Jeff Pearlman

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On Jack McKinney and crediting

Screen Shot 2018-09-25 at 11.43.32 PM

Yesterday afternoon, after receiving a DM from my friend Susan, I posted the above Tweet about her father, the former NBA coach who passed but a few hours earlier.

Susan reached out because she knew I felt a connection with Jack McKinney, ever since I flew to Florida to interview him for my book, Showtime. And, indeed, I do. His story is heartbreaking and tragic and also triumphant and riveting. I don’t really wanna get into it right now, but a quick Google search will show you the way.

Anyhow, I was the only person in the media who knew of this, and the first to report it. And—to be 100-percent clear—I was not/am not looking for credit. I did nothing special here. A good man died. That’s heartbreaking. Who was first to “break” the news? Insignificant. Totally insignificant.

That said, as I read the myriad articles about McKinney’s death, I was surprised to see only one place (the Indianapolis Star) source the information. To be blunt and clear once again—I am neither mad nor upset. At ALL. But, as a journalist, it’s just weird. We’re taught, from the early days, to not take credit for material that you didn’t come up with yourself. We’re also taught to give credit. Yet from ESPN to Blazer’s Edge to the Delaware County Times, nobody bothered to note how the news was uncovered.

Which leads to the follow-up question: What if it was incorrect?

  • Paul C

    Sad news. As a transplant to LA who lived through the “Showtime” years, I remember this unfortunate history well. As you document in your book, the accident made Paul Westhead the coach (for 1 year before Magic Johnson instigated his ouster), and brought Pat Riley down from playing the great Chick Hearn’s “That’s right, Chick” sidekick to a bench role, replacing Westhead as an assistant. (Oh, those were the days, when NBA teams didn’t have monster staffs, and when management consulted play-by-play announcers on personnel moves!) Had Riley not been on the bench already when Westhead got canned, we may never have seen his remarkable career, and maybe not the phenomenon of “Showtime.”

    How good could the Lakers have been under McKinney? We’ll never know, but we do know that he led the Pacers to the playoffs for the first time since the NBA-ABA merger the very next season, although his overall record there was pretty miserable. And he had some success with St. Joe’s. And he was Jack Ramsey’s assistant for the Blazers’ 1977 championship. So he was hardly a “stiff.” By all accounts a real “mensch.”

Showtime Book
Love Me, Hate Me Barry Bonds Book
Sweetness Walter Peyton Book
The Bad Guys Won Book
The Rocket that Fell to Earth Book
Boys Will Be Boys Book

Once again, Jeff Pearlman has produced an exhaustively researched, elegantly written book that re-creates one of the most colorful and memorable teams of the modern era. No basketball fan's bookshelf will be complete without it.

— Seth Davis, author of Wooden: A Coach's Life