mayakovski or Esenin.
So listening to my father, I simply could not have in mind that poetry was unworthy of a man. But of course, I was a complete ignoramus, I did not know the theory, I just put down words. Nevertheless, I published a book. The title: “Above the ring”. It includes the verses about basketball and all of them are dreadful. But I was lucky. I was finishing to play in Seattle and I met there professors of literature who were not only famous poets but in addition they adored to play poker. So at the card table I told them about my dreams and I asked them to let me listen to the lectures. And it were them who advised me to enter the literary department of the University of Iowa. There I acquired practical skills of versification and teacher’s qualification.
- What was your subject at school?
- The British literature for the senior pupils, the highest level. From the folk epos to Yeats. But sometimes I gave them Pushkin.
- A what specifically by him?
- Most often I gave his prose, “The Captain’s Daughter”. His poetry can not be translated into English. And out of the Russian poetry I would include something short by the modern authors which I liked myself most of all. For instance, the wonderful “Babij Jar” by Yevtushenko. Unlike my father I accept my contemporaries, including Mayakovski with Esenin and Mandelshtam.
- And who is your favorite Russian poet?
- Anna Ahmatova. Her poem “Lot’s Wife” I also included in the program. I admire how simple, everyday things can show their completely unexpected side in her verses. She was able to find magic, surrealistic absolutely in everything. Her each poem is like a wonderful surprise, like a revelation. I hope very much to be able someday to wright the same way. Incidentally, have you seen my latest book?
Tomislav Nikolayevich stands up and shows the way to his study on the second floor. A small volume of verses which helped me to find the author lies in a small book-case. Next to it one can see a statuette of Wilt Chamberlain. The great player sits in his famous pose on a stool holding a sheet of paper with the number “100”. And side by side with the bronze Wilt there is a book of Russian proverbs and sayings. The walls are decorated with the diplomas, prizes, memorable plates. Including a huge yellow jersey with number 14 which not long ago was hanging under the vaulted ceiling of the palace where the “Warriors” play. The number is still there but on a new cloth next to the Chamberlain’s # 13.
Tom gives me the 1970 collection card with his picture on the one side of it and his statistics on the other. There is also a caricature: a dreamer-basketball-player accompanying his dribble with mumbling: “Tap-tap, rat-tat”. And a caption:”Tom is writing his verses”.
In passing Meschery asks if Russia recognizes a dual citizenship. He snaps his fingers (an American gesture expressing disappointment) as he gets a negative answer…
We went on with our conversation. About the NBA (he is a patriot of his epoch, he puts Jordan higher than anybody else), about modern basketball (“24 seconds for an attack – not enough”), about what an achievement this is to make the American children like the literature (“We are a non-reading nation. We are people of business. Forward! Let's get down to work, to Iraq! Stupid, stupid!”), about how a grand-son of the Kornilov’s officer could become a socialist. And about what seemed to be the most important …
- It is rather strange: you were born in one country, you lived in another but it looks like you’ve belonged to the third one?
- You know, now that I have become old and clever I look at my life and understand one thing only: I am proud that I am Russian. As Russia is a wonderful country with fantastic history. Is not it?
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Postby Bruce Kitts » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:05 pm

What a wonderful article! Too bad Hollywood hasn't picked up on Tom Meschary's life story. Was the interview in English, translated into Russian and then retranslated into English?
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Postby rlee » Mon Dec 06, 2010 4:08 pm

Bruce, I concluded the same thing about the translation/retranslation which didn't really detract from the interview and added some unintentional humor.
I especially like how "Mad Russian" got re-translated to "Furious Russian".
Last edited by rlee on Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:36 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby mtamada » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:19 am

One of the most fascinating interviews of an athlete that I've ever read. It helps that Meschery was one of the most unique and interesting NBA players. The translation issues add to the fun, but the interviewer's knowledge of of the subject shows clearly. I.e. there were Russian-speakers involved here, but clearly ones who know American culture thoroughly. And basketball too, although clearly they had to pick up some of the basketball history along the way, as shown by this quote:

The figure of Meschery stubbornly refused to become less interesting!


