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Collected Wisdom: Henry Bibby, Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach and former NBA player

Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Henry Bibby talks about playing for coach John Wooden, his history with Memphis coach Lionel Hollins and his relationship with son Mike Bibby.
by Berry Tramel Published: May 11, 2013

Memphis Grizzlies assistant coach Henry Bibby grew up in Franklinton, N.C., then went to UCLA, where he started on three NCAA title teams as John Wooden's point guard. The first two of those titles were won in the seasons between legendary players Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and Bill Walton.

Bibby spent nine years in the NBA; he started on the 76ers' 1976-77 team, which lost to Portland in the 1977 NBA Finals and opposing point guard Lionel Hollins, who now is Memphis' head coach. Bibby's coaching odyssey includes stints in the WNBA, the USBL and the Continental Basketball Association, including three years each in Oklahoma City and Tulsa.

Bibby and his son, Mike, are one of only three father-son combinations to win NCAA titles as players. But Henry was estranged from his son for many years.

I shot foul shots from the elbow. I don't know, Coach Wooden told me if I was successful shooting there, I could keep shooting. I think I shot 'em there in high school. I thought it was a little closer to the basket. But I guess it was a little further away. I don't know. I was OK shooting it from there.

From Coach Wooden, I learned discipline. I learned details. I learned probably more so than anything else, to be team oriented. Being happy for the success of my teammates, other than myself. That's what most guys don't understand. Most guys don't understand that you have to be happy for the success of other people.

I played against Lionel and I played with Lionel in Philadelphia. We're friends, but he's my boss. Again, we were on the same level when we played. Now, talking about being successful, what Coach Wooden taught me, is that I'm happy that he's successful now. I'm happy for his success, that he's gone on and become the great coach that he's become. A lot of people probably would be envious of that and say they want that position. I'm happy for this guy. He went through a lot of work and a lot of dedication to get where he is today. My thinking reflects from what Coach Wooden taught me. Be happy for the success of your teammates as well as yourself.

In the 1977 Finals, I remember we had 'em beat. We were up 2-0. Going out to Portland to play. We just had to win one game out there and we knew we had it. Of the three games, we didn't win any. I remember that probably more so than anything. Had the big fight in Philadelphia, and it carried over to make them more aggressive and it pulled them together more as a team than it did us. The fight kind of pulled us apart as a team and brought those guys together.

Bill Walton and Marc Gasol, the two were both great passers. Two very, very good offensive players. Bill was probably more of a low post player than Marc is. He was a better shot blocker than Marc. But Marc and Bill are very similar from the standpoint of wanting to get their teammates involved, not concerned about their success, but again, concerned about the success of the team. So he fits right in to what we're looking and what I see as a winner. Being part of a winning team. He's made us so good from that standpoint.

I remember I was going to buy a home here in Oklahoma City. The prices were so good, that I couldn't refuse from wanting to live here. The people and the fans were great. They were happy, the success that we were having here, happy that basketball was coming. I never thought basketball would take on the way it's taken on here. I knew hockey here was big. They were selling out the convention center with big crowds. We just didn't get a big draw with basketball. But we had people that loved basketball. What they've done, coming on, has made it unbelievable. A lot of people when I come back, know me here. I know them. It's been good.

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by Berry Tramel
Columnist
Berry Tramel, a lifelong Oklahoman, sports fan and newspaper reader, joined The Oklahoman in 1991 and has served as beat writer, assistant sports editor, sports editor and columnist. Tramel grew up reading four daily newspapers — The Oklahoman,...
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