MAURICE LUCAS: 1952-2010

Portland Trail Blazers power forward and assistant coach Maurice Lucas passed away on Sunday after a long fight with bladder cancer. He was 58.

A memorial service is scheduled for noon on Monday, November 8th, at the Memorial Coliseum.

The following is a collection of the many, many Maurice Lucas memories from the last few days. 

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Previously on Blazersedge:

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Portland Trail Blazers coach Nate McMillan was interviewed by NBA TV prior to Portland's game Monday night. McMillan discusses his long history with Maurice Lucas as a player and as coaches.

Richard Goldstein of the New York Times writes this obituary.

Lucas was a rugged defender and an outstanding rebounder, capable of a sturdy pick and a timely basket on offense. Possessing a glare that presumably intimidated many an opposing player, he became the prototype power forward when he emerged as a star for the Trail Blazers in the late 1970s.

"There's nobody can contest him inside," Bill Cartwright said when he played center alongside Lucas on the Knicks in the early 1980s. "Anybody tries, they're going to be in a lot of trouble."

Charles Pierce at Boston.com...

Thirty-nine years ago this fall, I moved into the 11th floor of a 12-story dormitory at the corner of 16th Street and Wisconsin Avenue in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. I was a freshman at Marquette University. (The dorm, McCormick Hall, is round and shaped like a beer can, which is remarkably appropriate in more than the metaphorical sense, and the building has been rumored for almost 40 years to be sinking into middle Earth.) Not long after I moved in, I found myself intrigued by the music coming out from under the door of the room next to mine -- music which I now know to have been "Eurydice," the closing track from Weather Report's astounding debut album. (Mmmmmm. Wayne Shorter!) As I was listening, an extremely large man came out of the room and introduced himself. "Pretty cool, isn't it?' he said.

And that was how I met Maurice Lucas.    

Frank Zicarelli quotes Alex English on Maurice Lucas...

English and Lucas were part of the first basketball delegation to visit China following the death of Chairman Mao.

"Mo was our group's vice-president on that trip and I remember how engaging he was with the Chinese culture and how much he knew politically was going on in that country,'' added English.

"Mo was a smart brute. He'd hit you when the referee wasn't looking but he wasn't looking to hurt you. He just wanted you to know that he was there.

Todd Rosiak has some amazing quotes from Lucas's days at Marquette University.

I've come to learn there's a relatively small group of players that seems to resonate with MU fans. Lucas, despite playing just two years on the varsity team, was squarely in that group.

One of the most imposing players of his time, he managed to become one of just eight players to have his jersey retired by the school and very nearly helped MU to the NCAA title in 1974. Lucas would go on to win an NBA championship not long thereafter with Bill Walton and the Portland Trail Blazers, and ultimately play 12 years in the NBA.

David Steele writes on NBA Fanhouse...

Walton, understandably, was the centerpiece of the Halberstam book, as it was the true beginning of the injury problems that derailed his career and his tenure in Portland. As a character in the book, Walton wavered between hero and villain, depending on the route he took on the stands he took in defense of himself and against the organization.

Lucas, however -- while often in the same type of battles with management -- came off slightly differently. While Walton was fighting from a love of the game, Lucas was battling from something much deeper and personal: for his own dignity, identity and self-respect. That made him a villain to the various coaches, scouts and executives posed against him.    

Steve Kelley says Lucas was cool.

Luke always made the waiting bearable, imitating singer Barry White, or telling stories about his childhood, growing up in Pittsburgh's tough Hill District, where, he said, the "mobsters" who hung out in his neighborhood protected him from the distractions and told him to stick to basketball and stay away from all the other stuff.

Lucas survived the Hill District and became a five-time All-Star. He was a manic rebounder, a deadly midrange shooter and a take-no-prisoners defender.

"He was a champion," McMillan said.

Maurice Lucas was just plain old-school cool.

Peter Vecsey quotes Dave Twardzik on Lucas...

"As an opponent, he was really nasty. You couldn't run by him through the lane without getting whacked in the ribs or in the head. He'd tag you and then stare you down, like 'what are you gonna do about it?'

"When I became his teammate I questioned how that was going to work out. What I found out is that he was the best teammate because of that stuff. If someone did something dirty to you he'd say, 'Bring him over here and we'll straighten him out, not maliciously, just a jolt to let the guy know payback was a bitch.

