Oct 31

The Patience Of Maurice Lucas

By caseyholdahl Posted in: Blazers, mauricelucas
I only have faint memories of Maurice Lucas as a basketball player. I was not yet born when he and the rest of the '76-'77 team gave the city of Portland the gift of pride wrapped up in an NBA championship, and I don't much remember Lucas' years playing for five different teams before ending his career as a Trail Blazer.

But I'm so grateful to be able to say that I did know Lucas as an assistant coach and, more importantly, as a man. It was always funny to me that the man I knew who was so kind, so willing to engage in conversation, was the same man who was rightly feared by his contemporaries. I was still rather reluctant to engage the coaches during my early days working for the team, except for when it came to talking Coach Lucas (I know most people called him Luke, but I could never muster up the courage to address a man of his stature in such a familiar way). For a good while there I was scared stiff of asking Coach McMillan a stupid question, so I opted not to ask any at all, but with Coach Lucas, the questions came easy. And it usually wasn't even questions I planned on using for stories. It was more like it just made sense to speak to a legend while I could.

Maybe it had something to do with the way he talked. He certainly forgot more about basketball than I will ever know, but he didn't talk about the game like the other coaches. I don't mean this as a slight to anyone else on the staff, but Coach Lucas never made me feel stupid or embarrassed. That's not easy for a legend to do.

And he used words like "jive." I loved that.

There would be times when he would sit on the team bench in between running the bigmen through their pregame workouts and we'd talk about whatever. It was the kind of chitchat I would usually use to loosen up someone before pulling out my recorder and getting down to business, but with Coach Lucas, the chitchat was too much fun to be ruined by work. We'd talk about family and basketball and whatever was on either of our minds for a few minutes before he'd get back to banging with guys 30 years younger than he. It was probably the same thing he did with everyone who had the opportunity to sit with him, but it made me feel like I belonged.

I like, like many others I'm sure, just figured Coach Lucas would pull through. He was much thinner and prone to tiring easily when I interviewed him after he returned to the coaching staff, but he seemed to be getting better. Maybe that was wishful thinking on my part.

“You learn a hell of a lot about the human anatomy," said Lucas. "And you learn a lot about patience too. The one thing that I’m finding is an issue for me is learning patience, being patient with myself. I’m trying to understand what this process is all about. It takes a little longer amount of time than I’d like it to take in order to recover. But it is what it is and I’m not in charge of it. I’ve just got to play my role, be patient, feed myself well, take the right meds and see if I can get back on track."

I've often wondered if Coach Lucas ever did find patience. I know I haven't. But when we play in Milwaukee on Tuesday, where Coach Lucas' Marquette jersey hangs from the rafters, I'm going to take some time while the bigmen warm up to have one more sitdown on our bench.


  1. Lovely piece Casey. As I said on the message board thread. truly a sad in Blazer-land. I lost my dad to cancer when he was still young (53) and while I too was at a somewhat delicate stage (19) in life - so I know what Mr. Lucas' kids are going through right now. My prayers go out to them as they start to bare this heavy loss. It's not easy at all, even though he had been ill in recent times. I am glad you got to share some moments with him and it's so great to know that he was easy to talk to and that you felt at ease around him compared to the other members of the staff. It almost makes it that much heart-breaking, but in the end, those who met and knew him can be thankful that he was present in their life to any degree.

    Rest in Peace Mr. Lucas

    by Anees on 10/31/2010 11:26 PM
  2. I know the patience he is talking about. We had bladder cancer sergury at the same time and pneumonia at the same time. You learn to wait and see. I am still waiting and seeing. I feel so blesssed to have recovered from my cancer and so sad that Luke didn't. I had an awful feeling when he had to retire from coaching that the cancer was taking control of his life.

    I don't know if I feel bad for him and his family or glad that his suffering is over.

    My condolence to his family

    by Hg on 10/31/2010 11:36 PM
  3. I'm not feeling to good about this. I don't take lose of someone I respect so much very easy. I'm in a daze! No sleep for me!

    by civilhold on 11/1/2010 12:24 AM
  4. He was a genuinely good person. He made a huge impression on me in a very short time at a basketball camp in the Pocono mountains in the early 80's. He was a huge, confident and ferocious player who took time out to help a skinny shy Canadian kid with his game. I still have a pair of shoes he gave me somewhere....

    He introduced me to the physical side of the game - "come over here big fella let me show you something." He went out of his way to make me feel included and I have always tried to follow his example to this day. He was a warrior and a gentleman and an excellent role model and I am sad that he is gone. Condolences to his wife and family

    John K

    by JohnK914 on 11/1/2010 5:27 AM
  5. Thanx casey a thoughtful piece.Sometimes finding Patience is a lifelong search.
    I was 19 when we won the championship.My best friend and I were sports fans from an early age.It was a great moment in my sports life. One thing I do know......we couldn't have done it without Mo.

    by DowntownVinnie on 11/1/2010 7:40 AM
  6. Nice article-well said

    by RedRudy5 on 11/1/2010 10:18 AM
  7. Oh Casey, wonderful post. I have been in tears since I heard yesterday. We will miss him so much, but his spirit is all around us.

    by madiarsg on 11/1/2010 2:24 PM
  8. Beautiful post honoring a wonderful man. I had the honor of being a ballgirl the year the Blazers won the World Championship. At first I was so intimidated by Maurice Lucas...then one night, on national television, a player from an opposing team grabbed me by the back of the neck to show me where to wipe up sweat on the floor (I never said it was a glamorous job). Maurice Lucas immediately came to my defense, yelling at the player and calling on the ref to do something. I was never again intimidated by #20, in fact, we became friends and he taught me how to NOT throw the ball like a 12 year old girl. :) He will be missed.

    by BHowes on 11/4/2010 5:08 PM
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