1. Welcome! Please take a few seconds to create your free account to post threads, make some friends, remove a few ads while surfing and much more. ClutchFans has been bringing fans together to talk Houston Sports since 1996. Join us!

Rudy and The Punch (LADailyNews)

Discussion in 'Houston Rockets: Game Action & Roster Moves' started by xiki, Dec 9, 2004.

  1. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Messages:
    16,947
    Likes Received:
    2,420
    When I saw the h'line I wondered if it was an(other) anti-Kobe column!

    http://www.dailynews.com/Stories/0,1413,200~28541~2585345,00.html

    He's a coach, not the victim

    By Kevin Modesti

    If Rudy T is struck by the irony in any of this, he doesn't seem to feel it the way you and I might.
    Of course, compared to what hit him on this night half a lifetime ago, irony must feel like a love tap.

    "To me, it's no big deal," said a shrugging Rudy Tomjanovich, coach of the Lakers.

    But think about how improbable the phrase you just read would have appeared in the immediate aftermath of Dec. 9, 1977, as Tomjanovich was making a slow recovery from the famously devastating punch by Kermit Washington of the Lakers, as Tomjanovich was winning a multimillion-dollar lawsuit against the Lakers.

    Rudy Tomjanovich, coach of the Lakers!

    Consider how weird and wonderful it is that the victim in the NBA's worst act of violence in the pre-Ron Artest era has been able to put the incident so far behind him that he can join the gold-and-purple enemy.

    Rudy Tomjanovich, coach of the Lakers !

    In an era when basketball teams fall apart over the stars' bruised egos, imagine the character and perspective a man needs to go to work for the franchise found liable for his fractured skull.

    How to begin to explain such a twist of fate?

    "Commenting on it is meaningless, it's so far gone," Tomjanovich said the other day after running a Lakers practice in El Segundo.

    But then he proceeded to comment on it for nearly 10 minutes, mixing oft-recited lines with fresh insights and plain hoops talk, all while sitting on courtside bleachers in a black polo shirt bearing a silver Lakers logo.

    "I mean, it (the fight) wasn't personal, it's a thing that happened," said Tomjanovich, who was hired in July to replace Phil Jackson. "It wasn't about the Lakers, it wasn't about Lakers vs. Rockets, really it wasn't about me vs. Kermit. It was just an unfortunate incident and a lapse. And we all dealt with it."

    Closure was slow coming for Tomjanovich, who was 29 and in his 20-points-a-game prime as an All-Star forward with the Houston Rockets when the trouble began in the third quarter that night at the Forum in Inglewood. Seeing the Rockets' Kevin Kunnert in a skirmish with Washington near mid-court and the Lakers' Kareem Abdul-Jabbar trying to pull Kunnert away, Tomjanovich rushed in with the intention of wrapping up Washington from behind. The next thing Rudy knew, he was regaining consciousness in a pool of blood on the hardwood, asking the Rockets' trainer if the scoreboard had fallen on him.

    Washington's right fist caved in Tomjanovich's face, causing fractures of the skull, jaw and nose and -- the potentially lethal detail -- a spinal-fluid leak from his brain.

    Read "The Punch," John Feinstein's 2002 book, for the specifics of Tomjanovich's journey from anger (as he tried to go after Washington in the Forum tunnel) to fright (as he learned of the severity of his injuries at Centinela Hospital) to recovery (he was hospitalized for two weeks and missed the rest of the season) to minor revenge (he beat the Lakers with a buzzer-beating jumper on his return to the Forum in January 1979) to major retribution (he won $3.25 million in damages from the Lakers in a jury trial, though the two sides agreed to a $2 million settlement before the team's appeal could be heard).

    The NBA suspended Washington without pay for 60 days (26 games) and fined him $10,000. By contrast, participants in last month's Pacers-Pistons melee were suspended without pay from one game to the remainder of the season (73 games) and face criminal charges.

    Shortly after Feinstein's book came out, Tomjanovich, then coaching the Rockets, received a surprise telephone call from Washington, involved in a charity project, broadcasting and teaching basketball in the Pacific Northwest while believing he'd been blackballed from NBA coaching over the fight.

    The phone conversation led to others every few months and the sense the two men had moved on.

    "I always felt terrible for both players," said Bill Sharman, the Lakers' general manager in 1977 and a front-office consultant today, the organization's only prominent holdover from that era. "I think they've handled it about as well as they could."

    Tomjanovich has dealt with other crises since Dec. 9, 1977. A drinking problem. Bladder cancer.

    "I went in for a checkup yesterday, I got a clean bill of health, and I've been in a grateful mood," Tomjanovich said Tuesday beside the practice court. "(Illness) changes all the little things that might bother you. I was in traffic, and I was calling friends, just enjoying every minute of it. When you know the alternative, you don't get bored. I'm just happy to be here and healthy."

    He has gone from collecting punitive damages from the Lakers to a glittering place on the club payroll. He doesn't speculate on the deeper meaning in this turn of events. He'd hardly talk about the punch at all if people didn't ask about it after each NBA fight.

    "I'll bring it up as just one of the bumps in the road that we all face," Tomjanovich said. "If I was still thinking about that stuff and putting a negative on it, it would become a stumbling block instead of a steppingstone."

    Rudy Tomjanovich, coach of the Lakers!

    If he felt the irony, he probably wouldn't be here at all.

    Kevin Modesti's column appears in the Daily News three days a week. He can be reached at heymodesti@aol.com.
     
  2. VooDooPope

    VooDooPope Love > Hate
    Supporting Member

    Joined:
    Oct 11, 1999
    Messages:
    8,396
    Likes Received:
    3,018
    He shouldn't be there at all.

    Damn you Les. :mad:
     
  3. xiki

    xiki Contributing Member

    Joined:
    Jun 18, 2002
    Messages:
    16,947
    Likes Received:
    2,420
    He shouldn't be there at all.

    Damn you KOBE
     

Share This Page

  • About ClutchFans

    Since 1996, ClutchFans has been loud and proud covering the Houston Rockets, helping set an industry standard for team fan sites. The forums have been a home for Houston sports fans as well as basketball fanatics around the globe.

  • Support ClutchFans!

    If you find that ClutchFans is a valuable resource for you, please consider becoming a Supporting Member. Supporting Members can upload photos and attachments directly to their posts, customize their user title and more. Gold Supporters see zero ads!


    Upgrade Now