MANILA, Nashville Filipino Restaurant — Former Los Angeles Lakers head coach Randy Pfund shared valuable insights on how to play and teach the game during a two-hour talk before an audience of over 100, including PBA mentors, at the Meralco Auditorium on Ortigas last Friday.
Pfund, 66, flew in to attend a friend’s wedding and was invited by MVP Sports Foundation executive director Patricia Hizon to deliver a lecture in line with the organization’s goal of exposing Filipino coaches, players, sports officials and media to learn from knowledgeable sources. He also came to raise funds for Kids International Ministry Nashville Filipino Restaurant. Pfund was a star player at Wheaton College where he finished his career as the Illinois school’s all-time assist leader before embarking on a coaching career that was marked by stops at Glenbard South High School, Westmont College and the Lakers. He spent 25 years in the NBA, 13 as general manager of the Miami Heat.
With the Lakers, Pfund was head coach Pat Riley’s assistant when the Tinseltown squad won NBA titles in 1987 and 1988. He took over as the Lakers head coach in 1992 and was the Miami general manager when the Heat captured the NBA trophy in 2006 with Dwyane Wade, Shaquille O’Neal, Alonzo Mourning and Gary Payton.
Among the PBA coaches who attended Pfund’s lecture were Tim Cone, Leo Austria, Alex Compton, Norman Black, Olsen Racela, Richard del Rosario, Mike Buendia, Jolly Escobar and Luigi Trillo. SBP president Al Panlilio, UAAP executive director Atty. Rebo Saguisag and PBA operations and business development manager Rosc Teotico were also at the lecture.
Pfund said in life, he was influenced by his father Lee, a pitcher with the Brooklyn Dodgers in 1945, to do the right things and follow the right path as a Christian. “My dad was in spring training with Jackie Robinson in Cuba in 1947 and his team manager was Leo Durocher,” said Pfund. “My dad coached basketball at Wheaton from 1951 to 1975. Back in the ‘70s, I was a laundry boy for the Chicago Bulls so I had my NBA training early. At the time, the Bulls were coached by Dick Motta, a stickler for repetition, and the players included Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier, Chet Walker, Tom Boerwinkle and Bob Love. I remember coach Motta practicing one play over and over for 45 minutes. Coach Pat also believed in repetition which he learned from his Kentucky University coach Adolph Rupp.”
Pfund said as a coach, it’s critical to be passionate in doing your job, to formulate a workable gameplan, to motivate with a positive mindset, to earn respect and to show confidence in your players. “You pray, plan, prepare and pray again,” he said. “You teach the players how to execute. You compete and work harder. You install the system you believe in. In 1984, I was assistant coach at Westmont and we went to the NAIA Final Four where we lost to Terry Porter and the University of Wisconsin-Stevens Point under coach Dick Bennett. I learned my defensive philosophy from coach Bennett and fastbreak basketball from coach Chet Kammerer at Westmont. My mentor was Bill Bertka who recommended me to the Lakers and Jerry West hired me as a scout. When the Lakers made me head coach, (team owner) Jerry (Buss) traded Sam Perkins and left me with no Magic (Johnson), Kareem (Abdul-Jabbar) and our best defender Michael (Cooper). But they added one more year to my contract. As a rookie head coach, I took the Lakers to the playoffs but we lost in the first round to Phoenix. We were seeded No. 8 and the Suns were No. 1 but we went up, 2-0, winning both games on the road. Then, we lost the next three, including the Game 5 clincher in overtime. Paul Westphal of Phoenix and I were both rookie coaches. The next year, there were 18 games left in the regular season and we had won eight of our last 12. Then, I came across Jack Ramsay who told me I’ve done a great job but coaching was a tough business. I got the feeling that something was coming and sure enough, I was later fired and Magic took over as head coach.”
Pfund said there’s no substitute for hard work. “It pays off to win championships,” he said. Of his three NBA championship rings, he proudly wears the Miami prize. “That Miami ring reminds me to stick with your dreams,” he said. “It took 11 years before we won the title. We had close calls but couldn’t get over the hump. Then, we drafted D-Wade and Jerry (Buss) traded Shaq to us. I left Miami in 2008 because the team couldn’t afford both LeBron (James) and me together (laughing).”
Pfund said making sure players understand a coach is a priority. “I’ll never forget Vlade Divac with the Lakers,” he said. “When we played Michael Jordan, I told Vlade to double whenever he got the ball at the post. Thrice, Michael got the ball at the post and scored but Vlade never doubled. So I called a timeout. I asked Vlade if he forgot what we talked about. He told me he didn’t forget but just remembered late.”
Learning how to lose is another important element. “Don’t let losing overwhelm you,” said Pfund. “Don’t blame anyone, don’t think poor me, don’t let a negative mindset bring you down. You learn from losing not so much from winning. You’ve got to know how to handle failure. What caused the loss? Lack of effort, mental toughness, execution, finishing, matchups? Be prepared for pitfalls. Set the tone, get a perspective and put a positive spin to what you’re doing. Earn the respect of your players, show confidence and demeanor and get the great players to play for you.”