Exactly the reaction that I think all of us have had, who start reading about Meschery's pre- and post-NBA life!

Also these quotes:

CHAMBERLAIN AND HIS TWENTY THOUSAND
[...]
But many people remembered him as a boaster.


CHAMBERLAIN AND HIS 100
[...]
But the conditions did not at all correspond to the magnitude of the event.


So, a power forward, master of rebounds, temperament. You were Dennis Rodman of the 1960s?


I.e. the writer/interviewer initially did not know of Meschery's background, but by the time they'd finished their research, they knew how to put Meschery into context, ranging from the NBA of the 1960s to the 1990s.

But the Russian background of the interviewer and interviewee comes through too, I can't imagine an American reporter dwelling so much on Pushkin and poetry.

There's probably at least one more great article lurking here: those poker games that Meschery played with the English Lit professors in Seattle. How the heck did Meschery end up at their poker table?

So many other things in this article jumped out at me, I'll mention just one more: we've all seen that famous photo with the "100 card" (I think it was Harvey Pollack who scrawled the numbers on it?). When the article said "statuette" I thought it was a mistranslation of photo or poster or print or some such. But evidently Meschery literally has a bronze statuette of Wilt Chamberlain?! I'm guessing one that he commissioned himself, with the famous photo as a model, but who knows.


Where did you find this article -- evidently it came from a newspaper or magazine abbreviated "SE"? What a great read.
Last edited by mtamada on Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:41 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Postby rlee » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:23 am

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Postby mtamada » Tue Dec 07, 2010 6:39 am

rlee wrote:Here is the link, Mike:

http://english.sport-express.ru/articles/9_14/


Ah thanks, a Russian daily sports paper, but translated into English!

They also have a Bill Russell interview, not bad but not nearly as innovative and interesting as the Tom Meschery interview.
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Postby rlee » Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:51 pm

The statuette sounds like the one that was given to the 1st 5000 fans at the Wachovia Center at "Hardwood Classics Night" when the 6ers hosted the Warriors. I feel fortunate to have one of these.

"The Wilt Chamberlain statue giveaway to the first 5,000 fans is a re-creation of the basketball great holding up a 100 sign to signify his feat on March 2, 1962, when Chamberlain, then a member of the Philadelphia Warriors, scored an incredible 100 points against the New York Knicks in Hershey, Pa. The Warriors franchise would later move to San Francisco, but the 100-point milestone is closely linked with Philadelphia basketball history. Produced by Alexander Global Promotions, the Chamberlain statue shows the 7-footer sitting in a chair holding the sign. It stands seven inches tall and is a pewter gold color. All fans will also receive a two-sided timeline that chronicles Chamberlain’s career on one side and the Nationals on the other."

http://www.nba.com/sixers/history/hardw ... 50308.html

http://www.bobblebums.com/bobbleheads/F ... e_411a.jpg
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Postby Mike Goodman » Tue Dec 07, 2010 2:53 pm

mtamada wrote:
So, a power forward, master of rebounds, temperament. You were Dennis Rodman of the 1960s?


I.e. the writer/interviewer initially did not know of Meschery's background, but by the time they'd finished their research, they knew how to put Meschery into context, ranging from the NBA of the 1960s to the 1990s.

.

Except that Rodman was about twice the rebounder that Meschery was.
http://www.basketball-reference.com/pla ... i?id=0bWdI

... and other obvious contrasts.
`
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Postby mtamada » Tue Dec 07, 2010 8:36 pm

rlee wrote:The statuette sounds like the one that was given to the 1st 5000 fans at the Wachovia Center at "Hardwood Classics Night" when the 6ers hosted the Warriors. I feel fortunate to have one of these.


