Former Detroit Pistons large man and head coach Ray Scott has lengthy prided himself as a historian. As a baby within the Nineteen Forties, he idolized the Harlem Globetrotters, who he credit for introducing him to the game throughout an period the place skilled basketball was a predominantly white spectator sport.
When Scott was drafted by the Pistons in 1961, he was already deeply aware of the Black heroes of the sport — figures reminiscent of Nat “Sweetwater” Clifton and Chuck Cooper, former Globetrotters who grew to become the primary Black basketball gamers to be drafted into the NBA, and ex-Piston Earl Lloyd, the primary Black man to play in an NBA recreation, and Scott’s “large brother” and mentor.
Scott, now 82, is writing a e-book that can replicate on his personal profession, the historical past of Black outstanding figures in skilled basketball and the way that platform has impacted societal change.
He stated he’s nonetheless actively residing his life and fears that he’ll publish the e-book too quickly.
“I needed to wait till I used to be 82 to shake my head sure, to go along with the affirmative as a result of I put it off, put it off, put it off,” Scott stated throughout a cellphone interview. “I simply felt like I simply had a lot extra life to dwell and I wish to be sure that I don’t go away something out of the e-book.”
Whereas he could also be an NBA historian, Scott’s identify can be within the annals of NBA historical past. He was the league’s first Black Coach of the 12 months in 1974, when he guided the Pistons to a then-franchise greatest 50-32 report. He inherited the top teaching job from Lloyd, who was fired seven video games into his second season in 1972-73. Scott stated it was “by no means in his wildest desires” that he would sooner or later turn out to be a coach.
“I believe folks choose that we maintain our mouths shut,” Scott stated. “That’s the place the saying ‘Shut up and dribble’ got here from. Individuals see that we’re educated males, we’re males that may decipher and discern, and I see that within the NBA and it makes me very proud after I see youngsters now which are educated and talking up and doing good issues with their cash, serving to folks.”
Scott has known as Detroit dwelling for six many years, however was born and raised in South Philadelphia. After a 12 months on the College of Portland, he spent three years enjoying for the Allentown Jets within the Jap Skilled Basketball League, later generally known as the Continental Basketball Affiliation.
He ultimately crossed paths with Lloyd, who was the explanation why the Pistons drafted Scott in 1961. Lloyd, inducted into the Basketball Corridor of Fame in 2003, broke a number of limitations for Black basketball gamers. Lloyd, Clifton and Cooper had been all chosen within the 1950 NBA draft, and Lloyd was the primary of the three to play. After six seasons with the Syracuse Nationals, Lloyd performed for the Pistons from 1958-60, and the franchise made him the NBA’s first Black assistant coach after he retired.
“Syracuse was a terrific cease professionally, however Detroit was actually one thing particular,” Lloyd stated in an interview with the Free Press in 2004. “I had an actual love affair with the city. Over the following 42 years, I solid some nice relationships there, made lifelong mates and was given many alternatives.”
One in all Lloyd’s obligations with the Pistons was scouting. He’s credited with discovering two of the best gamers of the period, Willis Reed and Earl Monroe, and later expressed frustration that the Pistons didn’t at all times observe his suggestions. However they did take heed to him when he advisable they draft Scott, a 6-foot-9 energy ahead and heart who may fill a defensive and rebounding void for a roster that had loads of scoring punch.
Lloyd flew out to Philadelphia, about an hour south of Allentown, and spent a day with Scott. They went again to Scott’s dwelling in Philadelphia, and Lloyd advised Scott’s mom that the Pistons had been going to draft him within the first spherical. Scott didn’t imagine him, as a result of he’d beforehand had curiosity from the New York Knicks, Cincinnati Royals and Chicago Packers. None had dedicated to drafting him.
As a substitute, Scott accepted a chance to play basketball within the Bronx. He took the practice from Philadelphia to New York Metropolis in March of 1961, after which hopped on a subway. He picked up a replica of the night newspaper to examine the outcomes of the NBA draft. The Packers chosen Walt Bellamy first general, the Knicks took Tom Stith and the Royals went with Larry Siegfried with the third choose. Scott then noticed that the Pistons chosen him with the fourth general choose.
“My chin hit the ground,” Scott stated. “I set free a scream on the subway, I believe folks thought I used to be nuts. However I used to be identical to, ‘Wow.’ And so what Earl Lloyd had advised me as a school dropout enjoying within the Jap Basketball League, what he had advised me was true. He was a person of his phrase. So coming to Detroit, I used to be very impressed by that, that what this man stated to me was pure reality.”
Scott performed for the Pistons from 1961-67 and averaged 16.0 factors and 10.7 rebounds per recreation in that span. Lloyd took Scott underneath his wing, and Scott credit Lloyd and former Pistons coach Dick McGuire because the the explanation why he had a profitable 11-year professional profession. Scott averaged 33 factors per recreation throughout his ultimate season in Allentown. The Pistons wanted him to embrace a brand new position as a defensive anchor, and Lloyd helped him purchase in.
