I was shocked and saddened by the news of the passing of Dave DeBusschere.
When I think of DeBusschere, I remember an iron man, a warrior, a tough, hard-nosed competitor. When playing the forward position, he was a consummate professional, a team player and a vital part of the successful Knicks teams coached by Red Holzman.
|Dave DeBusschere helped put the University of Detroit on the map.|
I remember those teams vividly. The backcourt featured Walt Frazier, Earl "The Pearl" Monroe and Dick Barnett. Up front, the Knicks featured Bill Bradley at one forward slot, Willis Reed in the middle and DeBusschere. The trio of Bradley, Reed and DeBusschere blended so well. They respected each other as teammates and respected the jersey. DeBusschere didn't need to be in the spotlight -- all he wanted to do was win.
There was a great rivalry between DeBusschere and Gus Johnson of the Bullets. Sadly, Johnson's life ended way too soon when he died of cancer several years ago.
DeBusschere had great inside/outside ability and was a defensive dynamo. He rebounded, defended, scored and shot well from the perimeter. He knew how to win and had all the intangibles that coaches talk about.
He was also Mr. University of Detroit. There was no doubt he was the school's big superstar. U of D produced the likes of Spencer Haywood, Terry Tyler, John Long and Terry Duerod, but DeBusschere was the guy who gave Detroit the acclaim and fame back in the '60s.
He played for coach Bob Callihan, who used to tell me stories about his favorite player. When I took over as the coach at Detroit, Callahan told me how easy it was to work with and motivate DeBusschere because all Dave wanted to do was win.
DeBusschere was a two-sport star who also pitched for the White Sox, and he became one of the youngest player-coaches in NBA history, handling both duties with the Pistons.
I didn't have much contact with DeBusschere in my lifetime, but when I did I was in awe. I'll never forget standing in the Knicks locker room and talking to Reed, who was a friend. I told Willis that I wanted to meet DeBusschere because he was all about winning.
To this day, I believe he had an impact on my going to the University of Detroit. When I had that conversation with him and Reed, Dave asked what I did. Dick Lloyd had just left as the head coach at Rutgers, so I wasn't going to return as an assistant there.
He knew how to win and had all the intangibles that coaches talk about.
DeBusschere suggested I apply at Detroit since the Titans were looking for a head coach. Reed told Dave that I was great with young people. I will never forget that, but I doubt Willis remembers that moment.
A couple of weeks later, I got a call out of nowhere asking me to apply at Detroit and I ended up getting the job. That changed my life because it gave me great visibility and exposure.
When I first took over at Detroit, I hung up pictures of DeBusschere in his Knicks uniform and Haywood in a Seattle jersey. I told my players that they could be just like those two guys, the next Detroit All-American performers!
DeBusschere will be missed by his many friends and his family. Everybody knew he was the consummate professional who came to play every day. None of his coaches had to worry about his effort and performance. He played only one way -- with feeling, emotion and pride. He's one key reason that championship banners are flying high at Madison Square Garden.