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March 28, 2023 15 mins

Paul Griffin takes us inside his journey to the NBA which began in Michigan. Paul shares why he still lives in San Antonio and then he explains why he declined major college offers to attend and play for Western Michigan. Later, Paul discusses what it was like being drafted by the New Orleans Jazz, he shares what he remembers about watching Pete Maravich play, he reminisces about his role with the Spurs, talks "Bruise Brothers", and then finishes up talking about the legacy of the Spurs.

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Speaker 1 (00:07):
Welcome to another edition of Sound of Spurs podcast. This
is episode at number eighteen, and we're very pleased to
be joined by Paul Griffin, former Spurn. We'll talk about
Paul in just a moment. We do want to let
you know that this episode is brought to you by
the fine folks at s WBC, the native of Shelby, Michigan,
the pride of Shelby, Michigan, Paul Griffin, of course, one
of the Bruise Brothers, and we had lots to ground

to cover. First of all, great to see you. You
stayed in San Antonio, didn't you. Oh? Yes, been here
ever since. I played moved here in seventy nine, joined
the Spurs and been here ever since. You know, when
you're from Michigan, you know it's hard to beat San Antonio,
especially like in March or February. Right now. You don't
have to shove with sunshine. That's a good way to
look at it. So many of the former Spurs have

stayed here, regardless of where you're originally from. We mentioned
the fact that you were from Michigan. Why do you
think that is, Paul, Oh, it's a great town. I mean,
fans are fantastic, very friendly town. I mean he's grown
a lot since you know, I moved here in nineteen
seventy nine. But it's just a great atmosphere. I mean,
business wise, I had a great business career here and
you know, just no reason I have a home up north.

I have a home still back up in Michigan on
Lake Michigan. But San Antonio it's hired to beat a
year round at the home on Lake Michigan's for the summer.
I would think, yes, from about May till October. Here
you go. That's a nice little luxure to have. H Also,
the fact you're a former player gives you a certain
amount of celebrity in town. And does that make a
little easier to do business because people know that you

played for the Spurs? Oh sure, sure. It got me
in a lot of doors when I first got into
title of business in nineteen eighty four. And uh, it's
helped me. And you know, it's it gets you so far,
but uh, you know it's it's just I mean, it helps,
and there's no question about it. To plus my height,
you know, when you're when you're six nine, people kind

of remember you too. I was five nine. They probably
wouldn't know who I was walking through a crowd, and
unfortunately always at that question, Right, did you play basketball? Yeah?
I think I played a time or two. Right, Oh, sure,
get that, get that all the time? Or how tall
are you? Right? Let's start your journey at the beginning. Shelby,
Michigan a small town right off Lake Michigan. Right, yes, yes,
right and right off Lake Michigan. Small town, about fifteen

hundred people, I mean one block of Main Street. And
you know it's very very small town, great little town.
Though you were born on January first. You're a January
first baby. Nineteen fifty four is a right, January twentieth, twentieth. Okay,
well the Wikipedia page was wrong, Paul, I'm sorry. So
they waited nineteen more days to have you. But early
nineteen fifty fours when you were yes, nineteen fifty four,

January twentieth. What was it like to grow up in
a small town in Michigan in the fifties and sixties.
Oh it was great. I mean we didn't even have
box on the doors. I mean, growing up all through
since I left I mean and after college, still didn't
have locks on the doors. And that was nineteen seventy six.
Great little town you couldn't get in a whole lot
of Michigans. Everybody everybody knew about it. But then again,

everybody knew everybody, and everybody's willing to help, yeah, if
somebody needed help. So but it was a great little
basketball talent. Right. Did you play all sports or just
concentrate on basketball from an early age? Well, I played
football until I broke my arm, and then I said no,
I think I'll concentrate on basketball. But I but I
also ran track. I was on a mile relay championship team.

Pretty good, ran a half mile in a quarter mile.
And uh, but yeah, just just basketball and in track.
But that has been great for your conditioning for basketball.
Oh yeah, well I'll shoot well, it was after basketball.
It was in the spring, so basketball was over. But yeah,
I had to run a half mile, and then about
twenty minutes later I had to run a quarter mile.

So it was I was about forty five pounds later
I am now. But yeah, once I got these legs
going and I could move, I bet. Well, now your
basketball team starts to get some attention because a little
Shelby High School and won back to backstage championships. Is
that right? It's my junior and senior year. Undefeated my
junior year and lost three games my senior year, but

still wanting his championship. Now, what's the state tournament like
in Michigan or back then? What was it like? Well,
it's uh class abc D. You know we were see
our high school was about five hundred kids. But you
know it's it was. We had to win six games,
six six or seven games to win a championship. So
I had to go through districts and the regionals and

a quarterfinals, semifinals and very competitive though. I mean, Michigan's
good basketball state. Oh sure, A lot of great players
would come from Michigan, no question about it. We've had
a few on this podcast from Detroit. I think you
know number forty four right, Oh sure, yeah, you know
he's as well known as anybody him. Him in Magic
came out of Michigan playing basketball, no question about that.

