The NBA / Sam McManis : Pat Riley Doesn’t Always Take the Fashionable Stand With the Lakers


You can disregard all those obvious reasons, such as a rough road schedule and lack of an inside game, for the Lakers’ worst slump in a decade. No, the problem could well be the dreaded GQ cover jinx.

The fashion magazine for men made Laker Coach Pat Riley the cover story in its January issue, which, coincidentally or not, hit the newsstands at the same time the Lakers’ road losing streak hit 6 games.

The Riley profile was written by former Los Angeles Herald Examiner columnist Diane K. Shah.


So, for those who cannot afford $3 for Gentleman’s Quarterly, let alone the clothes advertised on its pages, a few of the highlights:

--Riley always wears oxford cloth shirts at Laker games because they absorb perspiration. This custom came about after Riley wore a silk suit in the Boston Garden and sent the suit back to the tailor because of perspiration stains.

--Riley still is somewhat bothered that, despite coaching the Lakers to 4 National Basketball Assn. titles in 7 seasons, he has not been voted coach of the year.

Magic Johnson is quoted as saying: “There’s an ego factor with Pat that didn’t used to be there. Wanting to be recognized as a good coach. He’s not overbearing about it, he just needs it.”

--Late last summer, during Riley’s contract renegotiation troubles with owner Jerry Buss, he threatened to resign.

At that point, the Laker hierarchy prepared a list of replacements. Billy Cunningham and Dick Motta topped the list. But the Lakers eventually decided that, if Riley left, they would turn over the team to assistant Randy Pfund for this season.

That scenario was first detailed by the Copley newspapers last summer, but never confirmed by anyone in Laker management. Riley, of course, worked out his contract troubles and last week signed a 4-season extension.

--Many of Riley’s idiosyncrasies were detailed.

During a 10-game winning streak one season, in which everything was going well for the Lakers, Riley approached trainer Gary Vitti and complained that the chalk was too hard. He wanted softer chalk to write with.

When the Lakers reported to Hawaii for training camp last fall, Riley wanted the rims of the basket painted bright orange and the bolts on the backboard replaced. Vitti had the rims painted, but the original bolts remained.

--The letters Riley sends to his players every August, detailing goals for the season, are dunked into the nearest waste basket, according to team sources.

Riley said he has read the article, which was mostly positive, and has no problem with it.

“I guess it was accurate,” Riley said. “I’m a pretty obsessive, driven guy. A perfectionist. I admit to that.”

But well-dressed.

Was that GQ for 4-H? When the magazine sent Josh Rosenfeld, the Lakers’ public relations director, copies of the January issue, the box was addressed to the “Great Western Farm.”

When the Chicago Bulls met the New York Knicks for the first time in Chicago since the seemingly one-sided Bill Cartwright-for-Charles Oakley trade, Bull Coach Doug Collins said he expected Oakley to gloat over his success in New York.

But Collins did not expect to hear the same criticisms from Horace Grant, the Bulls’ current small forward. Grant told Chicago writers last week that he shares Oakley’s frustrations of playing a minor offensive role along side Michael Jordan, who scores about a third of the Bulls’ points.

“I can sympathize with what ‘Oak’ went through,” Grant said. “I’d like to get the ball more, but I’m not getting it. It’s frustrating. I know Michael is a great player, but he can’t do it all. We need others to contribute. But I’m not getting the chance. Is that too much to ask?”

Collins’ reaction:

“Charles (Oakley) averaged 10 shots for us last year. He’s getting 9.8 for the Knicks this year. They’re going well, and I’m happy for Charles. I like him, I really do. I’m a former player who understands the ups and downs of this business.

“For us to ever be a very good team, we’re going to have to be more balanced. But people don’t understand that with a guy like Michael Jordan it’s hard to run an offense. He’s so good, it distorts the whole game.”

Thanks to the new collective bargaining agreement, some veteran NBA players are looking forward to unrestricted free agency. One is the Sacramento Kings’ Jim Petersen, who apparently can’t wait to leave.