"Luke was the perfect complement to Bill who was a finesse player. He had his back and everyone else's too. We were very young when we won it all. Imagine how many titles we would've won had Bill stayed healthy, or we hadn't traded Moses."

Dwight Jaynes says Lucas was like a hockey policeman...

I will say this, as a player, I never thought of him as "The Enforcer." I always thought of him as a "policeman" in the old hockey sense.

Now days, hockey tough guys are most often known affectionately as "Goons." But in the old days the really tough guys were policemen - in the sense that they kept the peace without having to resort to force. Like the old-fashioned beat cop, a policeman in hockey didn't often have to actually fight - everyone knew how tough he was and his mere presence was enough to discourage any trouble.

Mike Tokito writes that Lucas "went peacefully."

"He went peacefully," David Lucas said. "He struggled for a long time. A lot of people didn't see it, but he was struggling for a long time, and he suffered. It was just time where the suffering needed to stop, and he needed to be happy again."

Andy Kamenetzky interviews Los Angeles Lakers forward Luke Walton, son of Bill Walton, who was named after Maurice Lucas.

AK: Fans used to do the same "Luuuuuuke" chant for Lucas that you get during games. It's interesting, with the namesake connection. 

LW: Yeah, and I had no idea. The first time they did it to me, I was high school and I didn't know what was going on. My dad was loving it. He was like, "They used to do that for Big Luke!" They used to call him "Big Luke" and me "Little Luke." I had a poster in my room that he had signed for me of him stuffing somebody. It was a "To my namesake" kind of thing. "Good luck, Maurice Lucas." And that was always in my room growing up. But my dad loved it the first time he heard me get my "Luke" call.     

Dr. Jack Ramsay writes on ESPN.com...

Luke was the best big forward in the league during his first go-round in Portland. He had an excellent low-post game with a tantalizing pump-fake that got defenders in the air. He could step out to 17 feet and knock down accurate jumpers. He was also a skilled passer, capable of firing full-court outlet bullets or deft passes in half-court traffic.

Luke exuded confidence and wanted the responsibility for taking critical shots with the game on the line. He also led the championship Blazers in scoring, averaging 20.2 points a game in 1976-77.

Isaac Ropp and Jason Scukanec interview Dr. Jack Ramsay on 1080 AM The Fan. Ramsay was Lucas's coach on the 1977 NBA title team.

Jason Quick quotes Brandon Roy on Maurice Lucas...

Here are Roy's thoughts on Lucas, who tied Sunday, shared before the Trail Blazers played the Chicago Bulls Monday night: 

"He meant a lot. Before I actually came to Portland I didn't know that much about him, but from day one of meeting him, I don't know, it was like I knew him forever. I even joked, 'I'm gonna nickname you Uncle Luke.' and he was, 'OK, I like that.'     

Jason Quick quotes Greg Oden on Maurice Lucas...

"Coach Luke was a mentor, besides basketball,'' Oden said. "He was a guy I looked up to. He was the first person to take me under his wing when I got here. He invited me over for dinners when I had no family in town ... holidays ... he was like my father figure here.''

Mike Tokito says Lucas was motivated as a coach to help restore the franchise's reputation...

Back at the 2005 interview, Lucas told me how much he wanted to help the team wipe away the bad taste that had afflicted so many Blazers fans.

"This is the franchise I wanted to help bring back to its former glory, and that's important to me," Lucas said. "We had a lot of great years here, and this franchise had a lot of great years, and we certainly want to see it come back to that."

Maybe the Blazers aren't all the way there, but Lucas had a big hand in whatever heights this current group reaches -- just as he had a leading role in the greatest height the franchise has ever reached.

John Canzano remembers a scene from a few years back.

During the 2008 season the Blazers got intimidated by a screaming, posturing, trash-talking Kevin Garnett in a loss at Boston. Rookie Greg Oden was on his first NBA road trip, and his eyes were wide as saucers after the game.

Lucas, then a Blazers assistant, walked past and said that nobody trash-talked like Garnett during his career. "Back then," Lucas said, "it was only a $50 fine for punching a guy in the mouth."    

Photos:

-- Ben Golliver | benjamin.golliver@gmail.com | Twitter

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