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SoCalHoops Coaching News

Mack Calvin Hired At Dominguez?  
Maybe, But Not Final Yet--(Aug. 13, 2001)

calvin.jpg (12482 bytes)Mack Calvin perhaps best known as the type of player who created havoc with his speed and tenacity in a long college and professional playng career, is being actively considered by the school district to become the next boys' basketball coach at Compton Dominguez High School, replacing Russell Otis, who was fired this past spring.  According to published reports in the Los Angeles Times written by Ben Bolch, and in the Long Beach Press Telegram written by Ted Kian, he has either been "hired" (Times) or is being considered for the job, but not yet hired (LB PT).

According to the PT, Dominguez High principal Kelcey Richardson has "recommended that Mack Calvin take over as head coach of the school's boys basketball program."  Apparently Calvin does not have a valid teaching credential but could be hired as a "walk-on" coach according to Dr. Keith Beeman, associate superintendent for human resources and employee development for the CUSD who was interviewed by Kian.  Richardson reportedly declined to comment on the actual situation and refered all questions to Beeman. Beeman told Kian that Calvin still has to be approved by the Compton Unified School Board before he can be hired.  The PT didn't speak with Calvin, but the Times' Bolch did, and he was told by Calvin that he's already been hired for the job. 

Either way, it looks like Mack Calvin is probably going to be coaching at Dominguez this season and Russell Otis won't.  Although Russell Otis, the former Dons' coach who led them to three consecutive State Championships, reportedly sent a letter to the Compton Unified School District seeking reinstatement following his acquittal on sexual misconduct charges,  many in the legal profession have speculated that Otis' request for reinstatement was merely posturing for an anticipated wrongful termination lawsuit against the District.  Currently, Otis is reported to still be in contention for the head coaching job at Lynwood HS, but telephone calls to the school's co-principal with oversight for athletics, Jesse Jones, who is involved in the decision of whether to retain the current coaches or to hire Otis,  were not returned.  The Press-Telegram has reported that a decision will be made by Lynwood on whether to retain the current coaches perhaps as soon as the end of this week. 

If Calvin is hired at Dominguez he will take over a program which has won three consecutive State Championships, and which was ranked as the No. 1 team in the nation by USA Today two years ago.  But the question of which players will still be there, other than the football players who might come out for the team at Dominguez,  is largely unanswered.   According to a published report in the Long Beach Press Telegram by Ted Kian,  both Bobby Jones (6'-7" Sr. F)  and Keion Kindred (6'-2" Sr. PG) are undecided about where they will attend school, and have said that if Otis is hired at Lynwood that they will transfer.  If Otis is not hired at Lynwood then it appears Long Beach Poly may be the leader if Jones does indeed transfer from Dominguez.  Samir Hernandez (6'-8" Sr. F) who was invited to play this summer at the USA Basketball Youth Develpment Festival in Colorado, has reportedly decided to enroll at Gardena Serra, and others have made their intentions known that they will leave as well.  Darius Sanders (6'-5" Sr. F) played this summer with Compton Centennial and could wind up there, and Travon Free (6'-7" Jr. F) has reportedly transferred to Verbum Dei where he will join Utah-bound Richard Chaney (6'-5" Sr. G/F)--that is, depending on who the coaching staff is at Verbum Dei (an issue that is reportedly unsettled right now as well). 

But Calvin will try to convince the present players for Dominguez to stick around.   And in the process, it's probably safe to say that one shouldn't underestimate the power of the Nike "Grassroots" prior sponsorship of the Dons' program to be instrumental in that process. Even without their marquee franchise player, Tyson Chandler, who will be on the Chicago Bulls' roster this season, and even without Otis, a longtime paid Nike consultant,  there's still a Nike connection with Calvin getting the job:  That's because Don Crenshaw, long been affiliated with Nike and one of the people responsible for running the Grassroots program and the Nike All-American Camp, is also a longtime friend and former USC teammate of Mack Calvin's.  So whatever influence the shoe company giant can wield might still wind up benefitting a Dons program that many this summer may have prematurely begun to write off.

