Earlier this week, Dave DeBusschere died, and I feel it’s important
for me to note his passing. Several articles have reviewed his
accomplishments, and my words in recounting many of them will
pale compared to their actual significance. Allow me to simply
of 2 NBA Championship teams, the New York Knicks 1970 and
time member NBA all-defensive team (the first six years the
award was given)
Manager of the ABA’s New York Nets and NBA’s New York Knicks
commissioner of the ABA, and considered an integral part of
the league’s 1976 merger with the NBA
one of the 50 greatest players in the history of the NBA in
of the Knicks when they won the first draft lottery in 1985
and selected Patrick Ewing
NBA coach ever, when named player-coach of the Detroit Pistons
at the age of 24 in 1964
if some of these items weren’t enough, I’d like to toss in a couple
of my favorites that I haven’t seen mentioned as often…
two seasons as a pitcher in professional baseball, while playing
basketball at the same time. Was 3-4 for the Chicago White
Sox in 36 appearances. Although he decided to pursue basketball,
his career ERA was 2.90.
seven of the 1970 championship series against the Lakers is
best known for Willis Reed. DeBusschere was holding on to
the ball when the clock expired in that game.
of his teammates was Bill Bradley. In his book The Open
Man, DeBusschere hints toward Bradley’s eventual political
career, noting his reading habits and that his teammates referred
to Bradley as “Mr. President.”
have always loved sports, and my father and uncle, tremendous
influences in my life, fed my appetite with their passion and
support. About the age of eight or nine, I was at my grandmother’s
house, and I found a book in my uncle’s room. It was The Open
Man, by Dave DeBusschere. He wrote it as a diary about the
championship season of 1969-1970. Working with him on the project
were Dick Schaap and Paul Zimmerman, two sports writers that have
become well-known and respected in their field over the years
that followed its publication.
the time I wasn’t a big Knicks fan, and realistically I’m still
not. But being young when I read it and also having been born
in 1968, I knew very few of the historical names from the NBA.
That would change thanks to this book, which brought me details
about the history, franchises, and players. And at different times,
the names Reed, Bradley, and Jackson have been played over and
over to me. They have been involved in politics. They have become
members of NBA management. And DeBusschere was there as GM of
the Knicks, being elected to the Hall of Fame, and being named
to the 50 greatest list.
an example of how even the smallest details of this book intertwined
with my life. My father and uncle were season-ticket holders for
Providence College basketball during the 1970’s. My father actually
worked with Dave Gavitt, head coach of the Friars at the time,
filming the games for the school. Jimmy Walker played at PC, went
to the Pistons (where DeBusschere had started his career), and
was noted in the book. And how about Mike Riordan? He played at
PC before joining the Knicks to start his NBA career. Little
touchstones for me ran throughout the length of the book.
so I became a DeBusschere fan. And every so often, another nugget
would come back to me, something I had learned about the NBA or
sports in general by paying attention to things taking place around
him. Heck, Robert Redford is mentioned in the book.
has been referred to as smart, dedicated, and respected. And the
world doesn’t need me to praise these things now that he is no
longer with us. But in a small way, by producing a book that very
few people are talking about because of its stature when compared
to several other significant accomplishments, he made me feel
welcome. Almost a part of the group. He taught me things I didn’t
know, and still find timely pieces of conversation today. And
he touched upon items I did know about, making me feel smarter
for knowing them. I am grateful for it.
never met the man, but I will miss him.