A bronze statuette has to be one of the coolest NBA giveaways ever. I attended a Sonics game in the mid-1980s, after the Sikma-Gus-Downtown glory years were over and the Sonics weren't drawing well. They gave badges to the fans which said "I was a SONICS fan when being a Sonics fan wasn't cool". At another game they hadn't out cardboard signs saying "Go Sonics".

That's about it for the NBA goodies that I've ever received. I mighthave a poster or two but they were never of very intersting players. Best giveaway was probably not a physical one: at a Clippers game I had cheap seats in the nosebleed section and when we tried to enter the Sports Arena they said told us that that section was closed! "Where are we supposed to sit" we asked. "Go to the inside ticket window and they'll give you new tickets". So okay we shrug and go in and find the ticket window, turn in our cheap tickets and they give us two new tickets: about 2 seats away from midcourt and about 12 rows from the court!

Good ol' Clips. This was prior to the Elton Brand days, when the Clips really drew terribly. But you could get good cheap seats. Since then however others have realized that they can go and see Dwight Howard, Kevin Garnett, etc. more cheaply by going to Clips games than by going to Lakers games so the tickets are not quite as bargain-based and the crowds are larger.
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Postby rlee » Tue Feb 01, 2011 1:45 am

From SLAM 134:

Tom Meschery was one of the most unique players in NBA history.

by Gregory Dole

The date was March 2, 1962. The city was Hershey, PA. We all know the story: Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points against the New York Knickerbockers. One of Wilt’s Philadelphia Warriors teammates that night was a rookie named Tom Meschery.

“That was the most profound moment in my career,” says Meschery today. “I don’t think anything could top that moment. I remember it clearly. I didn’t know at the time much about East Coast basketball, nor professional basketball. Our coach, Frank Maguire, had predicted that he would score 100 points. I had already seen Chamberlain in practice but I would never have imagined.”

To be playing alongside the best player in the world was a long way from where he started. Meschery was a Russian, born in China, making him in fact both the first Russian and Chinese-born player in the NBA. In 1938, Tomislav Nikolayevich Mescheryakov, aka Tom Meschery,was born to Russian exiles living in the Manchurian city of Harbin, in what is now called China. His parents were members of the Russian elite, or White Russians, who fled Russia’s Bolshevik revolution.

“It is true, I was born in China, but being born to Russian parents had a deep effect on me. Russia is in my blood,” recalls Meschery from his home in Truckee, CA. “I obviously immigrated and became American, but my family is Russian. My mother was Russian aristocracy and her father was a member of the senate, a strong supporter of the Czar and a head figure in the Russian Orthodox Church.”

With communism sweeping through Russia, the elite classes were on the run. Yet Manchuria would not offer much refuge to the Mescherys or the other White Russians. World War II would bring the invading Japanese Imperial Army. Meschery, his mother and sister were sent to a concentration camp in Japan. Meschery’s father had already immigrated to the United States and it was only after the war that they would reunite. Growing up in the camp, the world of professional sports could not have crossed the young Meschery’s mind.

When Meschery finally arrived in San Francisco, he had a difficult time integrating into American life; he was an outsider. Basketball helped greatly. “Sports made my transition to America much easier,” Meschery recalls. “I tried so hard to play, almost in an effort to prove that I was a real American. The better I would play, the more I would be considered American. It became a passion. I was obsessed by basketball. There was not a minute that I did not enjoy it, practicing or otherwise. Basketball combines the team game and the individual game in such a profound way. The individual talent can be absorbed into the team.”

Following a successful career at nearby St. Mary’s University, well beyond the spotlight of the NBA’s East Coast teams, Meschery thought of becoming a diplomat in the US State Department. Those plans were cast aside when, after a standout performance for the US Olympic team at an AAU tournament in Denver, NBA teams came calling. In the footsteps of West Coast college stars like Bill Russell and KC Jones, Meschery was drafted by the Philadelphia Warriors in the NBA’s first round.

