Old-school gunner shuns college game -- even his son's

  • Article by: PATRICK REUSSE , Star Tribune
  • Updated: February 3, 2011 - 8:08 AM

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins finds it hard to watch son Austin, who plays for the Gophers, muddle through low-scoring Big Ten battles.

Grizzlies coach Lionel Hollins. His son, Austin, is a freshman for the Gophers basketball team.

Photo: Carlos Gonzalez, Star Tribune

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Lionel Hollins of the Memphis Grizzlies was taking part in the traditional pregame media session for NBA coaches on Wednesday night at Target Center. A few minutes earlier, the Gophers had started a game at Indiana in which Hollins' freshman son, Austin, would play 26 minutes for the visitors.

Hollins was asked if he was hoping to find a TV to catch some of his son's game.

"I'm not," he said. "I don't watch him play."

Because? "I don't like college basketball," he said.

Hollins paused for a second, and you wondered if he was getting ready to couch that remark. Not really.

"He was my son in high school and I didn't watch him then, either," Hollins said. "When I was out of basketball, I went to every game. I hated it. But I had to do it."

Lionel mentioned that he coached Austin a couple of times in youth basketball, so it wasn't like he ignored his son as a player. As for those thoughts on the college game, well ...

"It's hard to watch college basketball ... There's not a lot of playing," he said. "The pro game, with the 24-second clock, moving up and down the court, you get at least 100 possessions every game.

"In college, especially in the Big Ten ... I watched Wisconsin and Minnesota play down the stretch and I couldn't take it. They just hold the ball and hold the ball, and try to get a shot with 10 seconds on the clock.

"That's the whole game -- not just the fourth quarter."

The "fourth quarter" reference confirmed that Lionel's attention to the college game has waned.

There has been a suspicion that Hollins aimed his son toward Minnesota in order to play for Tubby Smith, a notion that Lionel denied Wednesday.

"I didn't influence Austin," he said. "He made the choice. Tubby was more like a father figure, which he was used to. Other coaches, they tried to be his buddy, and he wasn't impressed with that.

"Every player has to make his choice. He has to go to a school where he feels comfortable. When you get people pushing him somewhere -- AAU coaches saying, 'Go here' -- that's when you get players transferring, going to two, three schools.

"I gave him some information. This coach plays this style: 'Are you comfortable with that?' This coach has a losing record the last seven years and might not be around. 'Would you be comfortable with that?' "

Lionel said Bill Musselman made a serious run at him to come to Minnesota in 1973, when Hollins was getting out of Dixie State junior college in Utah.

"I liked Bill -- he was a great guy -- but I couldn't see myself playing for him," Hollins said. "He led the nation in defense every year, but they never took a shot. It would be hard to play without taking shots.

"That's one thing I was not shy about -- shooting. That's why it's hard for me to watch my son, because he doesn't shoot much. Tubby would've been grabbing me with a hook, because I'd be putting them up."

Hollins went to Arizona State, where was known as "The Train," and where Ned Wulk's Sun Devils put up shots as soon as they felt the urge.

"We were in the 90s most nights,'' he said. "Going to Arizona State definitely helped me become a pro. We pressed the whole night and ran back down the floor on the offense."

Arizona State still was in the WAC and the NCAA bracket was 32 teams. Hollins' last college game was an 89-75 loss to UCLA in the 1975 West Regional final in Portland.

"That was John Wooden's last team -- his 10th national championship," Hollins said.

The Train was drafted by Portland. He was an All-Star in 1977, when the Blazers won their lone NBA title. And on Wednesday, Lionel still was occupied in an NBA arena, coaching the basketball that he loves.

Meantime, on a wintry night in Bloomington, Ind., son Austin was scoring a season-best 13 points in the Gophers' 60-57 loss at Indiana. And he took nine shots, which would have satisfied his daddy's quick trigger for about a half at Arizona State.

Patrick Reusse can be heard noon-4 weekdays on 1500ESPN. preusse@startribune.com

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