We had Kevin Willison too. As a matter of fact,
it was the Detroit guy. Oh yeah, yeah, the marathon man.
What do he played twenty seasons or something longer than that.
He played till he was forty four years old. That
amazes me. Yeah, yeah, and still looks like you could play. Paul.
I'm telling you, he still looks like a good play
sixty years old and still cut and ready to go.
As you know, this game is really tough on your legs,

and to play that long you have had many miles
on it and still still be able to play and
be affective and get up down the court like you're
supposed to. It's the amazing specimen. I would imagine that
since you're the all time leading rebounded or high school
and a Western Michigan, you must have gotten a lot
of attention from colleges or did they not knock on
your door as much? You ended up at Western Michigan
that you have a lot offers out of high school. Oh, sure,

a couple hundred. I turned down Michigan, Michigan State in Indiana. Well,
Bobby Night was in my living room, him and his
assistant coach, which was Dave Bliss at the time. But yeah,
I got I had a couple of hundred offers, but
I wanted to kind of wanted to stay in the
state from my parents say, you know, they love coming

to the game, so I wanted to stay close. And
I end up you know, fall in love at Elden Miller,
who was the coach at Western end up going to
o'house state for ten years and Northern Iowa thirteen. But
I fell in love with him. It was a two
hour drive and uh it was easy for them to
come see me play. I remember Elda Miller Northern Iowa.

He had some really good teams there. Oh, he had
some very good teams. Uh. Uh they weren't real success
before he got there. I mean they were, they were good,
but uh he uh kind of raised an upper level
and uh still play golf with him in the summer times.
Your career Western Bishop was pretty good. Uh, you had
some pretty good teams there. Made the NCAA tournament, right. Yeah.

My senior year we ended up twenty five and three
and uh lost to Marquette in the midist regionals and
Luda Marquette have back then. They had some big names,
all of them. Uh you know Ellis so Ellis and Whitehead,
Jerome Whitehead, Uh Lee, I mean the butcher Lee. Yeah,
had like four guys going to pros. We Uh we

lost to him. Uh we were in nip and tuck
the whole game. It ended up losing to him by five.
We end up in uh final final ratings. We were
tenth in the nation. That's pretty good for Western Michigan,
isn't there. Well, that's the best any Mid American conference
has ever done. Any Mid American team ever did end
up tenth in the nation. That's pretty good stuff. And

so now the draft comes, and of course back then
they had multiple rounds and you get selected on the
fifth round by the New Orleans Jazz. Yes, yes, I
didn't know anything about New Orleans. We did go watch
and play after we lost because of minist regionals, we
were in Baton Rouge, and we went down and watched
him play the next day because we didn't go back
up to back to Michigan until the following day, and

we did go down to Superdome and watch him play
and end up playing with Jim McElroy who went to
Central Michigan and there are our tribals, So ended up
playing with him for three years. But yeah, we played
Pistol Pete for three years and he won the scoring
Championship my rookie year. I don't want to hit the
fast forward button, but you got a chance to play

with Pistol Pete and the ice Man. That's pretty cool.
Oh yeah, ice Man won the scoring championship my first
year here as well. But I kid my, h my
kids when they were young. I said, yeah, pistol, Pete
and Ice scored seventy points one night, and they were
all impressed. Really, dad, seventy points, I'll meet you having,

I said, two. He had sixty eight against the Knicks.
I used to watch Pete as a kid at LSU
and he was without the three point. It was just
absolutely amazing. So, um, give me a real quick marivage store.
Because he used to do some things that uh, people
just didn't see every day. Uh. And the way he
handled the ball, the way he shot the ball. What
was the most amazing thing that you saw him do.
It was ball handling. I mean there's a lot of shooters,

but he could He did anything with a ball. I mean,
if you if you weren't watching, he hitching the face
with it because you think he's passing it one way,
he's past as the other way. And and uh, but
you know, he just he was just you know, he
could score in many different ways, kind of like Ice
had very several ways to score. But you know, when

he got hot, like that it was. It was amazing.
Sixty eight points three point stripe. That's a that's a
that's a lot of uh, that's a lot of shooting,
you know, but you know that's what he was there for.
And at Lash had the average forty four points the
game for three years without the three point line, you
could I match what it would have been like that.
You will go to San Antonio. Your teammates include the Iceman,

