Wolves Insider: Out of work, still coaching

  • Article by: JERRY ZGODA , Star Tribune
  • Updated: November 26, 2007 - 12:03 AM

Eric Musselman spends night after night watching basketball, even though he is not employed to do so anymore.

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SACRAMENTO, CA - NOVEMBER 06: Head coach Eric Musselman of the Sacramento Kings coaches against the Minnesota Timberwolves during an NBA game at Arco Arena on November 6, 2006 in Sacramento, California. NOTE TO USER: User expressly acknowledges and agrees that, by downloading and/or using this Photograph, User is consenting to the terms and conditions of the Getty Images License Agreement. (Photo by Jed Jacobsohn/Getty Images)

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Unemployed and supposedly away from basketball, former Golden State and Sacramento coach Eric Musselman now spends his days traveling the land to confer with other coaches and his nights, nearly every one, attending a college game near his Northern California home.

Proving something about falling apples and trees, Musselman, like his father before him, can't deny the game that has surrounded him his whole life, even when the Kings are paying him to do nothing for the next two seasons.

"I don't play golf," he said by cell phone on his way to observe a University of California shootaround. "I'm a coach. That's what I do."

Even when he doesn't have a job.

A Timberwolves assistant when his father, Bill, coached the franchise 17 seasons ago, Eric Musselman wants to pursue a college coaching job after so many years in the NBA. And he is pursuing it with a singlemindedness familiar to anyone who knew his father, who died in 2000 at age 59.

He was 108-138 in two seasons with the Warriors and one with the Kings.

"Living with my dad, he could never fix anything around the house," Musselman said. "He never mowed the lawn. If it wasn't basketball, it was a football or a baseball game."

Divorced and a father of two, his life now consists of spending time with sons Michael, 11, and Matthew, 8, and basketball, night and day.

He carries two notebooks -- one collecting reports on college prospects he considers NBA material, the other containing college drills and plays -- he fills with ideas as he consults with college coaches and watches games, in person and on television.

He has traveled across the country to Kansas, Western Illinois and Mississippi, where he shadowed Southern Miss coach Larry Eustachy for five days and attended a summertime coaches' camp featuring John Calipari and Larry Brown. He has met at his home with coaches from Gonzaga and Cal-Davis, among many others. He has seen little St. Mary's play Sonoma State.

"I just felt at this time of my life, I'm ready to try something different," said Musselman, 43, who also is writing about the NBA for the league's website and the Sporting News. "I'd like to coach tomorrow. I think some people would relax, enjoy a deep breath and enjoy not coaching for a while. It's great spending time with my kids, but I want to coach."

He has worked out a high school team near his home in Danville, Calif., and on weekends, he coaches his oldest son's AAU team. A couple of weeks ago, their postgame meal after a game in Sacramento was watching the Wolves play the Kings for more than two hours, not four miles from where he once coached.

Last summer, he coached his son's team in a lopsided defeat at a San Diego tournament.

"I've found out you can go from coaching in an NBA arena to losing by 55 in an AAU tournament two months later and you realize the same things that happen at the NBA level happen at the 11-year-old level," he said. "Just slightly different: Instead of agents, it might be parents. But even 11 year olds, they all want to play. They all want the shots. It's the same dilemmas you run into at every level."

One of his boys read somewhere that his father and grandfather were the first father-son coaching combination in NBA history.

"He looked right at me and said, 'I'll make it three,' " he said. "If that's what you're used to -- that's what I saw my dad doing and that what they see their dad doing -- it becomes second nature."

  • WOLVES WEEK IN REVIEW Record: 0-3 • The Wolves ended a four-game home stand with Wednesday’s 97-86 defeat to Cleveland, undone by LeBron James’ 45 points. Their season-long trend of blowing leads in the fourth quarter continued with a 99-93 loss at Denver on Friday and a 94-87 loss at home to Atlanta on Saturday, putting them at 1-10 and on a five-game losing streak. STAR TRIBUNE'S STAR OF THE WEEK Al Jefferson, forward: He attempted to match the great LeBron James shot for shot, point for point Wednesday and still came up 15 points short. But his 30 points were a season high and two away from his career best, set against New Jersey last March when he played for Boston. THIS WEEK: FOUR GAMES Monday: at New Orleans, 7 p.m. Wednesday: at Dallas, 7:30 p.m. Friday: vs. San Antonio, 7 p.m. Saturday: at Memphis, 7 p.m. • Four games in six days, including three on the road. Those first three opponents had a combined record of 28-8 entering Friday's games. Monday's game is a rematch of last week's 100-82 home loss in which the Hornets were without star Chris Paul.
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