A Q + A with a retired Clyde Drexler.
Retired from the NBA since 1998 and enshrined in the Hall of Fame since 2004, Clyde Drexler has come to the conclusion that he didn’t like practicing. Despite being retired now over 10 years, the 46-year-old still finds himself working in basketball on a daily basis. Drexler, who also has his number retired by the University of Houston in 2004, has remained close to the Houston community since winning a title as a Rocket in 1995.
SLAM recently chatted with Drexler about where he is now and where he’ll be in the future.
SLAM: What have you been doing since you left the League?
Clyde Drexler: I’ve been doing a lot of things. I spend a lot of time with my children, playing a lot of golf, working with the Rockets—I do the home broadcasts, and countless other things. I talk about what you see out on the floor, analyze it, talk about what teams—the tendencies, what they like to do, what they’re trying to do and see and just point out the strengths and weaknesses of each and every player. And that’s an easy gig if you played the game. Right now, I’m working with Alltel Wireless. They have a promotion called “My Circle Hoops Getaway,” You have to go to Alltelbasketball.com to enter. If you’re lucky enough to win, you get to go to a regular season college or NBA basketball game of your choice, on a private jet, with 10 of your closest friends. And if you don’t have 10 friends, when you win this I’m sure you’ll get them! (Laughs)
SLAM: What are the Rockets’ playoff chances this year?
CD: I think the Rockets have an excellent chance to go to the championship, but first they got to get healthy. And if they can get healthy, I think the chance is as good as anybody else’s. I think you have to consider the Lakers and the Celtics the front-runners. And I think Cleveland would have something to say about that, and maybe the Rockets and San Antonio. You never know.
SLAM: What do you miss about being in the NBA and going to practice everyday?
CD: Let’s make this perfectly clear: I don’t miss going to practice. Practice… Practice? (Laughs). I definitely miss the camaraderie that the guys shared. I miss the competition, but you know I retired in ’98 and not for one second have I ever thought about going back. I think when you’re playing its awesome, it’s what you live for, but after 15 years it was time to do something else.
SLAM: You chose to wear the Houston Rockets jacket when the 50 greatest players was announced, having retired in 98—that’s 10 years ago—looking back do you feel like more of a Rocket or more of a Blazer?
CD: Well you got to look at the circumstances surrounding 1997. We won the championship in ‘95, I was still playing with the Rockets, and we had a chance to win the championship that year, and we were a pretty good team. I’m from Houston. I played college ball in Houston, so I could of chose either one, I just chose the team at the moment, and it was a good choice. Even though I stayed 11-and-a-half years in Portland and I loved my time there, and I still spend my summers there, but at the time it was a good decision.
SLAM: Was there anybody you felt that was let off that list that could have been there?
CD: There were a couple players I thought that were left off, but I don’t want to get into that. Guys like Dominique Wilkins, maybe Adrian Dantley, Bob Lanier, guys who really were deserving, but I’m sure there are like five or 10 other guys that we’re leaving off of that. There have been a lot of great players to play in this League and there is always going to be a bit of controversy when you’re selecting teams of that nature.
SLAM: You went to the NBA Finals twice as a Blazer. Looking back—do you think you guys were good enough to beat the Pistons or Bulls in either case?
CD: I think we were definitely good enough to beat the Pistons in 89-90 and the Bulls in ’92. Every one of those games was pretty close and could have gone either way. We had guys like Buck Williams who was a power forward, Kevin Duckworth who was our center, who passed this season, this year—may God bless his soul. We had guys like Jerome Kersey, Terry Porter. We had guys who came and worked each and every day, and a lot of those guys were second round picks who overachieved. Buck Williams and I were the only guys who were drafted in the first round, and, so, off the bench we had guys like Danny Ainge, Cliff Robinson, very talented, very talented team. Rick Adelman was our head coach and we had some great years in Portland.
SLAM: What do you remember about 1992, the year you were on the Dream Team with Jordan and then you played each other in the NBA Finals?
