It happens to everyone as they get older, though I don't think of myself as being an old-timer. So last night, as I was looking at Mike Dunleavy's coaching record, considering if perhaps he's coached his last game, and realizing that he's 15th on the NBA's games coached list, it kind of hit me. Here's a guy I watched as a PLAYER who is possibly retiring from his career as a COACH.
But I clearly wasn't as into the NBA in the 70s as I am now, because I have no recollection whatsoever of Kim Hughes as a player. Then again, there's not a lot to remember.
Hughes was a standout for the Wisconsin Badgers from 1970 to 1974, in a twin towers front court that featured his twin brother Kerry. His first connection to the Clippers came when he was drafted in the third round of the 1974 draft by the Buffalo Braves. (The NBA only had 18 teams at the time, so middle of the third round then would be middle of the second round today.) He didn't make that loaded Braves squad (which happened to be the best team in the history of the franchise at 49-33) and went to Italy to play for a season.
He made it back stateside the next year, where he was part of the New York Nets team that won the final ABA championship in 75-76. The next season Hughes made it to the NBA along with Jackie Moon when the remaining ABA teams were merged in. Hughes played his rookie season alongside Julius Erving that final ABA campaign, before Dr. J was sold to the Sixers for a washing machine. (I'm looking forward to hearing Hughes' stories of the last days of the ABA.)
He played two seasons with the NBA Nets, then signed as a free agent with the Nuggets where he played a couple of seasons, and finished out his NBA career in Cleveland. Statistically, his best pro season was his rookie year with the Nets, but of course that was against weaker ABA competition. He never did a lot in the NBA.
Here's a little old timer LA NBA trivia for everyone though. When he was traded to the Cavs in 1980, it was for former Laker Dave Robisch. Who else remembers the full frontal nudity shot of Robisch in the showers after a Lakers game back in the day? I looked for that on youtube, but surprisingly didn't find it.
After his half season in Cleveland, Hughes returned to Italy where he played eight more seasons in that NBA head coach feeder league. After he quit playing, he went almost immediately into the NBA coaching pipeline. Scout for the Bucks, scout, assistant and Director of Player Personnel for the Nuggets before joining Mike Dunleavy's inaugural staff in LA.
If you're looking for early coaching influences, here's one interesting possibility: Mike D'Antoni. Hughes' first assistant coaching gig was on D'Antoni's staff during his ill-fated first NBA stop in Denver. They also have the Italian league connection, where although they were on different teams, they were Americans playing in the same league against each other for eight full seasons. By the way, he worked with John Lucas in Denver, where Luke was an assistant for three years. It's a small NBA world after all. His days as a Bucks scout were mostly in the Dunleavy era, which explains why MDsr put him on his staff when he became the Clippers head coach.
Hughes' journeyman NBA career is pretty unremarkable. There is no profile of the kind of NBA player that makes a good NBA coach. Many never played the game at an elite level. Guys like the Van Gundy's, Gregg Popovich, Eric Spoelstra and Flip Saunders are just basketball junkies that became elite coaches. A few were solid pros - guys like Doc Rivers, Lionel Hollins, Nate McMillan and Kurt Rambis. Interestingly, very few great players become decent head coaches. Of the current crop of coaches, I believe that Doc and Hollins were the only ones to ever make an all star team, and they did it only once each. By contrast, the most recent hall of fame type players to try it have been major busts (Isiah Thomas, Kevin McHale, Larry Bird).
And a whole bunch of NBA head coaches were NBA journeymen, like Hughes.
Hughes' 2.7 points per game NBA average is NOT the lowest scoring average among current NBA head coaches. That honor belongs to Rick Carlisle at 2.2 points per game. And four other head coaches played fewer NBA minutes than Hughes' 5719 - George Karl (281), Carlisle (1461), John Kuester (1527) and D'Antoni (2656), although Karl like Hughes also played in the ABA, as did Larry Brown.
But here is the money stat on Kim Hughes. The thing you need to know. The thing that sets him apart from everyone else. Kim Hughes is the worst free throw shooter in the history of the NBA. It's true.
Among NBA players who have shot at least 100 free throws, Kim Hughes' career .333 free throw percentage is BY FAR the worst in history. Of his 186 free throws, he made only 62. By way of comparison, DeAndre Jordan has made 68 out of 180 to place third on the all time worst list.
But you know what they say: those who can't do, teach.