So what do we know about Mack Calvin?  Actually there's quite a bit of information about him on the internet.  So we went looking and compiled this brief biographical sketch for a player and coach who was he was a Long Beach playing legend, who had a remarkable college career, followed by a professional playing career of 13 years, followed by high school, college, NBA coaching experience.  In short, he's been just about everywhere one could be in the basketball world:

Affectionaly known as "The Bug", the 6'-0" former pro player and college standout guard ranks 8th in all-time scoring in the old ABA, having scored 10,620 points in an ABA-playing career which lasted from 1969 through the merger of that league in 1976,  and continuing on through the 1983 season with the NBA. Calvin holds a couple of other interesting records both in the ABA and the NBA.   He is among only 9 other players in the history of pro basketball in the U.S. to play professionally in the U.S. for 9 different franchises in a career. (If you're really interested who holds the all-time record for most teams in a career, it's Chucky Brown, who played for 11 different teams).

Mack began his major college career as a star for USC's Trojans under head coach Bob Boyd.  Prior to that, the Long Beach Poly graduate was a junior college standout at Long Beach City College.  Calvin, a Texas native, while at USC was a two-time winner of the Ernie Holbrook Memorial Award (Most Inspirational Trojan player) in 1968 and 1969, was named to the First Team on what was then the "All-Pac-8" Conference Basketball  Team in 1969, and helped lead the Trojans in his final season to a third place finish in the conference. (Of interest is that that USC team also featured Nike Grassroots' Don Crenshaw, who has long been associated with securing the Nike contract for Russell Otis at Dominguez.  Crenshaw won the Harold Jones Memorial Award for the most improved player in 1969). 

After a distinguished career at USC, Calvin was drafted in the NBA (in the 14th round by the LA Lakers) but would have to wait 9 more years before becoming a Laker).  Instead, he was drafted by and signed with the old ABA.  Of the 9 teams he played for during his professional career, 5 of them were in the ABA (the Stars, the Florida Floridians, the Larry Brown-coached Carolina Cougars, the Denver Nuggets, and the Virginia Squires).  He also played for the LA Lakers, the San Antonio Spurs, the Utah Jazz and the Cleveland Cavaliers.  While in the ABA, he was known for creating havoc on the court defensively and his excellent ball-handling and free-throw shooting.  For a complete record of Calvin's accomplishments in the ABA, as well as the reasons why he was named to the Top 30 ABA Players of All-Time at the 1997 reunion of the ABA, there's some great information at the "Remembering the ABA" website.   The link to Calvin's ABA history is found there as well. 

Calvin played for the LA Stars of the old ABA for the 1969-70 season. In 1971, the team moved to Utah and became the Utah Stars.  Calvin Mack was traded shortly after the move to the Florida Floridians for Donnie Freeman. In 1970-71 and 71-72,  he was with the Florida Floridians and in 1972-73 he signed with the Carolina Cougars, playing with them through 1973-74.  After a season with the Cougars, he moved on to the Denver Nuggets for the 1974-75 season, and then a year later, 1975-76 (the last season of the old ABA) he was with the Virginia Squires.  Other familiar names on that Squires team were UCLA's Sven Nater and former Pepperdine head coach Jan Van Breda Kolff, who is now the head coach at St. Bonaventure. 

Not content to just play with the Squires, Calvin got his first taste of coaching in that last ABA season. In the 1975-76 season, the Squires employed Al Bianchi, Mack Calvin, Willie Wise, Bill Musselman, Jack Ankerson and Zelmo Beaty as head coaches...by the time the Squires got around to hiring Beaty, they had compiled a 6-35 record, so perhaps coaching was not yet an ingrained part of Calvin's repetoire, and with a record like that, it's little wonder that when the merger of the ABA and NBA occurred, Virginia was not among the four teams to make it to the more well-established NBA. .

