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A Space City extensive interview with former Rockets guard Terry Teagle

Terry Teagle (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
Terry Teagle (Photo by Otto Greule Jr/Getty Images)
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Houston Rockets Rudy Tomjanovich Photo Credit Jeff Gross

Speaking of Rudy Tomjanovich, he recently got the nod for the Hall of Fame. What are your thoughts on that?

I’m glad Rudy got in the Hall of Fame, but he should’ve been in there decades ago in my opinion, because he was even a great player. I was hoping he would’ve gone in with Calvin Murphy in 1993 because that would’ve been cool, since they were both teammates. But I’m glad he made it in the end.

Rudy was an assistant on the Rockets teams you played on. What was it was like having him as your coach?

Rudy was a player’s coach and was a guy all the players respected. He played for 11 years also and was a great player himself, which is also why he could have/should have been in the HOF earlier.

Related Story. Tomjanovich shares funny story of facing Wilt

So all of the players who played for Rudy enjoyed playing for him because he had been there. He also didn’t mind trying different things and listening to his players’ suggestions. He wanted to know what we were seeing on the court.

You also mentioned Carroll Dawson, who was an assistant coach turned GM for the Rockets, and later retired in 2007 after 27 years of service with the team. What was it like playing for him?

Carroll Dawson was probably the best assistant coach in the league. Carroll was really good at strategizing and could adjust on the fly. If things weren’t going well, he could change the gameplan quickly.

He was good at putting the gameplan together and he had been around the league for quite a while, so he knew every NBA player’s best move from experience, which also gave us an advantage.

In the 1984-85 season, you went from the Rockets to the Pistons, before finally getting an opportunity with the Warriors. What did you feel was different with the Dubs that allowed you to finally find a landing spot?

Actually, I spent some time in the CBA after I left the Pistons. But it worked out good for me over there, because they had more of a fast-paced game. Most of the guys there also had ties to the Rockets, but overall everything fell in place for me.

During George Karl‘s first season with the Warriors team you were on, he led them to the second round of the playoffs, which hadn’t been done in a long time. What was it like finally getting over that hurdle?

Yeah, it had been 10 years since the Warriors had made the postseason. But we went in as the eighth seed and ended up making it past the Utah Jazz, which was really special because everyone had Utah picked to win it all because they had the top seed in the Western Conference.

What do you think was unique about Karl and that particular team?

George was a good coach and he put guys in positions where they could really use their skillset. We also had great players there too, as Larry Smith was one of the best rebounding power forwards in the league. We had guys that could really score like Joe Barry Carroll and Hall of Famer Chris Mullin. So everything worked out great.

What was Karl’s coaching style?

George played in the league for five years and was a really tough player. So he wanted tough players who had a tough mindset like he had. And he coached us hard because he was a tough coach also.

You moved from one Hall of Fame coach in George Karl to another in Don Nelson. What was it like playing for Nelson?

Don was a great coach. I loved playing for Don Nelson because he was the type of guy who demanded that you work hard and be prepared for the game. If you did the things he asked you to do, you came out pretty successful.

You were a part of the TMC era, which was the historic scoring trio of Tim Hardaway, Mitch Richmond, and Chris Mullin. In fact, you scored more points than Tim Hardaway during the first year of the trio being assembled. How did that come about?

That was a strategic coaching decision by Don Nelson, but it was also kind of by default. Although Larry Smith was only 6-foot-8, he was moved to our center because Ralph Sampson and Manute Bol both got hurt.

So basically we went with a small-ball lineup. Don knew if we could get rebounds and get up more shots than the other team, we would be successful.

Speaking of the small ball game, what are your thoughts on the small ball strategy which is currently being used by the Rockets?

Our version of it had its similarities and differences. In Don Nelson’s strategy, the key to the small game was all about having a dominant rebounder. It wasn’t just about getting shots, but exploiting mismatches. So we tried to get small guys defending a big. We’d keep driving our big man to the basket and just keep feeding him the ball when he had a smaller player defending him.

Speaking of the TMC trio, many don’t realize you were actually the third-leading scorer on the team, and averaged more points than Tim Hardaway. Do you think you get forgotten when people discuss the Run TMC movement?

Well, I was part of it in the beginning but I only played in it for one year. But I was the third-leading scorer, even though I was coming off the bench. But it didn’t bother me because Don Nelson’s goal was to get the ball to me when I entered the game. When I came into the game, that was the whole key. I got my shots but I just didn’t get the minutes.

Your Lakers team ran up against the Hakeem Olajuwon-led Rockets in the first round of the 1991 playoffs. What was it like going up against The Dream?

It’s still a nightmare. Anybody who played against Hakeem Olajuwon knows. You just can’t say enough about him. He wasn’t a traditional center at all. He was a smaller Moses Malone, and he could do it all. He was also a great passing big man. He knew how to play the game for sure.

Your Lakers made it to the Finals but were defeated by Michael Jordan. What was it like playing against him?

That was another nightmare. I played against Michael Jordan for 9 years and his game got better each year. Once he got help in Chicago, he was unstoppable, and they were too. He was one of those guys like James Harden in that you’ve got to do the best you can and try and make him get all he can get, and that’s still not enough.

Speaking of Jordan, will you be watching the Last Dance documentary on ESPN?

Oh yeah, definitely. Actually, my son and my daughter already put some time aside to watch it. I’m going to watch it with both of them because we’re all big basketball fans. It’ll at least give us some entertaining sports to watch.

Next: Teagle on T-Mac vs Harden, current Rockets

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