Legends Spotlight: Wes Matthews and Adrienne Goodson

October 10, 2016

Last Saturday October 8th,  the National Basketball Retired Players Association hosted the latest edition of its youth basketball and mentoring program called “Full Court Press: Prep for Success”. Several former NBA/WNBA standouts were in attendance at the YMCA of Greater Boston including Wes Matthews, Dwight Davis, Bob Bigelow, and Adrienne Goodson. The program travels all over the country to introduce kids to positive role models in both basketball and life. NBRPA writer Jon Teitel has spent time talking with many of the greatest players in NBA history and will share his interviews at LegendsofBasketball.com. Jon visited with Wes Matthews and Adrienne Goodson about their role with the Full Court Press program and winning back-to-back NBA titles.

Wes Matthews

What is your role with the Full Court Press program? I have the responsibility of being a teacher/mentor. It is a great opportunity for retired players to remain relevant in the community and have a chance to give back to the kids.

What was your favorite highlight from the clinic? Every kid was working hard. My highlight was their camaraderie as well as watching all the counselors work together.

What is your coaching philosophy on the court? I am a clone of Pat Riley/Hubie Brown: I preach hard work/dedication.

 

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I hope they learned that their dreams can come true. Kids have to understand the importance of a good work ethic and the right attitude to be successful in their lives and do the right things.

What was your transition like from basketball player to retired player? I have always stayed active so I never considered myself retired: even after leaving the NBA I played pro in different countries around the world. I have always been around the sport.

Why did you decide to join the National Basketball Retired Players Association? It is the 2nd version of a family. I have been blessed to be in the fraternity with some of the greatest players in the world, and this is just an extension of that.

Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to players who are embarking on life after basketball? It is very beneficial. Some players have a tougher transition and do not know how to leave the limelight, but the NBRPA helps with education/health care/etc. It makes the transition that much easier for whatever needs you have.

In what ways has your involvement in the NBRPA helped you become an advocate to other retired players? I hope I showed that there are other avenues available after you step off the court. It is great to talk to people on a different level: it is just an extension of an association that you are already a part of.

You have accomplished so many things on the court, but what do you seek to accomplish off the court? I hope to be a leader in my community and do some positive things. If I can get even 1-2 people to buy into what I am doing with my foundation/coaching, that is what it is all about. I love to give back because the next generation is so important.

On 3/3/79 as a player for Wisconsin you banked in a half-court shot at the buzzer in a 2-PT win over Michigan State: did you think the shot was going in, and did you ever let Magic Johnson forget it when you later became his Lakers teammate?! I knew that it was good when it left my hand: I was surprised that they gave me a few steps to get it off. It was 1 of the greatest games in school history. After I became Magic’s teammate we watched the game 1 more time…and then he threw the tape into the fireplace! It was the last game the Spartans lost that season so I felt that I was the catalyst to help him win the NCAA title that year.

In the decisive Game 3 of the 1983 Eastern Conference 1st round as a player for Atlanta, you scored 10 PTS in a loss at Boston: what was your reaction when your teammate Tree Rollins got into a fight with Danny Ainge and then bit his finger? I thought Danny was crazy: Tree was a foot taller than him! That was the NBA back then during the 1980s when basketball was at its best: battle after battle. Danny was a good player but he just messed with the wrong guy.

Thursday marks the 30th anniversary of your signing with the Lakers as a free agent before winning back-to-back titles with LA in 1987/1988: how did that decision change your life? That was the beginning of a great opportunity and the highlight of my career. I walked into the #1 organization in the NBA and the rest was history. Not many people can say they played with Magic/Kareem/Worthy and everyone else on those championship teams. Nobody had won back-to-back titles since the Celtics in the 1960s. Those were the glory days and it was truly an honor.

The very next day was the birth of your son Wesley, who is preparing to begin his 8th season as a pro and is already 1 of the top-100 3-PT shooters in NBA history: are you doing anything special for his 30th birthday on Friday? We are going to go out and I am just going to hug him. My son has always loved the game of basketball: even when he was 1 year old he wanted to come with me to practice and always had a basketball in his hand. It is a beautiful treat to see him play so well.

Magic started the 1987 playoffs by making an 88-footer to beat the 1st half buzzer in a win over Denver and finished it with his famous game-winning hook shot with 2 seconds left in a 1-PT win at Boston: what was it like to play with a guy who just kept making amazing shot after amazing shot? They did not call him Magic for nothing! I was blessed by the basketball gods but he was like a magician on the court. That sky hook was 1 of the most famous shots in NBA history, but I was not surprised that he made it because he was working on it in practice all week. He could just pull a rabbit out of his hat.

Adrienne Goodson

What is your role with the Full Court Press program? This was the 1st camp that I have done for them. I did a camp a couple of summers ago at Rucker Park with Nate Archibald/Johnny Newman and it was a great day. The Boston camp was also great: the different stations flowed well and I learned some new drills.

What was your favorite highlight from the clinic? All of it was really great so no 1 part really stands out, but it was nice to see the kids have a chance to go to class within each station: they learned how to save money, prepare for college, etc.

