Portland Trail Blazers great and newly appointed head coach of the University of Portland Pilots, Terry Porter, joins Adrian Wojnarowski of Yahoo! Sports on The Vertical podcast. The two of them went into great detail about how Porter approaches his new position, how it differs from coaching jobs he has held in the past, what it was like to play for a small school, and much more; perhaps most notably for longtime Blazer fans, his close friendship with Jerome Kersey, who passed away last year:
I shared this story—I didn’t get through it too well because I broke down during the process—but I remember he [Kersey] had already been here a year before I got here, and we were sitting down on the practice bleachers just talking. He was like "Man, look at us. Man, look at us. Longwood and Stevens Point! We aren’t supposed to be here, man. We aren’t supposed to be here." And I’m like "Yeah, you’re right, man. You’re right. We don’t care about those big D1 guys, we just going to go out and play hard and whatever happens happens. We’re going to take the best that we can and just compete."
When you talk about what Jerome was all about—I said it before—he maximized and got the most out of his talent than any guy I’ve ever been around. He had small hands, you know, and he was just an unbelievable athlete, and just had a relentlessness to him. I mean, he just got after it and he would not stop.
He was just one of those guys that—from a physicality standpoint—would hit you, beat you up, back then when you could play physical like that. He had played center in college so he’d look forward to hitting somebody. He couldn’t wait to hit somebody and he was famous for making some amazing saving, you know, track—run a guy down in the open court, block their shot from behind or come from the weak side and make an amazing block, and just had a kamikaze type of approach to him defensively.
To this day he had one of the greatest saves in Blazer history. We were playing San Antonio—I think it was Game 7, here—and San Antonio was up and I think Rod Strickland tried to make a behind the back pass to Sean Elliot and Sean Elliot didn’t move. We thought it was going to be going out of bounds and Jerome ended up saving it, throwing it to me, and I threw it to Clyde down the court and Clyde got an and-1. It ended up being something that kind of led us on—I think we were down by seven with, like, a minute to go in that game—and ended up coming back and going into overtime and winning the game and going on to play the next round.
It was truly one of just simplified what Jerome was all about; a never die, relentless type of approach when he stepped on the court, and if there was a chance for him to save a ball or dive at somebody, he was going to do it. He was going to do it for the better of the team, and we lived off his energy. His energy and just his heart and determination and his motor—we would feed off that.
You can listen to the full podcast, here. Time stamps and topics are listed below.
- 1:52 What made Porter want to coach college basketball?
- 3:13 The intrigue of team building and recruiting
- 4:21 How does he approach the process of recruiting?
- 6:07 Balancing personal history of success with realism for new prospects
- 8:32 How did losing prior NBA jobs shape his feelings toward coaching?
- 10:35 Challenges of incorporating personnel that don’t fit a system
- 11:53 Steve Kerr’s tough decision to fire Porter as Suns’ head coach
- 14:00 Style clash with Steve Nash
- 17:14 Expectations of recruitment as a high school senior in Milwaukee
- 22:00 What was Stevens Point coach Dick Bennett all about?
- 23:54 How did Porter find out he’d been invited to the 1984 Olympic trials?
- 25:46 Competing with NBA stars at the Olympic trials
- 27:40 How does one stand out in that group? How did Bob Knight address them?
- 29:01 How did players find out they were cut?
- 33:31 Impressions of Charles Barkley at the time
- 35:19 How the final cuts were made known
- 36:26 Did Porter believe he could play in the NBA then?
- 38:36 Not trading years with Blazers for anything
- 41:14 Friendship with Jerome Kersey
- 44:51 Competing against Pistons in the 1990 NBA Finals
- 47:31 Was there a different maturity later against the Bulls?
- 50:40 What made Rick Adelman a unique coach?
- 53:48 What aspects of coaching did Porter learn from former coaches?
- 55:48 Most memorable Pat Riley speech