“All my friends are calling and saying, ‘Play here,’ or ‘Play there,’ ” Petersen said. “It’s going to be a difficult decision to make. I know it’s a business. My heart will speak loud, but the dollar value will in all likelihood win out.”

On the down side, however, Petersen also knows the Kings might trade him before losing him without compensation after the season.

“Bill Russell (King general manager) has said he’s determined to keep me, but there are no loyalties anymore,” Petersen said. “You can’t be so idealistic to think you can’t be traded. I’m keeping my bags packed, if not literally, then figuratively. It will be sort of like a romance to see what you’re worth on the open market.”

Al Bianchi, the Knicks’ general manager, has $712,000 to work with under salary-cap restrictions. Bianchi has until August to use the money, which was made available when Pat Cummings left, and he has several options:

--The Knicks need a quality backup center for Patrick Ewing. Eddie Lee Wilkens, the current backup, is not sufficient for a first-place team. When Ewing went down with a minor knee injury last week--he missed only 2 days--the Knicks were a mediocre team without him.

--The Knicks have long sought to acquire Portland forward Kiki Vandeweghe, whose bad back has delayed any chance of a trade. Vandeweghe, however, is supposed to be activated by the Trail Blazers tonight.

--Sources told Newsday that the Knicks still want to bring Golden State forward Chris Mullin back home to New York. Mullin will be a restricted free agent after this season and, if Mullin signs a 1-year contract then, he will be an unrestricted free agent in 1990.

Portland forward Clyde Drexler was married last Friday in New Orleans. He met his bride, Gaynell Floyd, on a blind date last season. She obviously wasn’t impressed immediately.

“On the first date I asked him, ‘How long have you been in the NFL?’ ” Floyd said. “At the time, I didn’t know a thing about basketball.”

The NBA continues to hand out stiff fines for fighting.

Including the exhibition season, there already have been 6 skirmishes. There were 3 alone last week, totaling $12,000 in fines. Those fights were Milwaukee’s Jay Humphries vs. Indiana’s Scott Skiles; the Knicks’ Oakley vs. Atlanta’s Doc Rivers; and Houston’s Akeem Olajuwon’s one-sided, one-hand slap of Miami’s John Shasky.

A troubled season for the New Jersey Nets was eased somewhat last week by a visit from the Indiana Pacers, who had lost 13 straight road games. As expected, the Nets breezed to a 17-point victory.

“This means I don’t have to . . . worry about my dog biting me,” Net Coach Willis Reed said.

Trade rumor of the week: Dallas newspapers reported that the Mavericks were talking with the Boston Celtics about acquiring Kevin McHale. One account had Boston trading McHale for Sam Perkins, Detlef Schrempf and a first-round draft choice.

Celtic General Manager Jan Volk said he has not even contemplated trading McHale.

Perkins, however, apparently is on the market. His contract expires at the season’s end, but he would have to take a hefty salary cut to fit into the Celtics’ salary-cap restrictions.

“I’m sure there’s some truth to all the trade talk,” Perkins told Peter May of the Hartford Courant. “There just has been so much of it since I came to Dallas. I just have a gut feeling that if something doesn’t happen by February, then it will by the summer. I just feel it’s a move the franchise wants to make. I’m happy here, I’m settled. But I guess I may need to get unsettled.”

Things keep getting worse for the Pacers, who have the NBA’s worst non-expansion record.

The Pacers, who have lost 8 straight games, learned last week that center Steve Stipanovich will not return for at least another 2 months. Stipanovich has not played this season, having undergone left knee surgery on Nov. 18. The operation was to relieve pain in his left leg above the knee cap.

“There still is pretty much pain,” Stipanovich said. “It basically means it’s going to be a few more weeks, at least, before I’ll be able to do anything as far as rehabilitation. If everything goes well, I’ll be able to play in 7 or 8 weeks.”