“We were on a basketball tour in Kansas City and Warriors GM Eddie Goldberg came into my room and kicked my roommate out, sat me down and started negotiating. Eddie offered me something and I accepted. No agent, no negotiations!”

Meschery’s rookie year was one of the most memorable seasons in NBA history. His Warriors, led by Chamberlain, made it to the Eastern Conference Finals, where they lost in seven games to the mighty Boston Celtics. The 6-6 Meschery would go on to play 10 years in the NBA, with per-game averages of 12.7 points and 8.6 rebounds for his career.

“I saw myself as an all-around player. I tried my damnedest. My role changed when the Warriors drafted Rick Barry. Prior to him, I was an offensive player. I made the All-Star team [in 1963] as an offensive player. With the new players, while I didn’t pass up good shots, a lot of the offense went through Nate Thurmond and Rick Barry. We also had good shooting guards. So I learned how to be a good offensive rebounder.”

Clifford Ray, current Boston Celtics assistant coach and former Warrior remembers Meschery: “He was a player that went all out. Non-stop, giving it his all. From what I was told, he flat out went off against his competition. I had worn the number 14 in Chicago, but when I went to the Warriors I had to change because that had been Tom’s number. He was a legend with the Warriors. But Tom was more than that. He was a renaissance man. We all knew that he left the game to write poetry and open a bookstore up in Northern California.”

The game of basketball was going through a period of great development and innovation, with Chamberlain, Oscar Robertson and Jerry West pushing the quality of play to new heights. “The minute I stepped on the court and I had to play against West and Robinson, I knew that these were special players,” says Meschery. “That generation of draft choices from 1960 onward really changed the way that the League was perceived. There was great change. Those guys in George Mikan’s era couldn’t compete today, but my era saw players who transcended all eras, bringing the game to a level it had not known before.”

Without the benefit of televised coverage and replays, players could get away with a great deal more. The man they called the “Mad Manchurian” played close to the edge. “I think there was a different mindset. In those days, if guards went into the key, they would get elbowed. They would get thrown to the ground,” recalls Meschery. “A guard like West was one of the few guys who could get to the key and he would earn it. Robertson had his pull-up jump shot to avoid getting hit. There were no easy layups. I would have knocked Kobe or any guard on his ass 20 times a game if they had gone into the key.”

Meschery became the first pick of the Seattle SuperSonics in the 1967 expansion draft. It was in Seattle that he would begin pursuing off-court interests that would eventually become his second career. “I didn’t see myself as an academic at that point in my life,” he says. “I realized that I read more books than most of my teammates and on the team plane rides, I would read poetry and that sort of thing instead of playing poker. Actually, I would only play poker when Wilt Chamberlain was playing because he was a horrible player. It was easy money!”

A chance encounter with University of Washington poetry chair Mark Strand—who would later become the poet laureate of the United States—set Meschery on the course toward becoming a poet. “I never grew up thinking poetry was effeminate. My father was 6-3, a great bear of a man, and he would read poetry and weep. He would cry over it. From a young age I appreciated poetry,” says Meschery. “My teammates found my interest in poetry to be odd, however, I had a strong temper so they didn’t push it.”

Having set a goal of retiring when he would no longer be considered a starter, it became time to hang up his sneakers. After flirting with the idea of joining the Peace Corps to teach basketball in South America, Meschery instead became head coach of the ABA’s Carolina Cougars. “I hated coaching,” he admits. “I was a bad coach. I had no patience whatsoever. I did not see the big picture. I was a single-minded player. I knew my position well but I had never had that Lenny Wilkens ability to see the whole court. I was a terrible coach and I hated it. I don’t like failing at anything.”

After a Cougars game in New Jersey, Meschery went for drinks with the poet Strand, who convinced him to pack in the coaching gig and pursue poetry writing at the University of Iowa. And that was it.

Meschery would go on to write a poem about his former teammate Chamberlain. While the two were very different types—Meschery a socialist and Chamberlain a conservative—they maintained contact throughout their lives.

