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Issue Date: February 2011


Life According to Austin Carr

He's part of the Cleveland Cavaliers DNA. A 1971 first-round draft pick, Austin Carr has been with the organization almost 40 years. He contributed to the Miracle of Richfield. He witnessed the rise and fall of the King. Today, he provides catchy commentary as a Cavs TV analyst for Fox Sports Ohio. Here's what Mr. Cavalier had to say from deep in The Q.
Interview By Kim Schneider

When I look at some of the players I played against — Jerry West, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain, Jerry Sloan, Walt Frazier — these are guys who are legends. I came up right behind them. It kind of gives you chills to know that I had a chance to play against those guys.

I had a little run-in with Wilt Chamberlain my rookie year. Back then centers took the basket as their personal area. You didn't come in there unless they allowed you to come in. I came down the floor, tripped him a few times and made a few baskets. So on the way back down the floor, he says, "Alright rookie, you don't belong in here. You can do whatever you want out by the foul line, but you come near the basket, I'm going to hurt you." I said, "Oh, you old man; I'm going on in there." And he hit me upside the head and knocked me in the stands.

The next time I'm coming back down the floor, I pull up and shoot a jump shot. As I'm going back down the floor he says, "You're going to be in the league a long time because you learn quick."

We had been playing downtown on Euclid and East 34th, and it was a rattrap. The move to the Coliseum was a great move.

The Miracle of Richfield was one of the high points of my career. That team was the best basketball team I ever played on. It was just a great feeling to have that kind of camaraderie among those guys. It was like a family. It was a great feeling to be around 12 human beings that cared about each other like that.

If we lost two games in a row, nobody had to say anything to anybody. We knew we had to fight, scratch and bite to win that third game. We didn't have to go around and have team meetings. We just knew it.

It was almost like I was indestructible up until my knee injury. Mentally, it was devastating. I lost a whole step. And to lose a step in this game, you lose a lot. I was able to recover and play another five years on a leg and a half. That was probably my worst time.

I wish I could have played my last seven years like I played my first three years.

The one thing I hate is that I couldn't bring a championship here.

In order to be great at the game, you not only have to have the physical ability, but you need to have a mental understanding. When I'd first go out there on the floor, I didn't need to know you from Adam, but in five minutes I was taught to be able to diagnosis the things you can do well and the things you can't do well. You learn how to figure people out quickly and how to map strategy out from that.

"Throw the hammer down," "Deep in the Q," and "Get that weak stuff out of here." Those are the three that I love to use. The rest of them, I just kind of develop as I go.

Take Andy [Varejao]. I saw that MasterCard commercial. To me what he does for our team is priceless, so I formulated that for Andy. And Mo [Williams], when he hits three or four shots in a row, I like to say, "Eeny, meeny, miny, Mo."

A lot of stuff, I just feel it. I can't try to say I'm going to do this when this happens. It's not smooth enough that way. You just got to let it flow out.

Even though we're having a tough time, Mo, Antawn [Jamison] and Boobie [Gibson] never lose their focus. They keep fighting and keep moving forward. You never see them hanging their heads. That's so important.

The fans have been disappointed so much that sometimes they overreact a little bit when it comes to failure, but they're still here to support. They don't quit. That's for sure. They don't quit. It's not like a sport. It's like a job. And fans take it seriously.

This franchise is my life. Since I came out of college I've been with them in one form or another. To be known as Mr. Cavalier really means something to me. This franchise has been around a long time, and it's stood the test of time.


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