What is your coaching philosophy on the court? It is a camp so it is mostly about drills: we try to emphasize working on their skills so that they are fundamentally sound. We try to have them visualize their opponents because preparation is a large part of the game, as are tactics like pivoting/making a crossover/changing your speed.

What do you hope that the kids get out of this great experience? I hope that they can go home and practice their skills in their driveway even if they do not live near a basketball court. We promote good sportsmanship, discipline, and respect for the coaches. It is important to develop your character every day: your attitude determines your altitude. You have to be good in the locker room and be a great teammate. It is 1 thing for a parent to say it but maybe we can reinforce that as well.

What is the biggest advantage of conducting co-ed clinics? It gives each gender an understanding of the other gender. It shows the girls that they have to be more fundamentally sound even if the boys are stronger/quicker. The boys will eventually understand that the idea of “playing like a girl” goes right out the window!

Why was your transition from basketball player to retired player so difficult? Women go to college for all 4 years (rather than turning pro early) so we have a big skill set. There are a lot of things that we can do but we need to figure out what our strengths are. Falling back on basketball helped me a lot because it allowed me to be a good coach. If I want to work in a front office then I would have to use my connections and start at square 1: there is a big networking aspect to it. If I am an athlete for 17 years while my friend has been in the workforce for 17 years, I am green when I retire and then make the switch over to corporate America.

How has joining the National Basketball Retired Players Association expanded the list of skills that you bring to the table? When you play basketball for so long it does not allow you time to hone your other skills for later in life: when I played in the WNBA/overseas my priority was my team. Thank god organizations like the players’ union/NBRPA are incorporating employment opportunities and developmental/leadership programs for their players. I want to be at the pro level 1 day so I am working on my front office skills, which is why I am getting my Masters in management.

Being a part of the NBRPA with other legends of basketball, how beneficial is the organization to former players who want to get into coaching? It lets me put myself out there so people can see what I am working on. I get to network at different conferences and connect with new people. If Kaplan University wants to award 5 scholarships/year, then people like myself/Lynette Woodard are given great opportunities. It opens doors and gives us opportunities.

How active are NBRPA members on social media? Everyone is on Twitter/Instagram as well as Facebook: that is where we stay in touch with 1 another. Life is moving so quickly that networks are the best way to keep in touch. It is a great resource to gather information on other people and put your own information out there.

There was no American pro women's league when you graduated from Old Dominion in 1988: what did you and other top female players think when the ABL was finally formed a decade later? It was awesome. I was playing down in Brazil with Val Whiting, who gave me the application. The league office was out in San Jose and I was friendly with many players from Stanford who helped spearhead the league. Lisa Leslie opted out to play in the WNBA, but I got to play with Dawn Staley and we had a great team in Richmond. I wish the WNBA had adopted some of the ABL programs like helping with finances/internships. After our season was over we would go check out the WNBA games, and when the ABL folded about 40 of us switched to the other league. The growth over the past 20 years is great…especially the salaries! It was fun to play at home in front of our family/friends.

In 1997 you were named to the 1st-team All-ABL team (along with Teresa Edwards/Dawn Staley/Natalie Williams/Nikki McCray): what did it mean to you to be part of such a legendary quintet? It was a testament to my skill level and showed me where I ranked among the best players in the world, so to make the 1st team was a great honor. Teresa has won 4 Olympic gold medals and I think that Dawn is the best PG to ever step onto the floor. Natalie was the best rebounder I ever played with/against: she was also a great volleyball player. Nikki was 1 of the toughest players to defend: you could not go to bed the night before playing her without thinking about it.

After being selected in the 3rd round of the 1999 WNBA consolidation draft you finished your WNBA career as 1 of only a few players with 4000+ PTS/1500+ REB: how were you able to balance your scoring with your rebounding? Rebounding was a part of scoring for me. I tell the kids I coach that I played on a team in Utah where I literally had 4 All-Stars in my starting 5. There is only 1 ball so I just crashed the boards because I knew where each of their shots would come off the rim. A lot of my rebounding came from Old Dominion: Coach Marianne Stanley would do rebounding drills where she put a cover on the rim and I also learned from Tracy Claxton (who was 1 of the most underrated rebounders ever). They would rough me up as a tall guard who would come into the post so I would just get on their nerves and scramble with them. It was 2nd nature to me: I liked rebounding.

As 1 of the best 6’ and under rebounders in the world, what is the key to getting boards when your opponent is taller than you? I never focused on that as a goal of mine: I just did it because I loved to do it. You have to use your quickness and enjoy the challenge. When taller players like Lisa Leslie/Tina Thompson/Chamique Holdsclaw would have to guard me I would try to draw them outside because then they were in my neighborhood. When I had to guard them I would wait until the pass was in the air to try and get some steals.

You turn 50 this month: what are you doing for the big day? I will continue to do the same thing I am doing right now and redefine what it means to be 50. To be honest, 50 is scared of me and I will try to keep it that way! I love the game and it has always loved me back.