Woolridge a friend of the people

The first report out of Louisiana was shocking to those who hadn’t heard his name in a while. And, as these things often are, it was cold.

Former NBA player Orlando Woolridge, 52, was pronounced dead Thursday night at his parents’ home in Mansfield, La. The coroner said he had been under hospice care for a chronic heart condition.

And from there, the story was filled out with the facts of Woolridge’s life: A 6-foot-9 star at Notre Dame, he was a member of the 1978 Final Four team. The 6th overall pick of the Chicago Bulls in the 1981 Draft, he played for seven NBA teams over 13 seasons before concluding his pro career after two years in Italy in ’96.

And then the transgressions: a suspension for substance abuse while playing for New Jersey during the 1987-88 season. And, 25 years later, almost mysteriously, after returning home following coaching stints in the WNBA and ABA came an arrest this past February on a charge of theft for allegedly stealing aluminum lines used to transfer water to natural gas drilling sites, material valued at $2,000 and sold for scrap.

By then, Orlando Woolridge was dying.

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