SAN ANTONIO Back in the days when he coached in overalls, Larry Brown was pelted with avocados on 10-cent beer night at the old HemisFair Arena.
It was 1975, and they hated him here.
Brown was coach of the rival Denver Nuggets in the ABA, and the fan group known as the Baseline Bums dumped guacamole on him as he walked to the exit tunnel.
The Baseline Bums were a creation of the Spurs' business manager, John Begzos, whose background was in minor league baseball. They wore Bums T-shirts and sat in a 120-seat section directly over the ramp leading to the visiting locker room.
''I had made this comment that the only thing I liked about San Antonio was the guacamole dip, and for eight days they kept playing that sound bite. And there was a lot more to it because their coach (Bob Bass) said something about me,'' Brown recalled Saturday on the second straight off day in the NBA Finals.
''So they had that 10-cent beer night, and people were hitting me with avocados and throwing dip on me. I remembered walking through the crowd and people were punching me. In the ABA that was typical.
''So it was an interesting experience. But I came back and coached here, and I found out I liked a lot more than the dip about San Antonio,'' Brown said.
In 1988, the Spurs made a splash by hiring their old nemesis as their head coach after he had just led Kansas to the NCAA championship. At a ''Meet the New Coach'' event at a local mall, the Bums showed up and gave Brown a gift.
Yep, guacamole. Presented rather than pitched.
Brown coached the Spurs from 1988 to 1992, a time when David Robinson was just beginning his career and the franchise was still defined by its many playoff failures.
He guided the Spurs during their heartbreaking seven-game loss to the Portland Trail Blazers in the 1990 Western Conference semifinals, a series that included a double-overtime loss in Game 5 and an overtime loss in Game 7.
In that Game 7, Spurs guard Rod Strickland threw the most infamous pass of his career, blindly tossing the ball over his head and behind him to where he thought Sean Elliot would be, only to have Portland's Jerome Kersey pick up the ball and throw it upcourt to Clyde Drexler, who was awarded a breakaway foul two free throws and the ball back.
The Trail Blazers went on to win and advanced to the finals, while San Antonio would end up having to wait nine more years before making it to the championship round.
''If we win that series, I think our history is different,'' said general manager R.C. Buford, who was a gofer under Brown at Kansas and moved to San Antonio in 1988 as one of Brown's assistants along with current Spurs coach Gregg Popovich.
Brown left the Spurs midway through the 1991-92 season after a falling out with then-owner Red McCombs.
''Who knows what could have happened. Does that team stay together and make a run? Does Larry not leave?'' said Buford, who left with Brown to become an assistant with the Los Angeles Clippers.
Buford returned to San Antonio in 1994 as Popovich's head scout and eventually became the general manager who drafted Manu Ginobili at No. 57 in 1999 and Tony Parker at No. 28 in 2001.
Buford also picked Luis Scola at No. 56 in 2002, and the Spurs expect to sign Ginobili's Argentine Olympic teammate this summer. ''He's the best forward in Europe right now,'' Popovich said.
Fortunes certainly have changed for the Spurs, who won their first title in 1999, their second in 2003, and currently hold a 1-0 lead over the Detroit Pistons heading into Game 2 on Sunday night.
It may be a small market, but San Antonio certainly has some big memories.
Spurs guard Devin Brown grew up here, his allegiances split between the local team and Michael Jordan's Chicago Bulls.
''I had David's poster, I liked Vinny Del Negro, Vernon Maxwell, Cadillac Anderson. I don't know if you can go back this far, but Uwe Blab? Remember him?'' Devin Brown said. ''We had season tickets over the years at the HemisFair and the Alamodome. My sister was a ball girl, so I was always a big fan.''
He remembers going to his first Spurs game, seeing San Antonio play Philadelphia and watching Hall of Famers George Gervin and Julius Erving play against each other.
''After the game I remember my mom talking to Dr. J. He happened to be walking by, and we were in the back. I was very young, and all I remember is my mom asking if he would hold me so she could take a picture. I remember he couldn't because of the liability or some sort of insurance thing.
''But I got to meet him yesterday, and I told him the story. He didn't remember, but when my mom told him it put a smile on his face and he said, 'Well, look at him. I shook his hand and look what he's doing now,''' Brown said Saturday.
The Spurs' third-year guard also recalled the final game at the HemisFair in 1993 when Charles Barkley hit a shot over Robinson to oust the Spurs in the conference semifinals.
''There was the night we packed the house in MJ's last year. It was something around 42,000,'' he said. ''The Alamodome hadn't seen people like that.''
The old days in San Antonio still bring a smile to the face of Brown, who recalled one of the details of his feud with Bass.
''I said 'Bob Bass better not stand next to any radiators because he wears so much polyester.'''
Thanks for the memory, Larry.
Peninsula Clarion ©2015. All Rights Reserved.