In addition to this Q&A we have with Bill Walton to mark the release of his new book, we offer up these followups as well:
Q: So say you don’t like writing or talking about yourself. You could have written a book about someone else then.
A: Just finished incredibly inspirational book by David Axelrod called “Believer: My Forty Years in Politics.” I’ve added it to my greatest book list. I am a believer in hope. Now I can say this. When I was down, I didn’t believe. I lost all hope.
Q: Of all the song lyrics that you use in your book – and it’s really the treat that seems to synch everything together – which ones apply to you best in moment-to-moment living?
A: I still hear messages from Coach Wooden. Every day, he had a new story, a new antidote. But it was really about how you were feeling that day. It’s like going to a Neil Young, or Bob Dylan or Grateful Dead concert. Going to church. You hear the message but you’re reception, and perception, is based on how you’re feeling. Right now? All from the Grateful Dead – “When you get confused, listen to the music play” (from “Franklin’s Tower”). There’s “We used to play for silver, now we play for life” (from “Jack Straw). Next one: “Once in a while, you get shown the light in the strangest of places if you look at it right” (from “Scarlet Begonias”). And finally: “It all rolls into one, and nothing comes for free” (from “Stella Blue”).
One of the gigantic mistakes I made in my life was when my spine collapsed in February of ’08, I was down, so sick and feeling so bad, can’t think and can’t eat and can’t sleep and everything is broken. I failed to turn the music on. Today, I’m better, I have a handwritten sign in felt pen and it sits on my desk and it says “Turn the music on.” My mind is always racing. Lori (his wife) says it’s like a slot machine, no one knows where it’s rolling or where it will stop. I sit down to write or execute on my computer, that sign is always there. Sirius XM Satellite Radio Channel 23 – the Grateful Dead Channel. It’s always on.
Q: One of the great stories you tell about actually walking away – you’re with the Clippers, they’re in L.A. now instead of San Diego, you want to leave, and Donald Sterling is giving you grief until you return a whole bunch of deferred money. You write that “it didn’t help that in L.A., the traffic, the dirt, the noise, the crowds, the pollution, the losing, and the failures were all beating me down.” Spoken like a true San Diegan. Was it worst dealing with Sterling or L.A. in general?
A: Well, you try not rank, rate or compare things. L.A. can be a very beautiful place, but I am a San Diegan and nothing good in my life could happen that would entice me to move from my home of the last 37 years. This is a dream come true to live my hometown. I just wish I had been able to deliver – my greatest professional failure was I couldn’t make the Clippers work.
Q: How do you assess what’s going on with UCLA’s basketball program? You didn’t speak ill of Coach Steve Alford in the same ways you did of Ben Howland before Alford came along. But they’re flying planes over the campus asking to get rid of Alford?
A: I am a proud, loyal and faithful Bruin and I’m hoping for the best. I want what’s best for UCLA. Just like I want what’s best for my sons and grandchildren – and one of our sons is in the middle of an historic and epic run right now with the Golden State Warriors. I want them to set every record, to win the championship and continue to play perfect basketball because I know what that’s like and how great that makes your life. It’s hard out there. When you’re young – Luke is 36 now (his birthday is Monday) – you have no idea how hard it is. When you’re 63 and you’ve been on the top with some of the greatest basketball ever and you’ve been at the bottom with some of the worst basketball ever, you know how tenuous and fragile it is.
Q: What would you like to see Luke do – stay as a Golden State assistant or take a head coaching job if it comes up with the Lakers?
A: I want what’s best for Luke Walton and I have three thoughts on that: Head coaching jobs are usually open for a reason. It doesn’t ever get better than what they have right now. And money can not buy what Luke Walton has right now. I also want to mention how proud I am of Ralph Lawler for getting a star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame. I was so sad I couldn’t’ make it, but I’ve called him and congratulated him and told him how happy and proud I am for that.
Q: Right after you went into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993, you came out with a book in ’94 called “Nothing But Net” – that was more than 20 years ago. Did you think that would be all that needed to be written about you?
A: I’m a different person. I didn’t write that first one (co-authored by Gene Wojciechowski). I wrote this one. Every word and all the editing on my end. And the audio version.
Q: So if this book is $27 and the CD is $39, which is the better value?
A: I hadn’t thought of that.
Q: There’s got to be more value in hearing you read this aloud.
A: I put everything I had into this project. It was very long. Go to the very last page of the book – “I am so looking forward to what’s next for me. I have been at this for far too long.”
== More on Walton:
= NPR’s Scott Simon has Walton on in perfect form during a Saturday conversation: “John Wooden, Jerry Garcia and Larry Bird are the same person.”
= Another Q and A with NBA.com
= From the Associated Press during the Pac-12 Tournament
= A couple more podcast interviews