From Start, Bird Let His Deeds Talk

He dropped out of Indiana University and he worked on a garbage truck. He has a hayseed look and his grammar isn't the best.

Larry Bird, in short, doesn't radiate brilliance, but Bill Fitch says: "He's always two steps ahead of the dogcatcher."

Fitch, head coach of the Houston Rockets and Bird's former coach with the Boston Celtics, told Anthony Cotton of the Washington Post: "He sold people on that 'Hick from French Lick' bull, but he knows his opponents--and teammates--better than any other player in the game.

"His rookie season, we had a guy named David Thompson from Florida State who was determined to show the world that Bird was nothing. He went at him hard, and Larry, because his game is so grounded in knowing his teammates, really didn't do anything back. There weren't any no-look passes, no great assists, nothing.

"This goes on for about 10 days until we get to our first exhibition game. We're playing the Knicks in Madison Square Garden in front of 20,000 people and we can't decide if we should start him because we're worried that he's gonna get killed. We do it anyway and Larry goes out and scores 21 points and gets about 10 rebounds and assists. He hasn't looked back since."

Add Bird: Before Bird's rookie season, when he was locked in contract negotiations with the Celtics, Fitch and Red Auerbach tried to use an off-season injury to a finger on his shooting hand as a bargaining tool.

Bird: "They brought me to Hellenic College, where the Celtics practiced, threw me a ball and made me take some shots. Like I couldn't shoot anymore! But I wouldn't have missed no matter where they put me on the floor, because what they didn't know was that I had been shooting there every day the week before."

Trivia Time: Name the men who have both coached and played for NCAA championship basketball teams. (Answer below.)

Add Forgettable Quotes: Said Alfredrick Hughes of Loyola (Chicago) before the Georgetown game: "I'll post up anybody. It really doesn't matter who it is, because I know what I can do."

In the game, Hughes' first two shots were blocked by Georgetown's Reggie Williams. He eventually missed 9 of 13 shots and finished with eight points, compared to a season average of 27.

Steve Young, whose NFL rights are held by Tampa Bay, was scouted recently by Buccaneer President John McKay, who told Hubert Mizell of the St. Petersburg Times: "He's a kid with great promise, although it's difficult to fully assess him since the Express' offensive line hasn't been doing much blocking.

"Although some critics say his passing isn't tremendously accurate, I'd like to see him with a team that gave him adequate protection."

St. John's Coach Lou Carnesecca told Denver writers he contributed to the popularity of basketball in the area when he coached the New York Nets of the ABA.

"I think we won once here in three years," he said, "on a last-second shot by Rick Barry."

Trivia Answer: Dean Smith and Bob Knight. Smith coached North Carolina (1981-82) and played for Kansas (1951-52). Knight coached Indiana (1975-76 and 1980-81) and played for Ohio State (1959-60). Both were reserves and neither scored.

Quotebook

Chicago columnist Mike Royko, long a crusader against slow play on courses, on a survey that showed husbands preferred golf to sex: "If they'd speed up play, we'd have time for both."

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