(SALT LAKE CITY) It could've been different for Kevin Loughery.
He could've been wearing policeman blue, pacing the sidewalks of New York with a nightstick. That wouldn't have been a slap in the face for the 34-year-old Irishman, either. He would've been proud. His father and brother, John, are among New York's finest.
But "Murph" is in a world a far cry different than pounding a beat. And his cosmic blue denim cowboy look is completely opposite than policeman blue.
Loughery is the young, successful coach of the American Basketball Association's New York Nets, the defending champions. And even though he doesn't wear the badge or carry a nightstick, he still paces. He paces the sidelines of basketball courts from New York to San Diego, shouting words of encouragement to his players or taunting the referees -- trying to get a call his way.
To his opponents' fans, he might appear brash, snobbish, or overconfident, but that isn't the true perspective of this young man. He shows humility, class, and he wasn't one of these people who came from the NBA and looked down at the young red, white and blue ball league.
"I'm very fortunate," surmised Loughery, whose team is battling Kentucky once again for the Eastern Division championship.
"Coaching the Nets is great. I'm from New York. My wife is from New York, and I'm under a great owner (Roy Boe) and general manager (Dave DeBusschere). I'm enjoying it. I'm 34 years old and I couldn't play any more (he was a standout for 11 years with the NBA's Baltimore Bullets and Philadelphia 76ers).
"What else could I do to stay in basketball, but coach? My players have been super. You can't win without good players. They make the coach.
"We've got young players who still want to do their own thing. They haven't been in the league without any goals. They've got their goals. We have only one goal and that's to try to win it all again.
"We've had that taste of glory," he added. "And some teams just don't have the talent we have. There's only one way to look and that's for the championship. It's a great position to be in, but tough to keep.
"Teams play harder against you when you're on top. Everyone expected us to fold this year. We're for real. A lot of teams out West give us problems. We're 2-4 against Indiana, 3-3 against Utah, and 2-2 against Denver.
"The key to our success has been to dominate the teams you're supposed to in your own division."
Julius (Dr. J) Erving, the team captain whose acrobatic act defies words, believes in both Loughery and assistant coach Rod Thorn. "They complement each other very well," the Doctor pointed out.
"There is never a team that we don't beat on paper." Erving added. "That's because of Rod's research. And Kevin has the same enthusiasm he had as a player. It's a carryover.
"Kevin has shown me the guts to admit a mistake when he makes them. He has an open enough mind to listen to the players. A lot of the older coaches won't. I believe that is because Kevin just crossed over the fence from being a player. He knows both sides of the fence."
Loughery also likes to credit Indiana Pacer coach Bobby Leonard for giving him a break. "When Slick was the coach at Baltimore, I guess he liked my hustle, because he kept me around. Wihtout him giving me a break, I don't know where I'd be."
That's simple, Kevin. You would be among New York's finest.
Note: DAN PATTISON was an ABA columnist for Basketball Weekly, The Sporting News, and The Deseret News. Dan was also the vice-president of the ABA Sports Writer's Association for two years.
Dan passed away in June 2001 after a brave battle with bone marrow cancer. He will always be remembered for his longtime support of his "magnificent obsession": the ABA.