Rick Barry: "The people who have the teams hire their friends"
What’s the biggest change you see in the NBA today since your playing days?
Rick Barry: It’s totally a different breed of player. So much has changed because it’s become about the individual as opposed to the team. But the one redeeming quality about the league is that only teams win championships.
If you had magical powers, what two things would you do to make the NBA better?
RB: It would never happen but I would allow each player to make a maximum amount of money on every salary. Nobody can make more than a certain amount money and then every other money that you make is based on wins. It would force the guys to play as a team because it’s a professional sport. A professional sport you should get paid for wins and losses. If you win, you make money. If you don’t win, you don’t make money. It would change everything dramatically.
I would also change the game to two 20-minute halves and the first half counts a point and the second half counts a point like tennis. If you watch the first set of tennis and somebody losses 6-0, you still watch the second set because it’s a whole new game. If somebody goes up by 30 points in the first half or up by 20 or whatever it might be, it’s still one point. You start zero-zero in the second half. That way your star players can stay fresh and healthier and you get an opportunity to play some of the other players in blowout games. And you’re going to have a lot of overtime five-minute games. They always say that most of the games are determined in the last five minutes anyway. Well, you get the last five minutes of the first half and last five of the second half and a whole bunch of overtimes. And you can still play an overtime game in less than two hours. TV would love it.
Everybody talks about the lack of quality shooters in the NBA. What are players doing wrong?
RB: They have so fundamentally flawed techniques it's ridiculous. They shoot the ball flat. They all stand upright, there’s just so many things they do incorrectly.
Is it true Shaq rebuffed your offer to teach him your famed underhand free-throw?
RB: Yes. I offered to try to do it but he decided not to want to do it. Then he was actually willing to do it after the Olympics, but Del Harris wouldn’t hire me. Had they hired me and had me work with Shaq at that time, he would be a totally different player now. He would be a go-to guy.
You haven’t played in the NBA in a couple of decades, but I have a feeling you could still put up 20 a game today.
RB: I’m not sure about 20, but I could still play. I’m serious. One month to get in shape and play zone with the way they play the game now I would be able to shoot the basketball. Because people can’t shoot. I’d play a zone. I don’t care how big they are, I can face guard a guy and keep him off the boards. I’ll just play zone and get down to the other end and stand on the perimeter.
Has anyone seriously considered you as an NBA head coach?
Why is that?
RB: People who don’t know me have opinions about me. That’s the part that’s very hurtful. Because how do you form an opinion about somebody if you’ve never met them or spent any time with them? So it’s all based upon hearsay or things that they’ve read. So there is this perception of me being this kind of a bad person or an ogre. I don’t know what it is, but the thing is I can’t worry about it because I can’t control it.
In life it wasn’t what you know, but who you know. I had people who were trying to buy teams and had they bought the teams, I would have gotten to coach because they wanted me to coach. But the people who have the teams hire their friends. Recycling is one of the things that the NBA has done. They were way ahead of the ecology movement because they recycle. They started that before it became the en vogue thing to do. Every time somebody gets hired, it's usually a guy that’s been someplace else as a head coach. That’s fine but it would be nice to get some fresh blood in there and give a chance to someone to see what they could do.
AJ Hayes is a San Francisco-based sports writer and a regular contributor to HoopsHype.com
Tell us what you think about this interview. E-mail us at HoopsHype@HoopsHype.com