On another wild night in Clipperland, one of the most entertaining parts had to be our pre-game press conference with assistant coach Kim Hughes, who was filling in for Mike Dunleavy tonight.
Hughes is a smart guy with a dry sense of humor. With all the crazy developments taking place before Wednesday’s game –Jason Hart and Brian Skinner coming down with the flu, Chris Kaman taking up until game time to decide whether his painful left arch would allow him to play, Ricky Davis potentially shutting it down for two weeks with a sore left knee — that sardonic wit really took the edge off of things.
I’ll try and convey just how funny, wry and engaging Hughes was in this account.
Q: How many times have you been the head coach?
KH: “This is the second time. The other was February of last year in Madison Square Garden. We got lucky and won.
Q: So if you win tonight, and go 2 for 2, think Mike will let you do it more often?
A: This isn’t about me, this about us getting a win.
The last time; Mike was sick and (TV announcer) Ralph Lawler said to me on the bus, are you nervous and I said, `About what?’ and he said, `You’re coaching.’
I said, `Oh really?’ That was about 4:30 in the afternoon.
“I thought I’d be really nervous and I wasn’t. It’s not that much different than people think. And … the power is a rush.”
Q: Did you ride the refs?
KH: “No, I don’t do that. My father refereed college basketball for 25 years and he said he’d break my neck if he saw me doing it. I’ll talk to them. I think it’s more effective to talk to them under your breath and talk to them like a man. I think you can milk calls a lot better (that way) than embarrassing them. I’m upset with them, but if you’re yelling they’re not listening to you.
Q: Will you stand up as much as Mike?
KH: “I’m not even comparing it to Mike. In the second half I won’t have to stand as much because they’re in front of us. I’ll stand in the first half because the defense is away from us and try to transfer the calls to our guys. We’ve got a situation where a couple of our guys don’t know our plays, actually, more than a couple. So we have to make it as simple as possible.
Q: How much will Zach play?
KH: That will depend on the status of Chris Kaman. He may not be able to play.
Q: What’s wrong with him?
KH: Do you have like an hour to talk about it?
Oh, physically you’re saying. He’s got a strained arch and I don’t know what the chances of him playing are. He’s in the training room getting treatment right now, he didn’t participate in shoot-around, he didn’t practice yesterday.
He’s actually been struggling with it for five games. If you notice he can’t jump any more. He’s been fighting through it. He’s missed a lot of short layups because he can’t finish at the rim. He’s been fighting it, he sat out two days, and he’ll get a cortisone shot tonight, which he’ll do either at halftime if he’s not playing or after the game if he’s playing.
He had a bone bruise in his ankle. This is a diferent injury. It’s on the bottom of his foot and its really more pain than injury. But it’s limiting his jumping and he thinks it affects his movement.
Q: Does this game being against Denver (where Hughes spent five years as an assistant) have any extra meaning?
KH: No not at all. I loved my time in Denver. I had a really bad last year, where I wasn’t able to work. But I lived in Denver 28 years and it was a good time for me. I liked George Karl, I loved Nene. A lot of their players are gone from when I was there.
But when I left I always told Mike you need to go get Marcus Camby because he’s so good, he’s so smart.
This is not a vendetta (game).
Our whole focus is: We’ve got to get better, we’ve got to find our chemistry, we’ve got to guard dribble penetration and we’ve got to be tougher.
Q: What happened in Denver in that last year?
KH: I was told by management that the coachign staff didn’t want me there. But a lot of the players would come up to me and ask me questions. Jeff Bzdelik told me, `I really want you on staff but I’m not able to’ and I believe Jeff. I think Jeff was being very honest with me.
And I don’t begrudge them because in all honesty I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM before Kiki (Vandeweghe) got there, so why would Kiki want me around. And I like Kiki, but why would he want me around if I wanted Larry Harris to be the GM. You want your own people and I fully understand that.