Jerry Zgoda missed the entire Kevin Garnett era, but he's back covering the Timberwolves after working the beat for their first four seasons two decades ago. In between, he covered a bit of everything: Gopher men's and women's basketball and NCAA athletics, golf, outdoor recreation, sports media and a little Vikings and Twins.

Marvin and Me: Longtime Wolves employee's unexpected friendship with original owner

Posted by: Jerry Zgoda under Wolves news Updated: December 22, 2013 - 12:39 PM

If you've followed the Wolves for any amount of time, you might know Clayton Wilson's face.

He has been the team's equipment manager for...well, forever it seems, washing uniforms, ordering shoes for players and serving at the perfect locker-room foil for big Nikola Pekovic's own peculiar brand of humor.

But you've probably never heard him or seen him quoted anywhere because the guy insists on a keeping a low profile.

Until now.

I asked him today about his unusual relationship with original Wolves owner Marv Wolfenson, who died today at age 87.

Clayton -- a former Twin clubhouse attendant who also was pals with Kirby Puckett -- asked if I could give him questions in writing so he could think about the answers.

Here's what I got in reply. I'm leaving it unedited, in just its original heartfelt form even though he reminds me, "There's a reason I wash jocks for a living."

Here are his remembrances to the man who with partner Harvey Ratner brought the NBA back to Minnesota long after the Lakers left town...

Marvin didn't sleep good at night. He would always fall asleep during the day. He spent a big chunk of his day napping in hotel lobbies worried he was going to be late for the game.
He would always take me to movies on the road. He would buy the tickets and I would buy the popcorn. Pulp Fiction just came out. We took a cab in Detroit and went to see it. Five minutes into it he is snoring loudly, slept through the entire movie. I woke him up at the end and he asked if I wanted to sneak into another movie, Die Hard or something like that.

He slept through that movie, too. He complained that they were boring movies the whole way home.

Every city on the road he would tell me to find a Cheesecake Factory and invite the whole traveling party. There would always to 8 to 10 people. He would order 25 appetizers and after none of us could move from being so full, he would ask if anyone wanted to share a salad. He picked up every single bill.

Marvin would have me order dozens of NBA hats and tee shirts. He would have me put them in the trunk of his car. Every two weeks or so he would order more. I finally asked him what he did with them. He said he would go into the neighborhoods where people didn't have much money and pass them out to kids and people. He was a very giving person.

When the Timberwolves played at Metrodome the first year, Kirby Puckett had court side tickets. When they moved to Target Center, they had to move Kirby's seats because of the different configuration. Kirby wrote in his book that he would never step foot in Target Center.
After a couple years, Marvin asked me to bridge the gap. Kirby loved basketball so it wasn't too hard. Marvin gave him the rights to two of his seats right next to the Timberwolves bench. They would sit next to each other and Kirby would go on to be a mentor for Kevin Garnett.

Marv and Harv grew up in Minneapolis. They would bring their childhood friends on most of the trips. They all thought they were the funniest people on the face of the earth. One would tell a story and one would argue that it wasn't the way it went or one would tell a joke and the other would say that wasn't funny, this joke is funny. They would argue and laugh and enjoy each other for hours on end like they were still 12 years old.
I have been blessed to have people in my life that I had instant connections with that last for some reason. Marvin and I were like that for some reason. A snot nosed kid just out of college making $12,000 a year and a multimillionaire that have seen and done everything. We just clicked.

He would jump in the cab with me to go to every single road game an hour or so before the team bus. He would remind me 10-15 times every cab ride that he needed to get a pass right away so they knew who he was and didn't try to kick him out. Marv would head straight to the court and I would go to the locker room to set up the jerseys.  Before I could get the last bag into the locker room, Marv would have sent someone to see if I had gotten his pass yet. Not the most patient of people. He always wanted things done his way. He worked hard for his money.

He was always so proud of Target Center. Even this summer when he came to visit. He told me in every other arena we went to that his only regret was he should have made the lower bowl bigger and upper deck smaller. Everyone wants to be in the lower level and the upper level costs more to build. I heard it 150 times.
He would come to me at the beginning of each year and say, I need to get a ball kid job for...daughters friends kids (6 different kids), housekeeper grandson, all his grand kids at some point, etc
Marvin was stubborn and impatient but had a heart of gold and a great work ethic.

And if you missed the obituary for Sunday's paper, you can find it here.


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