1992-93 Mavericks learned from awful season
Thursday, June 15, 2006
By MIKE HEIKA / The Dallas Morning News
The 1992-93 Mavericks season meant so much to Walter Bond, he references it just about every day.
While others might be trying to bury the memory of an 11-71 record â€“ second worst in NBA history â€“ Bond has used it as a turning point.
"To me, it's what helps me understand people, helps me relate to people," said Bond, who has become a motivational speaker targeting national corporate audiences. "When I talk to people about pulling themselves up, fighting through the hard times, they know I have been there. I talk about that season all of the time."
Bond is just one example of successful people produced from that losing team. Among the graduates of that season are a couple of assistant coaches (Mike Iuzzolino at Duquesne and Morlon Wiley with the Orlando Magic), as well as a couple of media gadflies (Derek Harper with Ch. 11 and Tim Legler with ESPN).
"To be honest, those are some of the players I probably keep in closest touch with," said Harper, who is part of the Mavericks' game presentation and also does weekend anchor work. "When you go through something like that, you grow together. To keep from crying, we did a lot of laughing on that team."
AP Walter Bond grew from his experience in the Mavericks' dreadful 1992-93 season and uses that turning point as a motivational speaker. The Mavericks were, in a word, terrible. They were trending down from the 1988 trip to the Western Conference finals, and Rolando Blackman had just been traded to the Knicks, leaving Harper as the lone survivor. Fat Lever was supposed to provide scoring and Jim Jackson was a highly touted rookie, but Lever missed the entire season with injuries and Jackson got in a heated contract battle and didn't play the first 50 games. That opened the door for Bond.
"I had fought my way through college as a reserve, but I still felt I could play, and they gave me a chance," said Bond, a Minnesota alum. "A lot of people will look at that and say I was just hanging on, but to me, it was the realization of a dream."
Bond preaches that message when he talks to struggling sales people or corporate managers fighting downsizing.
"One, I stress to them that not everyone is a superstar and that there are important places for role players, as well," he said. "And two, I tell them that you wouldn't be where you are if you hadn't earned it. A lot of people laughed at us or called us losers, but they didn't get it. Every one of us worked hard just to get to the NBA. Every one of us had a ton of success before we got to the NBA. There were no losers there."
Iuzzolino, from Altoona, Pa., was recently inducted into the Blair County (Pa.) Sports Hall of Fame. Doug Smith was named to the University of Missouri's All-Century Team this year. Randy White was inducted into the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
"To me, it was a great experience, no matter the circumstances," Iuzzolino said. "I think what it taught me is you can't take winning for granted. You might think you are always going to win, but it doesn't always work out that way. It was a good experience to take forward."
Harper said that pride was why the Mavericks avoided becoming the worst team in NBA history.
"I was banged up that year, and I really probably shouldn't have been playing," he said. "But there was a real camaraderie there and a real sense of pride. We did not want that record, and we fought as a team to avoid it."
The 1972-73 Philadelphia 76ers won nine games, and the Mavericks looked capable of threatening that mark. They were 4-57 when Jackson finally signed his contract, a few new bodies came on board and the team started to click.
It was hardly dynastic, but the Mavericks went 7-14 down the stretch and earned not only a little respect, but some valuable lessons.
"Sometimes you can win and still lose," Harper said. "If you don't learn anything, if you don't grow from the experience, then having a great season can really get lost on you. But you can also lose and still win, and I think that's what happened to us. We built a lot of resiliency and a lot of character that season. I still think it helps me today."
"I know nobody is going to look at my NBA career and say it was important," he said. "But it was to me. Being on that team and getting through that season, I think it changed my life."
Several members of the 1992-93 Mavericks went on to have successful careers outside of playing. A few made the most of their NBA careers, as well.
Richie Adubato (head coach): Head coach of the Washington Mystics of the WNBA. Also led the New York Liberty for five seasons.
Walter Bond: Motivational speaker based in Minnesota.
Dexter Cambridge: Former UT star most recently seen playing semi-pro ball in the Bahamas.
Derek Harper: Part of Mavs television production and part-time anchor for Ch. 11 sports.
Gar Heard (assistant/head coach ): Let go as assistant coach of Pistons after 2004-05 season.
Mike Iuzzolino: Assistant coach for Duquesne women's basketball team.
Jim Jackson: Finished this season with Lakers after trade from Phoenix.
Tim Legler: ESPN basketball analyst, working television and Internet.
Sean Rooks: Ended NBA career in 2004 with Orlando Magic.
Doug Smith: Named this year
to the University of Missouri's All-Century Team.
Randy White: Inducted to the Louisiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2003.
Morlon Wiley: Assistant coach with Orlando Magic. Spent four seasons as Mavs assistant.
from Ray: I love this stat (remember it next time you hear someone quoting something similar re: teams winning close games as proving whatever): The 1992-93 Mavs were 5-1 in games decided by four points or fewer but 1-55 in games decided by 11 points or more.