After the ABA merger, Mack signed with the LA Lakers midway through the 1976-77 season, playing in 12 games with Los Angeles. Laker fans will remember that the Lakers that year featured Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Cazzie Russell, Lucius Allen, Kermit Washington, Earl Tatum, Don Ford, Dwight Lamar, Tom Abernathy, Don Chaney, and Johnny Neumann, and that Mack averaged 7.9 ppg.  He was the second best free throw shooter (.854) on that team (the leading free-throw shooter was Cazzie Russell) and free-throw shooting has always been among the skills that Calvin was best at.  That same year, Mack also played for the San Antonio Spurs briefly,  before moving back to Denver for the 1977-78 season.  1977 also saw Calvin's induction into the Long Beach City College "Alumni Hall of Fame."  In 1980, Calvin played for the Utah Jazz, appearing in 48 games (averaging 6.4 ppg).  He finally wound up playing for the Cleveland Cavaliers for two seasons, from 1981 through 1983, where he finished out his NBA playing career.

Following his playing career, he had a variety of assistant coaching jobs, including Calvin one season of experience coaching high school basketball, compiling a 38-1 record at Cherry Creek (Colo.) in 1986. Somewhere in between coaching at Cherry Creek and the NBA, he had a stint as an assistant at the University of Virginia. Eventually he returned to the NBA level, serving as an assistant for the Milwaukee Bucks under their former head coach Del Harris during the 1988-89 and 1989-90 seasons.   While with the Bucks, Calvin had a chance to coach another SoCal player, Paul Mokeski, who was instrumental in helping the Bucks defeat the Atlanta Hawks and Terry Cummings in the 1988-89 first round series decisive 5th game.  Of course those familiar with Mokeski, also know that he attended Encino Crespi and was most recently (for a short stint) an assistant coach at USC before leaving to coach professionally (as well as finding himself in other hot water, including an arrest for possession of a controlled substance).  And UCLA fans will recognize that Terry Cummings is of course the father of current UCLA player TJ Cummings. Calvin stayed with the Bucks through the 1989-90 season, and continued to serve as an assistant under Del Harris, along with other assistants who included Frank Hamblen and Mike Dunleavy (former Seattle coach and father of Duke's Mike Dunleavy, Jr.).  Among the players on that year's Buck's team were some other familiar names, including Fred Roberts, Greg Anderson, Jack Sikma, and Ricky Pierce.

After the Bucks, Calvin became an assistant coach for the LA Clippers, where he accomplished perhaps his most dubious distinction: Among all the head coaches and interim coaches the Clippers have had over the life of their franchise (and there have been a total of 21 head coaches--including those who have repeated in the job since the 1970 inaugural season), Calvin holds the record for coaching the fewest number of games of any head coach in the franchise history.  He coached just two games before being relieved of his duties, and of course, he also has the lowest win-loss record: 1-1.  The feat was accomplished during the 1991-92 season, when the Clippers, tired of head coach Mike Shuler, relieved him after 43 games in to the season. Interestingly, after Calvin was relieved as head coach, he stayed on with the franchise. He was replaced as head coach by his old former ABA Carolina Cougars' coach, Larry Brown, who managed to hang onto the job in LA for two seasons (this, of course, after leaving UCLA, Kansas, and hopping around the NBA himself just a bit).

After his stint with the Clippers,  Calvin was named in 1994-95 as the new head coach and general manager of the Continental Basketball Association's Mexico City Aztecas.  Of course, like a lot of other things the CBA had planned for itself, the job never quite worked out right and the team quickly folded.    Then, after serving for a time with Upward Bound back in Long Beach, and just before the 1996-97 college season was set to begin, Calvin was hired as the head coach at Cal State Dominguez Hills, a Division II program which had done well under former coach Dave Yanai, who had moved over to Cal State Los Angeles. At the time of his hiring, the Long Beach Press Telegram published a story on September 29, 1996 about Calvin and his NBA travels, travails and and the reality that many coaches face when  things don't always work out as they had planned.  Here are a few excerpts from that story:

AFTER NBA SNUB, CALVIN TURNS TO DOMINGUEZ HILLS

By Jim McCurdie
Long Beach Press-Telegram

Head coach Mack Calvin. Yeah, he likes the sound of that. True, he would rather have hung that nameplate somewhere in an NBA arena (the one next door to the Coliseum comes to mind). But that opportunity never knocked. So Cal State Dominguez Hills it is. The Toros, an NCAA Division II program with a limited budget and just a handful of scholarships, were in no position to woo Calvin with a lucrative contract. But they could offer him the one fringe benefit he craved most. 

"They wanted me," he said. 

Dave Yanai, coach at Dominguez Hills for 19 years, bolted for conference rival Cal State Los Angeles in July, leaving his former employers a matter of weeks to hire his successor. The man they turned to was Calvin, who had begun to think that the basketball world had no record of all the dues he had paid as an NBA assistant coach. 

Calvin said his failure to land an NBA head coaching job after coming this close with the Clippers, Dallas Mavericks and Denver Nuggets "really brought me to my knees." The former Poly High, Long Beach City College and USC star said the rejections and disappointments of the past few years have changed him, and forced him to rethink his priorities.  "I had always felt that if you work hard in life and reach a certain point, you should be granted those opportunities," Calvin said. "It didn't happen for me. I worked hard, I was recognized in my profession, and it didn't happen. I had to question myself, and learn to accept life and it's challenges one day at a time." 

As for why it didn't happen for him in the NBA... 

"I think timing - the right place at the right time," he said. "And there are probably some mistakes I made. I didn't get the Clipper head coaching job (in 1992, when the club hired Larry Brown), and I may have said some things that probably didn't get the approval of management. I had to really learn from that. I had to mature and grow up. I can say today that I'm a very grateful and humble person. I take life one day at a time, and try to do the best I can. Where I've been gives me perspective. Getting knocked on your ass makes you humble." 

The past few years have been humbling, indeed. Besides being passed over for NBA jobs, he and his wife have separated (they remain good friends, Calvin said), she has undergone a kidney transplant, and he has felt the burden of "financial pressures" and career gridlock. 

His last basketball job was in 1994-95, as coach and general manager of the Mexico City Aztecas of the Continental Basketball Association. As part of its plan to take over the world as we know it, the NBA has been eyeing Mexico City as a potential expansion market. Calvin figured he could carve himself a niche and be a part of an NBA franchise there when one arrived. 

"Of course, it just fell on its face," Calvin said. The Mexican peso went belly-up, and so did the Aztecas.

And while he looked at the Dominguez Hills job as a chance at a fresh start, it was short-lived.  After just one season, Calvin was replaced by Larry Hauser, a former 14-year assistant coach at Santa Clara who was hired to replace Calvin during the summer of 1977. 

So where has Calvin been since leaving Cal State University Dominguez Hills?  Well, that's kind of hard to say.  Calvin is currently a color commentator for basketball games on FoxSports West and announced two Dominguez games this past season.. According to the LA Times' account, Calvin has reportedly declined two recent NBA offers, one as an assistant and the other as a scout.  And, according to Bolch's story in the Times, he's been tending to the care of two elderly friends, a widow and her brother who is suffering from Alzheimer's disease. "Calvin befriended Ruth Smith, 88, and her brother, James Brooks, 86, several years ago, around the time that Smith's husband died. Calvin visits from his Marina del Rey home several times a week."

Other than occasional scouting, color commentating, and some coaching here and there though, Calvin has been eyeing the the Compton Dominguez HS job at least since it was vacated by Otis.  Interviewed back in March of 2001 by the Press-Telegram, the 54-year old former coach and player told Ted Kian at that time:   "I enjoy coaching high school. Coaching young players is the most gratifying experience I've ever had in coaching. Seeing young players develop as people and providing them with solid role models is very important to me. Dominguez is a program that intrigues me."

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