Special K, the Big Whopper. I mean, you come into
a rocker room not only good players, but characters. Well,
that's one of the better things that I about getting
traded here. Actually, I was compensation for Allen Bristow. Back then,
when you when a free agent signed to your team,
you had to compensate that team with a like player.
And uh, Bristow signed a free agent with the Jazz,

and I uh and this, and the Spurs wanted me.
The Jazz Jazz didn't want to give me up, but
they had no choice. But the Spurs got me. And yeah,
it came to a playoff team. And you know great
guys Mark Overdon, Billy Pauls, Mike Gay, James Silas, Larry Keen,
and Gervin I mean it was. You know, they were

one of the better teams in Western in the conference.
Some of those jerseys are hanging up with the rafters
here at the AT and T Center. By the way,
you realized that, right, three three of them, Johnny and
Silas and Gervin, they all deserve it. What was your
role on the team, just to kind of be the
band guy inside and some rebounds, do the dirty work? Yeah,
this role player, you know, set screens for ice, rebound,

play defense, you know, you know, basically all you know,
all the dirty worked. A lot of guys didn't really
like to do. But I knew what my role was,
and I was told many times by coaches around the league.
You can play as long as you stay healthy, as
long as you keep doing what you do. And uh,
you know, unfortunately I heard my knee and had to

had to bow it after seven years. But you got
seven years in and you were a viable player because
of the dirty work. I can't let the interview in
without talking about the Bruce Brothers because that's how you're known.
And that's one of the great posters of all time. That,
in fact, two of the iconic posters I think in
NBA history. Iceman on the block of Ice and the
Bruise Brothers. Uh, take us through the embryonic stages, the

early stages of when you guys knew you were gonna
be posing for this poster. Well, it was interesting. Kevin
O'Keefe was a sportswriter here and uh, you know, he
we we became real good friends with those guys. They
traveled with us all the time. And it was we
played a u I can't remember what who it was against,
but it was a fairly physical game and I think

we came up on top on the physicality parlot. And uh,
he came into the locker room and uh and uh,
you know, commented on how the game was played. And
the next day in the paper he comes out with
the Bruise Brothers and you know, basically, as Kevin O'Keeffe,
we really know about it til we until we saw
it in the in the papers, and then they then

they just ran with it, and uh end up doing
a poster or two. And uh, in the rest of history,
where did you guys post for that poster? Right down
by um, you know where Eldaco's is down in Saint
Paul's Square, Right, they're a little building out parcel right
there that uh that we uh, you know, it was
just the back of that building with a little staircase

coming down with a little fire fire escape coming down
side of it. And you guys got your uniforms on,
and did you have any idea that it was going
to catch on that way or that people all these
years later would still be talking about the poster? You know, Yeah,
we didn't think so at the time, but you know,
the fans really appreciate it. You know, they liked the
physical play that Mark over Dang, Dave Corzine, Kevin or Stony, myself,

George Johnson, Reggie Johnson, We played physical and they got
you know, there's a football mentality in this town, and
they enjoyed the the rough and tumble play. You could
get a lot, you could get away with a lot
more back then. How quick would you guys fall out? Now,
let's be honest, because you guys were Yeah, and that
was the eighties. Of course it was a physical play.
Oh sure, sure followed out of many games, but you

know I usually came in for Over the overank started
and uh and you know he's either get tired or
get a few files and I'd come in and even
go back and forth. And I've played some backup center too,
which is I was. I was fairly small for six nine,
two fifteen to twenty playing backup center in the NBA

against Jabbar and Bob Lanier and um what was his
malone and like it was. But I somewhat help my own.
I didn't have to play a whole lot of minutes
at backup center, but I played my fair share. Meet Self.
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We ask everybody that comes on the show Paul about
the legacy of the Spurs, and you, of course had
a chance to play for the Spurs they're doing a
real cool period of time there. But when someone asked you, uh,
the fifty year legacy of the Spurs, and of course
it all started back of the ABA, what would your
response be, Well, it's a it's a it's an unbelievable
legacy that they've they've especially the you know from the

David Robinson here on. Uh, I mean with the five
championships and you know, it's it's it was the only
game in town. And uh, you know, back uh, back
when I was playing, I think we only televised fourteen
away games and all the home games none of them
were televised, so if you want to see the game,
you had to be in the arena. And it was

a big social evant. I mean, you say, you sell
a lot of the same people in the same seats
every night, and you got to know them. I mean,
you know, that's that was that was the interesting part
of it because now there's a lot of corporate stuff
going on and you don't know who's going to be
in the seats from one one game to the next.
But the legacy, but with the championships and and uh,

you know, just the just the first class the way
that the Spurs have always do things. It's a it's
a you know, you know. A lot of a lot
of franchises have tried to emulate it, but a few have. Paul,
it's always good to see around the arena and around town.
Thank you so much for taking the time and joining
us and being part of our podcast. All my pleasure
hate to Seville. Thank you, Paul Griffin, one of the

original Bruise Brothers from way back in the day. That's
today's episode of Salad Spurs Podcast, presented by s WBC.
I'm Bill Schening. So long everybody,
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