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News » Hard work still paying off for ex-Bull Ray with Celts

Hard work still paying off for ex-Bull Ray with Celts

Hard work still paying off for ex-Bull Ray with Celts
Clifford Ray gets a lot of joy from his two NBA championship rings. He won the first in 1975 as the starting center for the Golden State Warriors. The second came last year as an assistant to Boston Celtics coach Doc Rivers.

''But as happy as I was to get those rings, they weren't my happiest pro Basketball moments,'' said Ray, who had a 10-year playing career as a 6-9 defensive stalwart. ''My greatest joy was when I was drafted by the Bulls [in the third round in 1971] and came to Chicago as a rookie from the University of Oklahoma.

''I was a very unknown player, but coach Dick Motta gave me the opportunity to start, play and win 50-something games with teammates like Chet Walker, Bob Love, Jerry Sloan, Norm Van Lier and Tom Boerwinkle. They took me under their wings and [taught] me how to be a pro.''

If getting drafted by the Bulls was his happiest day, then being traded to the Warriors on Nov. 3, 1974, was his saddest.

''Clifford really didn't want to leave the Bulls because he felt we had a shot to win the championship,'' said Walker, Ray's best friend then and ever since. ''We all did. We were coming off a 54-win season, and Clifford was a tough defensive center who could take us all the way. He could rebound, set great picks, pass, guard and block shots. He was also a great teammate who played team ball.''

But Motta believed 33-year-old Nate Thurmond was a better fit than the 25-year-old Ray. He was wrong. After averaging 13 points and 14.2 rebounds the year before, Thurmond grew old quick and lasted one season with the Bulls , averaging 7.9 points and 11.3 rebounds and shooting a career-low 36.4 percent from the field. The Bulls slumped to 47-35 and 24-58 the next two seasons before Motta was fired.

Meanwhile, Ray helped the Warriors win a championship in his first season.

''Clifford turned out to be just what the Warriors needed,'' Walker said.

When his playing days were over, Ray was in demand as an assistant coach to tutor power forwards and centers. Motta gave him his first job with the Dallas Mavericks.

Since then, coach after coach has seen that Ray kept busy. He has worked for Washington under Jim Lynam and Bernie Bickerstaff, Orlando under Johnny Davis and Brian Hill, Golden State under Dave Cowens and Brian Winters, Cleveland under John Lucas, Keith Smart and Paul Silas and Boston under Rivers. His list of students includes Dwight Howard, Al Jefferson, Erick Dampier, Sam Perkins, Chris Webber and Mark Aguirre.

''I like what I do and I don't ever try to do more, and that is teach,'' Ray said. ''I'm a teacher. I work mainly with fours and fives, and I'm a great development coach.''

Now in his 17th season as an NBA assistant, would Ray ever want to be a head coach?

''Only if somebody came to me and offered me the job,'' he said. ''I wouldn't want to politic for it. I'm happy doing what I'm doing, and, yes, I believe I could coach an NBA team and do a good job. But I never have been interviewed for a head coaching job, I've never sought it and whenever a coach hired me to be his assistant, he had my total support and loyalty.''

Ray has a simple coaching formula.

''The No. 1 thing I try to teach players is what hard work is all about,'' he said. ''I'm talking about long, long hours in the gym, day in and day out. There are no shortcuts or easy roads to success. Being with your girlfriend should never get in the way of you shooting 500 or even 1,000 shots a day, if that's what you're supposed to do. And when game time comes, do your job. If they are depending upon you to get 10 rebounds and 20 points a night, then make sure you get them.''

Rivers has no complaints.

''He has a way of getting big men to work hard, and he gets the best out of them,'' Rivers said. ''He's terrific. He has a lot of Basketball knowledge, he's doing a hell of a job and his players really listen to him and trust him.''

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Added: April 29, 2009


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