“Wilt had a small coterie of friends. We were also friends,” says Meschery. “He was misunderstood by the media and fans. He was not an arrogant guy. He was a wonderful guy. When I was in Seattle, I had a summer league tournament event for the inner-city kids. I wanted a superstar for the event. I called up one great center and he refused me. I called up Wilt, and he came up on his own dime from Los Angeles. He stayed for three days and even refereed the whole tournament. He never did a lot of stuff for media. Much of his good works he did not do for publicity. He was always doing good things for the public. He was a very private guy. He was a sweet guy. I just never understood how he could vote for Richard Nixon, and I told him that.”

As a player from a simpler time in the NBA, you would expect Meschery to have a dim view of the League and its scandals. Not true. “The major leagues combined wouldn’t hold a candle to what evil corporate types have done to society—the Enrons or a George Bush and a Dick Cheney,” Meschery says. “I suspect that there are much greater thieves in the corporate world. The root of it is greed and there will always be problems in the NBA. It is the job of the commissioner to keep on top of it, however no one will ever be able to eliminate human transgressions.”

Meschery remains a basketball fan to this day. During his battle and recovery from cancer a few years ago, Meschery’s son bought him the NBA League Pass, just as the Warriors were embarking on their magical run in 2007.

“I will always be a Golden State Warrior. My son is even part of the Warriors blog Fear the Beard. You could say I left it in San Francisco. I became hooked again on the NBA during my recovery. Once the ball goes up, the game is still the best game in the world.”
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Postby mtamada » Tue Feb 01, 2011 3:00 am

Well that article explains much of how Meschery wound up playing poker with the UW English profs. Even better, according to Meschery, poet Mark Strand convinced him to leave basketball and become a poet. I'm reminded of that Peanuts cartoon where Schroeder leaves Charlie Brown's baseball team so he can concentrate on his piano playing. "Beaned by Beethoven" moaned Charlie Brown. Similarly I'd say the ABA and NBA got posterized by Pushkin.
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Re: Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason

Postby rlee » Thu Jul 14, 2011 12:28 am

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New Meschery Interview

Postby rlee » Mon Aug 01, 2011 12:32 am

collegehoopsnet.com

In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time with Saint Mary's great Tom Meschery. In addition to his career at the California school Meschery went on to have an outstanding career in the NBA. Despite the Gaels' recent string of success Meschery is still considered by many to be the school's greatest player.
Jon Teitel: Some of your nicknames were the "Mad Russian" and the "Renaissance Man". How did you get those nicknames, and which one did you like the most?

Tom Meschery: The "Russian" part was because I am a Russian immigrant, while the "Mad" part was because I had a temper and got caught up in a few on-court altercations. Rudy LaRusso was a favorite target. "Renaissance Man" probably came about because I write poetry and read a lot of literature. I think that hardly constitutes a Renaissance Man, but I sure like it the best.

JT: You were born in China after your parents fled from Russia in 1917 due to the October Revolution, and after spending part of WWII in a Tokyo prison camp your family emigrated to the US and changed its name from Meshcheryakov to Meschery. How did you survive the prison camp, and how hard was it to be a an Asian immigrant in America in the 1950s?

TM: The camp was a women's/children's camp, so it was not that difficult. Food was scarce but we were generally treated well. My mom and sister were there, and we had lots of help from nuns, missionaries and fellow prisoners. We received regular Red Cross packages that were air-dropped. The last months of the war were harrowing as our camp was bombed, but we made it out alive and wandered the streets under guard, sleeping wherever there was shelter. A hospital finally took us in and we stayed in an attic for the duration to end of war. It was a little tough in the US while my name was Mescheryakov and I still spoke broken English, but once my dad changed our name and I began to become integrated into society (primarily through sports, as I was very coordinated), things became better. Being good at something always helps.

JT: You were an All-American at Lowell High School before going to St. Mary's. How did you get into basketball, and why did you decide to attend Saint Mary's?