“He was my mentor,” he stated of Lloyd. “I used to be most likely with Earl virtually each weekend, and generally in the course of the week I used to be in Earl’s dwelling, and he simply grew to become like my large brother. I don’t suppose I might’ve made the NBA had it not been for Earl, as a result of on the Pistons crew, they’d three scorers — Don Ohl, Bailey Howell and Gene Shue. They weren’t searching for one other scorer, they had been searching for a strong large man.”
Scott retired in 1972 after two seasons with the ABA’s Virginia Squires. His contract with the Squires included a clause stating he would work for his or her entrance workplace after he retired. And he did simply that — till he received a cellphone name from Lloyd that August. Lloyd was employed because the Pistons’ head coach in 1971. The Pistons made Lloyd the NBA’s first non-playing Black coach. Invoice Russell, Al Attles and Lenny Wilkins had been all beforehand Black player-coaches.
Lloyd needed Scott to be his assistant. Scott couldn’t say no.
“I stated, ‘Nicely certain, in fact Earl, I can’t flip you down,’” Scott stated. “‘You’ve been my large brother, my mentor, very very robust in my life.’”
Three months later, after the Pistons misplaced 5 of their first seven video games, and crew proprietor Fred Zollner and normal supervisor Ed Coil determined that it was time for a change. Lloyd was fired and Scott nervous about his future. To his shock, the Pistons’ management thought Scott, with only one full season as an assistant, was the suitable man for the job.
“I used to be in shock for about 2 minutes,” Scott stated. “Whenever you speak about my teaching dream, it started proper there. It was an enormous factor as a result of I used to be taking on a crew that had Bob Lanier and Dave Bing, two future Corridor of Famers, and I had an All American from UCLA in Curtis Rowe and I had Chris Ford, who performed on the highest crew in Villanova. We had Stu Lantz, who was nursing an harm, however we had a good crew.
“However we simply weren’t hitting on all cylinders, and I by no means went again and requested Mr. Zollner and Mr. Coil why Earl was let go, however I did ask him why they employed me, they usually simply stated that you could possibly deliver one thing to the crew we wanted. I used to be by no means given a transparent reply. It was fascinating. That was my teaching resume put collectively in 2 minutes.”
The Pistons went 38-37 in 1972-73 after Scott took over as head coach. That momentum carried into the next season, after they received a then-franchise greatest 52 video games and he grew to become the league’s first Black Coach of the 12 months. Scott stated his classes discovered from his former coaches — Alfred Bianchi in Virginia and Shue, who coached him with the Baltimore Bullets from 1967-70 — helped him. He leaned on Lloyd, who taught him methods to scout expertise. He additionally credit his gamers and Coil, who he stated was receptive to his concepts and gave him room to develop as a younger coach.
“I believe it was a altering time within the ’70s and I believe (Zollner) was simply going with the occasions, going with what he thought,” Scott stated. “My first response was ‘Earl, I can’t take this job. I’m with you! And Earl stated, ‘Nicely you gotta take it.’ He was very emphatic. You must take this job. I stated ‘OK, I listened to you up till now. I’m not going to cease now.’ However why Mr. Zollner would take a look at Earl Lloyd and say ‘I’m going to offer this job to Ray Scott,’ solely God in his heaven is aware of.”
After Scott received the NBA’s prime teaching honor in 1974, one other Black coach wasn’t named Coach of the 12 months till Don Chaney in 1991. The one others: Wilkens in 1994; Doc Rivers in 2000; Avery Johnson in 2006; Sam Mitchell in 2007; Byron Scott in 2008; Mike Brown in 2009 and Dwane Casey in 2018.
This season, the league has seven Black head coaches (23%); about 80% of the gamers are Black.
Nonetheless, Scott believes the NBA has at all times been on the forefront in American sports activities in creating alternatives for Black folks. And he’s inspired by what he’s seen in in the present day’s recreation, naming LeBron James’ varied philanthropic efforts for instance of the constructive impression athletes could make with their platform.
“We’ve led this nation by way of bringing a harmonious perspective,” Scott stated. “Chances are you’ll not wish to be our good friend, you could not need us round, however we don’t include offense. We include an open hand. And also you determine the way you wish to deal with us and the way it’s going to be by the best way that you simply deal with us. I believe as an trade, the NBA is among the most interesting organizations that you’ve on this nation, they usually have definitely proved that in occasions of tribulation, with the George Floyd scenario, Breanna Taylor, our youngsters have stepped as much as the ground and confirmed the world we don’t shut up and dribble, we all know what’s happening, as Marvin Gaye would say.”
Contact Omari Sankofa II at firstname.lastname@example.org. Comply with him on Twitter @omarisankofa.
This text initially appeared on Detroit Free Press: How Detroit Pistons’ Ray Scott, 1st Black Coach of 12 months, made historical past