“The Tsar” has its honor: Mike Fratello receives the Lifetime Achievement Award 2022

“The Tsar” has its honor: Mike Fratello receives the Lifetime Achievement Award 2022

Mike Fratello has been in the NBA as a coach, assistant coach or broadcaster since the late 1970s.

SAN FRANCISCO – Mike Fratello, the young assistant coach of the Atlanta Hawks, was 35 years old and stood 5 feet-7 inches (as he is now) when he had the opportunity to be interviewed for the top job of the Chicago Bulls for the 1982-83 season.

The process went quite well and Fratello was already home when he was called that the Bulls had decided to hire Paul Westhead. The obstacle? One of the co-owners of Chicago had decided that Fratello was too short to gain the respect of NBA players.

Recalling that light Sunday, Fratello, now 75, said: “You are gaining respect.”

Fratello’s height may have been part of the first impressions of fans and opponents, as the New Jersey native chased the margins in those early years. But it mattered little or nothing as they watched him work, saw him succeed and lead not only the players but also the Hall of Famers, and show his coaching team both as a competitor and as a broadcaster in what extends to more than four decades now.

Surely Fratello could proudly walk beside the giants of his profession on Sunday when he was named recipient of the Chuck Daly Lifetime Achievement Award for 2022, which is awarded annually by the National Basketball Coaches Association.

The long-time transfer coach led the Hawks, the Cleveland Cavaliers and the Memphis Grizzlies to a combined record of 667-548 (0.549), with 13 finishes of 0,500 or better and 11 playoff appearances in 16 seasons.

In between and after these three separate terms, Fratello switched to television work as a color analyst, directing virtually millions of viewers, although he remained relevant to those roles. In fact, it was early in his airing concerts with the legendary Marv Albert at the NBA on NBC, which Albert called Fratello “Czar of the Telestrator” for his on-screen games.

So we could say that NBCA added a little Czar power to their presentation at the Chase Center before Game 2 of the NBA Finals, making Fratello the 17th coach so honored.

“His teams, for me, have always had one characteristic: They always went out and always played different styles,” said Rick Carlisle, Indiana Pacers coach and NBCA president. “Mike always found the best way to play. Some of his teams played very fast, some of his teams were extremely physical, some played the rhythm game. “But he always found the best way to give his players a chance to win.”

Fratello gave an example of his adaptability after Sunday’s ceremony, talking about his third team in Cleveland, 1995-96, which opened the season with five consecutive defeats after reaching the postseason last spring.

“Every game was close, and then there was an area where we would have scored 17-3, 18-2,” he said. “We really met with the team and said, ‘This is going to happen every game. Unless we change style and only run on steals and block shots. We walk the ball on the field, we milk the clock of 24 seconds. We pass the ball five, six, seven times. We make them suffer by having to play defense. If we receive a violation of the shooting clock, this is our issue “.

“We told them, ‘Vote for it. We are leaving the room. ” Bobby Phills was our captain, he came out about 10 minutes later. He said, “We are ready to try it.”

This team went 47-30 the rest of the season and advanced to the playoffs, the second of four appearances in five seasons.

“To the coach, he was incredibly detailed,” said ABC / ESPN analyst Jeff Van Gundy, who followed Fratello’s career. “Execution oriented at both ends. And the way he was able to win at such a high level in Cleveland starting with four rookies or very young players that year, I think it was one of the best coaching jobs ever done in the NBA. “

As for any issue related to his height, Fratello said on Sunday: “Players judge you like Chuck [Daly] he said, for what you do. You have to show them that you can teach, you have to show them that you are organized. They judge you in the last two minutes of a game, they want to know ‘Does this guy know what he’s doing?’ And one of the times you know that players will listen is the playoffs, because they want to win. “They do not want to be ashamed.”

Fratello, who grew up in Hackensack, NJ, and studied at Montclair State, began his coaching career in 1970 as an assistant professor at the University of Rhode Island. This was followed by three years at James Madison’s Lou Campanelli’s staff and three years working for coach Rollie Massimino at Villanova.