TM: I was in the Lowell HS district. I got into basketball because a playground director by the name of Cappy Lavin (a former star player at San Francisco) taught me to play from my grammar school days through the 8th grade. After that I honed my skills by playing in playground pick-up games all over the city. My high school coach Benny Neff (a San Francisco legend) helped me a great deal. I chose Saint Mary's because the offered me $36 million: just joking! The principal recruiter for Saint Mary's was a fellow named John Henning, a great man who was the head of the AFL-CIO in California. He convinced me that Saint Mary's would be right for me. They also had a strong freshman recruiting class, so I knew we could win, and we did: our freshman team did not lose a game!

JT: In college you were a two-time All American and named conference POY. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?

TM: The honors were great for my ego, and it also justified all the hard work that I had put in. As a team player it also meant that I had strong teammates who recognized my ability and helped me in any way they could.

JT: In the spring of 1961 you were drafted seventh overall by Philadelphia (six spots behind Walt Bellamy). Did you see that as a validation of your college career or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA?

TM: Yes. As for Walter (who always referred to himself in the third person and used his full name!), I felt that I had a better rookie season than he did. The statistical edge was his, but he was a pretty selfish player and not one of my favorites. I passed up an opportunity to go to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in order to play ball.

JT: In 1962 you led the league in personal fouls, and you played 79+ games in eight of your 10 seasons. How important a part of your game was your physicality, and how were you able to remain so durable throughout your career?

TM: As for the personal fouls, I always felt that they came out of my tenacity to play defense. When you play hard, you commit some fouls. Also, I was not super-fast, so being physical was necessary if I was going to compete against speedier players. I was durable, but I cannot give you a good reason for it. I have always been strong ever since I was a kid. I also had a high tolerance for pain, and often played through injuries that might have sent today's players to the doctor.

JT: In March 1962 you scored 16 points in a win over the Knicks, as your teammate Wilt Chamberlain (who you once picked a fight with) scored an NBA-record 100 points. When did you start to realize that Wilt was on his way to such a legendary night, and what was the feeling like in your locker room afterwards?

TM: At the start of the fourth quarter when "The Zink" (our PA guy Dave Zinkoff) announced that Wilt had around 80 points. The feeling in the locker room was a bit surreal because there were virtually no reporters. The game was not considered an important one and was being played in Hershey, PA (not Philly), so it was quiet with just a couple of local reporters and some quickly assembled camera crews. The rest of us dressed and headed for the bus while Wilt and Coach Frank McGuire remained. Before the season started, McGuire had actually predicted Wilt would score 100 points during the season!

JT: In the 1962 Eastern Division Finals you had a two-point loss to the eventual champion Celtics in Game 7 after a game-winning shot by Hall of Famer Sam Jones. Do you think you should have won that series, and where does that Celtics team rank among the best you have ever seen (Bob Cousy and Bill Russell called it the greatest Celtics team of all-time)?

TM: Yes, we should have won. During a timeout in those last seconds Tom Gola asked McGuire if he could guard Sam, but McGuire kept Guy Rodgers on him even though Guy was not a good defender: voila! If we would have won, we would have slaughtered the Lakers in the Finals. The Celtics were much better the following year with the addition of John Havlicek.

JT: In 1963 your West squad lost by seven in the All-Star Game. What did it mean to you to be named an All-Star, and how on earth did you lose the game when you had seven future Hall of Fame teammates (Walt Bellamy, Bob Pettit, Chamberlain, Jerry West, Elgin Baylor, Lenny Wilkens and Bailey Howell)?

TM: I was simply delighted to have made the team so I was sort of a stargazer. As for the loss, I consider it a Bill Russell victory.

JT: In 1964 you had a 10-point win over St. Louis in Game 7 of the Western Division Finals before losing to the Celtics in the NBA Finals. How special was it to win Game 7 and reach the Finals, and how frustrating was it to keep running into the Celtics in the playoffs?