CD: We always had a very friendly relationship. Very competitive, but very friendly. I remember he won the MVP and I came in second in ‘92. They won the championship; we were the also-rans. And than the Dream Team, we were finally teammates and we were able to win the Gold Medal together. I have a lot of respect for him. He’s the ultimate competitor.
SLAM: You were on some TV shows and stuff over the years, like “Married with Children” and “Arliss.” What show did you have the most fun doing and being on?
CD: I don’t know if I had more fun doing “Married with Children,” or when I did a TV series called “The Sentinel,” that was a lot of fun. We had a real party doing that one. I got to be myself; it was a real pilot. So that was cool. “Dancing with the Stars,” “Pros Versus Joes,” they were a lot of fun, good experience. My favorite was “The Sentinel.” It was more like a real movie.
SLAM: Do you think you should have lasted longer on “Dancing with the Stars”?
CD: I was terrible. I shouldn’t have lasted as long as I did.
SLAM: How did you last that long?
SLAM: When you left the NBA, you kind of went right to University of Houston and started coaching. What did you learn with that experience?
CD: I though it was a great way to do two things: 1) Give back to my alma mater, University of Houston is where I went to college, Phi Slamma Jamma was born, 2) It was a good way to transition from the NBA to regular life, and coaching in college was something that I always wanted to do, and to have the opportunity to do it at my alma mater was special. I couldn’t let it go. I did it for two years, raised a lot of money for the program. We were very competitive, and I had a great experience.
SLAM: Were you a little disappointed about how things turned out, ultimately?
CD: No—because I took over a last-place team. The best three players were seniors who were leaving, which means we only had five players on scholarship by the time I took the job. I had to go to the gym and get like seven or eight walk-ons in order to compete. So I knew what I was getting into. And we beat some good teams over those two years. We beat University of Texas. They had two All-Americans and were rated in the top-five in the country.
SLAM: Would you be interested in coaching in the NBA at some point?
CD: That would be something that I would entertain in about three years. My youngest son out of four children is a ninth grader. When he goes off to college I’ll be free, and would love to do something full-time as a coach or general manager in the NBA.
SLAM: What kind of coach would Clyde Drexler be in the League?
CD: I’d be a communicator. I’d be a guy that would demand the most, demands the maximum, out of his players, and I would give them total respect, and the key is as coach I think you have to define roles. You have to define roles of the players, let them know what you expect out of them. If you communicate that effectively, I don’t think you’ll have a problem because at the end of the day they’re the ones who are going to get the job done. You got to give them room to succeed; you got to help them succeed.
SLAM: You played in a smaller market during your career, do you ever feel like you were underrated or overlooked as far as legacy of NBA stars?
CD: People always said throughout my career that I was considered the best guard in the West. Michael was the best player in the East, so they always wanted us to face each other and we finally got a chance in the ‘92 Finals. But, for many years, people said that if you would of been in New York, you would of been a bigger name then Michael Jordan because you surely had the game to be there.
SLAM: Well, that’s a compliment.
CD: You don’t get to choose your team, now, though. You go with the team that drafted you and the Trail Blazers drafted me when 13 other teams passed me by; so I had a certain amount of loyalty to the Trail Blazers.
SLAM: What did being in the NBA teach you about life?
CD: The most important thing I learned was probably to always conduct yourself as a professional. Even when you’re tired, you don’t feel like it, this is what you do, trying to bring the best you can offer each and every day, and give it your total best effort. If you do that, you can feel satisfied and happy when you are able to walk away. And if you don’t do that, I don’t think I’d be able to sleep at night. Because your teammates are there and you don’t ever want to let your teammates down.
SLAM: What was the smartest thing you did with your money?
CD: That’s a good question. The smartest thing I did with my money was to keep it. Don’t spend it. Put it away. If you’re going to spend it buy real estate, buy something tangible, and that’s very simple advice but it goes a long way.