He joined the Hawks in 1978 as an assistant under Hubby Brown and stayed for four seasons before moving on to the New York Knicks. Atlanta reinstated him in 1983 as head coach and led the Hawks to five playoff positions in seven seasons, managing talent such as Dominique Wilkins, Kevin Willis, Tree Rollins and Spud Webb.

Fired after finishing at 0,500 in 1989-90, Fratello dipped his finger in the show’s waters. In fact, he said, it was this connection and Atlanta location that led to it.

“This happens when you can not keep a job. “You have to go out and look for something else,” he joked on Sunday. “I was blessed in the beginning because it was my first [team] The owner was Ted Turner and Mr. Turner was trying to start this thing called TBS, which no one ever thought would survive. So, they would call and say, hello, you could do this, you could do that.

“I remember they televised – I guess it was the World Cup. I can not even tell you how far back it was. But guess who was the three-person stand for that World Cup televised by TBS? “Bill Russell, Rick Barry and Mike Fratello.”

“The Tsar” collaborated with Albert saying all the “Dream Team” games at the 1992 Summer Olympics, and Fratello eventually won an Emmy Award for his television work.

In 1993, he returned to the gym as Cavaliers coach. This lasted until 1999 and then he wore headphones again. He served as Turner’s chief analyst until 2004, when the Memphis Grizzlies appointed him head coach at the age of 57. Fratello gave the Grizzlies the lead in the first two of his three seasons. In, around and after all of this, he worked for TNT, NBA TV and local networks, covering the Cavs, Clippers, Heat, Nets and Pistons.

“I worked with him and Marv for a year,” Van Gundy said, “and I learned so much from both of them about how to do it. I remember my first time on camera, I felt like I was being held hostage. And he was so helpful and influential. And a true and dear friend. “

Asked about his memories of Fratello, Golden State coach Steve Kerr – another who has served both roles – said: “I think the perm in the 1980s was the first thing. Mike has a great sense of humor, so working with him at the booth, you know, was always fun. Just willing to laugh at himself, laugh at Marv, laugh at me.

“As a coach, he was incredibly well organized and thoughtful and that was evident in his broadcast, exactly the way he explained the game and the nuances of the game. He is very technical as a coach, as well as very well trained defensively. “His teams have always been very disciplined.”

The NBCA Award honors the memory of Daly, the popular Hall of Fame coach who led the Pistons to consecutive NBA Championships in 1989 and 1990. The eight-member selection committee is made up of Bernie Bickerstaff, Billy Cunningham, Joe Douma T Greg Popovich, Pat Riley, Donnie Walsh and Lenny Wilkens.

Previous recipients were Larry Brown (2021), Del Harris (2020), Frank Layden (2019), Doug Moe (2018), Al Attles and Brown (2017), KC Jones and Jerry Sloan (2016), Dick Motta (2015) , Bickerstaff (2014), Bill Fitch (2013), Riley (2012), Wilkens (2011), Jack Ramsay and Tex Winter (2010) and Tommy Heinsohn (2009).

Fratello knew Daly as a mentor and friend and shared a shocking story with an updated ending. The two of them had gone shopping for clothes (Daly’s passion) and were leaving a store when Daly saw a jacket hanging on a grill and said to Fratellos: “You have to buy this jacket.”

Fratello mocked, to which Daly replied: “It’s really special. You will wear it one day on a very special occasion. ”

It was a dark navy sports coat adorned with red and white vertical stripes. Fratello did as he was told, but said he only wore the jacket perhaps once “for the 4th of July because of the colors”.

That changed on Sunday.

“This jacket has been hanging in my closet for about 18, 19 years,” he said. “But as I was packing for this trip to get here, I said, ‘This is the moment the jacket goes on a special occasion.’

Fratello got into his jacket and posed for photos with the Daly trophy.

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Steve Aschburner has been writing for the NBA since 1980. You can email him here, find his file here and follow him on Twitter.

The views on this page do not necessarily reflect the views of the NBA, its clubs or Turner Broadcasting.

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