TM: The win over the Hawks was special in itself, as they had given us trouble all year. It was particularly pleasing for me because I had a very good series. It was frustrating to lose to the Celtics, but we were a bit injured and beat up from the Hawks series. Of course, the Celtics had a better team at each position, and their reserves were stronger than ours.

JT: In the 1967 NBA Finals you had a three-point loss to the 76ers in Game 6. How great was your former teammate Wilt down the stretch (six blocks in the 4th quarter), and how did it feel to face your former coach (Alex Hannum) leading a team from the city where you used to play?

TM: It was a game that proved that irony rules the earth. My much-loved ex-coach Hannum and ex-teammate Wilt came back to beat us, but Nate Thurmond was a fantastic center and gave Wilt everything he could handle. It was tough series and the Warriors had nothing to hang their heads over: we acquitted ourselves well.

JT: In the summer of 1967 you were selected by Seattle in the expansion draft and ended up leading the team in rebounding during their inaugural season with 10.2 RPG. Was it awkward to be the highest-paid player on the team, and what is your secret for rebounding?

TM: It was not awkward at all: we are not talking millions here! However I am pretty sure that Walt Hazzard was paid more than me; check it out. My secrets for rebounding: always keep moving, always block out (but not for too long), go hard for the ball when you think it is about to reach its greatest height, try to see which direction the ball bounces off the rim in practice, work on your leg strength, once you catch the ball spread your legs/elbows as you bring the ball down, be determined, and do not worry about hurting anyone.

JT: You averaged 12.7 PPG during your 10-year NBA career, and your 8.6 RPG is still in the top-100 all-time. How satisfied are you with your career, and do you have any regrets?

TM: I am satisfied that I did the best I could in every game I played. My only regret is that I missed reaching the 10,000-point mark by less than 100 points.

JT: You had various head and assistant coaching stints in the ABA, CBA and NBA. How did you like being a coach, and what were the biggest differences between the various leagues?

TM: I hated being a coach. I had no patience for incompetence and laziness, of which there is more than you can imagine. I also did not possess a good vision of the whole game, which made me a bad game-day coach. The biggest difference between the ABA and NBA back when I coached was the caliber of players. In the ABA, there were only a few bona fide stars and lots of marginally-talented players. I loved the three-point rule, which the NBA later adopted, but I hated the red, white and blue ball, which the NBA did not adopt (thank God!).

JT: After leaving the coaching ranks you got your MFA from Iowa and studied poetry with future US poet laureate Mark Strand. Why did you decide to go get a Masters degree, and what role does poetry play in your life?

TM: I took a class from Mark at Washington while I was playing. When I decided to quit coaching, Mark suggested that I apply to the Iowa Writers Workshop. He later taught there for a semester and I took another class with him. I also studied under Donald Justice and Marvin Bell (the first Poet Laureate of the state of Iowa), who were highly influential in my development as a poet. I love poetry: it is an ongoing investigation of my life and the world around me, and is a way of seeing clearly.
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Re: New Meschery Interview

Postby mtamada » Mon Aug 01, 2011 11:06 pm

rlee wrote:collegehoopsnet.com

[...]

The statistical edge was his, but he was a pretty selfish player and not one of my favorites. I passed up an opportunity to go to Oxford on a Rhodes Scholarship in order to play ball.


I wonder if he actually got offered a Rhodes Scholarship, or was a finalist, or was just thinking of applying and decided to go to the NBA instead of going through the application process.

I deleted the first part of his Walt Bellamy quote, but that's an interesting and believable quote about Bellamy. Also interesting that he gave Guy Rodgers' defense a low grade.
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Meschery in the news, yet again

Postby rlee » Fri Aug 05, 2011 12:58 am

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Re: Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason

Postby rlee » Thu Jun 15, 2017 11:05 pm

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Re: Tom Meschery a man of rhyme, reason

Postby rlee » Sat Jun 02, 2018 5:25 am

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