Q&A With Sam Cassell
SLAM catches up with Sam Cassell at the NHSI in Baltimore.
by Franklyn Calle
As part of my time in Baltimore covering the National High School Invitational, I was able to catch up with three-time NBA champion Sam Cassell. Shout outs to Gatorade for facilitating the interview! Cassell, a Baltimore native, was hanging out in the Gatorade’s G Series Mobile Locker Room just outside the arena on Saturday during the boy’s Championship game where the current Washington Wizards assistant spoke to the winning team after the game.
The G Series Mobile Locker Room is a state-of-art facility that is traveling to eight high schools nationwide between March and May. Athletes at these schools will have the special opportunity to be some of the first to test the new G Series Sports performance products, which were designed by Gatorade scientists in a joint effort with some of the planet’s greatest athletes to supply fuels, fluids and nutrients before, during and after workouts, practices and/or games.
Now through Sunday, April 11, Gatorade is holding a photo contest to find the final high school to receive a visit from the G Series Mobile Locker Room. And it’s quite simple. High school athletes, coaches, administrators or parents may submit a brief story about their own locker room rituals, along with a photo, to the Gatorade Facebook fan page (www.Facebook.com/Gatorade) before Sunday, April 11. The winner will receive a visit from the G Series Mobile Locker Room at his or her school, as well as a $500 gift card for themselves.
During halftime I hustled over to the G Series Mobile Locker Room parked behind the arena and spoke with Cassell for a few minutes while being able to get back to my seat just in time before the start of the third quarter. It was either during the halftime break or try and see if I could catch him after the game while he hung out with the NHSI champs Findlay Prep.
He doesn’t need an introduction but for those that aren’t too familiar with his careers achievements, I’ll give you a quick rundown. After playing high school ball at Paul Lawrence Dunbar HS in Baltimore, he committed to playing college ball at DePaul University. Change of plans occurred after the NCAA declared him academically ineligible. He began his college career at San Jacinto College, a community college in Texas. As a junior he transferred to Florida State. After averaging 18.3 points, 4.9 assists, 4.3 rebounds as a senior, he was selected by the Houston Rockets with 24th overall pick. In his first two years in the league, Cassell would win NBA championships along side Kenny Smith. He then had stints with the Phoenix Suns, Dallas mavericks and New Jersey Nets, before spending four years with the Milwaukee Bucks. In Milwaukee, he teamed up with Ray Allen and Glenn Robinson — reaching all the way up to Game 7 of the Eastern Conference Finals. Cassell was then traded to the Minnesota Timberwolves, where he made the 2004 NBA All-Star Game and helped Minnesota reach the Western Conference Finals. After spending some time with the LA Clippers, the Baltimore native joined the Boston Celtics in route to their 17th NBA title. In May of 2009, Cassell was named assistant coach of the Washington Wizards under Flip Saunders. He scored over 15,000 career points throughout his career.
Hope you enjoy!
SLAM: How has life been treating you after retirement?
Sam Cassell: It’s going good. It’s going wonderful for me. I can’t ask to be in a better position. I’m doing something that I always wanted to do when I finish playing basketball, and that’s coaching. Life is fine.
SLAM: Has it been hard to adjust to your current position as an assistant coach with the Washington Wizards instead of picking up the ball and playing like you did for over 15 years in the league?
SC: It’s not hard but it’s frustrating sometimes because I just got out the game seven or eight months ago. I chose to do that. It’s definitely a learning experience for me. It’s been an experience that I will always cherish. I got some great guys to learn from in head coach Flip and assistant coaches Randy Wittman and Don Zierden; I’ve learned a lot from those guys.
SLAM: What is the biggest adjustment you’ve had to make as an assistant coach?
SC: I’m still learning how to control my emotions. I can’t take control of the game because I’m not on the court but now I’m learning from Flip how to take control of the game while being in a suit and tie on the sideline.
SLAM: Now that you are coach and not a player, how do you see the game?
SC: You look at it from a different perspective. As a player, you dictate and know what you want to do and what you’re going to get. As a coach, you don’t know what you’re going to get from certain guys every night. So every night presents different problems, and different advantages and disadvantages.
SLAM: After the championship game is over, you will have a chance to speak with the players. Is there anything in particular that you want to tell them?
SC: Just enjoy the game of basketball. Enjoy college since some of these kids are going to college next year. Enjoy the aspect of it and move forward with your life.
SLAM: Since we’re here at the National High School Invitational I have to ask you, what is the best memory you have from your playing days at Dunbar HS?
SC: We were a powerhouse. Best memory is when I went to Hawaii my senior year in ’88. Coming from East Baltimore and going to Hawaii to play high school basketball; that was like whoa! It was crazy.
SLAM: Who were the top ballers in high school at that time?
SC: Lets see. I would have to say Bobby Hurley and Malik Sealy.
SLAM: Who was your biggest rival in high school?
SC: Biggest rival was this kid named Devin Boyd. He was the best guard from West Baltimore and I was the best guard from East Baltimore. So when we collided, both sides of town were getting together and West Baltimore would say he was the best player and East Baltimore would say I was the best player. And of course I was the one that made it to the pros.
SLAM: As we sit here in Gatorade’s G Series Mobile Locker Room, speak on the importance of Gatorade drinks in regards to performance and staying hydrated?
SC: It’s very important, you know, this product that Gatorade has. At first, only college and pros could absorb this. Now they have presented it to high school kids to stay hydrated. Sometimes kids before the game don’t have proper energy and at Gatorade they have a drink for that. They get a recovery drink so after you are done playing and your muscles are fatigued, that’s the best time to stretch but you also burn some of your calories and now they got the recovery drink for that, besides the regular drink. Now they got something for all segments of the game. Before, during and after. And the after is the most important one, the recovery one. That’s my favorite drink.
SLAM: How important is it for athletes to make sure they have the proper intakes of energy and nutrients before a game?
SC: A lot. What you put in your body is what you get out. If you don’t eat right before a game, you are going to feel sluggish. Like I said, the recovery drink is good. A lot of guys like to drink these recovery shakes after the game but it’s too thick, you know. The Gatorade recovery drink is very good.
SLAM: What did you drink or eat back in high school before and after games to help you with your performance?
SC: I didn’t know how to, man. Unfortunately, Gatorade didn’t have a recovery drink back then (laughs), but its cool. I did drink Gatorade back then though. After a game I probably drank a soda (laughs).
SLAM: How do you see the Washington Wizards organization going forward?
SC: That’s all on management. But they’ll get it together. We have a great team of guys that understand what we need to do, so they’ll get it done.
SLAM: Where do you see your career heading from here?
SC: I want to be a head coach in this league. When? Who knows. But I’m going to keep working. This is my passion. This is my drive. And when I get the opportunity, I’m going to take advantage of it just like I did when I played. For now, I’m learning. Just learning all I can learn.
SLAM: What’s your best NBA memory as a player?
SC: My best memory isn’t any particular game or day. It’s just winning championships.
SLAM: Any in particular?
SC: All of them were sweet. You can’t put one championship over another. But the Houston championship was great because that was the first championship the city had ever won in any sport. And when I got to Boston, it was the Celtics. The prestige. The history. Winning a championship in Boston, nothing replaces that.