NEVER UNDERESTIMATE RUDY T

Ken Hoffman reveals an untold story of Houston's HOF coach Rudy Tomjanovich

Composite photo by Jack Brame.

This article originally appeared on CultureMap.

Rudy Tomjanovich, 5-time NBA All-Star forward, Olympic gold medal coach, and two-time NBA champion coach, has finally — at long last, long overdue, c'mon already, it's about time — been elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Massachusetts.

And now for an untold story. Let's flash back to June 22, 1994, up to then, and many say still, the greatest day in Houston sports history as the Houston Rockets defeated the New York Knicks, 90-84, in Game 7 of the NBA Finals to win the first major title ever for our city.

So how did head coach Rudy T celebrate that night? By making the rounds of ESPN, CNN, the NBA Channel, and big victory parties at swanky downtown hotels or River Oaks mansions? Did he call his agent to line him up with big money national endorsements? Did he call the team owner demanding a nice fat raise in his next contract?

Not Rudy T's style. To celebrate the Rockets' championship, Rudy T drove around town with his buddy Oreste San Juan and his business partner Jesse Brown, pouring drinks for fans all night at a local bar in Rice Village and eating tacos at sunrise with cops and cabbies at Taco Cabana.

"First the Rockets held a private party at Pappadeaux on Richmond. But around 1 am, Rudy T left the party and he, Jesse, and I piled into Jesse's car with the NBA trophy. I drove, Rudy T rode shotgun, and Jesse was in the back seat. We went to the Gingerman bar on Morningside in Rice Village — just us and the trophy," recalls San Juan.

Who is Oreste San Juan? At the time, he was a recreational sports reporter for the old, long-gone Houston Post. He knew Tomjanovich from when he worked at Rudy T's basketball camp in Brenham.

Oreste also is my good friend. I've known him since the first day I arrived in Houston. He has Thanksgiving and Christmas dinner at my house each year and he's a charter member of our group that travels to far-out places around the world.

Who can forget the time we were riding a crowded bus in Warsaw, Poland when a well-dressed gentleman tapped Oreste with his umbrella, pointed out the window, and said, "You see that man walking really fast? He just picked your pocket."

The thief walked off with Oreste's wallet, complete with his passport, credit cards, Continental OnePass card, and money. Oreste spent the rest of that day sitting in the American embassy filling out paperwork so he could get on a plane back home. I told Oreste, think of the bright side, if that guy uses your credit card to book a flight, you'll get his frequent flyer miles.

A couple of years later, we rented mopeds in Nice, France and Oreste wiped out on a mountain heading to Monte Carlo. He was a bloody mess from skidding on gravel and dirt. He spent the rest of that day getting stitched up in the emergency room at Princess Grace Memorial Hospital. A month later, Oreste received a bill from Princess Grace Memorial Hospital. Total: $14.

Back to the Rudy T story: "Rudy T told me to drive him to the Gingerman, so I did," Oreste says. "He sat the trophy on a table and climbed behind the bar and started pouring drinks for people. At 2 am, the owner locked the door and there were still about a hundred people in the place. Rudy kept bartending until about 6:30 am. Somehow, the big ball — that is part of the NBA Championship trophy — fell off. When the sun was coming up, Rudy T decided to leave. I asked him where he wanted me to take him.

Continue on CultureMap to find out where Ken and Rudy went next.

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The Texans should swing for the fences. Composite image by Jack Brame.

With each passing day, the Deshaun drama thickens. It's progressed to Mayor Sylvester Turner tweeting, basically humbling himself to Deshaun.

A city that a few short weeks ago offered up mega star power across the board, has now seen James Harden, Russell Westbrook, and George Springer all depart for a variety of reasons. The impact of Deshaun leaving would be irreversible guaranteeing the Texans resting comfortably in the bottom of the AFC South for the next decade, wallowing in futility.

The saga will only intensify in two weeks should Patrick Mahomes collect another Lombard Trophy. As 2017 draft class contemporaries, Deshaun is comparing his career to #15. Another ring would place Mahomes up 2-0 in that discussion with Watson.

Perhaps the Texans should take a play from the Oilers playbook and inquire on Dabo Swinney. In the pursuit of securing the services of Warren Moon, the Oilers made a power play and secured the services of Moon's former CFL coach, Hugh Campbell. I've attended several luncheons and engagements in which Deshaun served as the keynote speaker. In many of those venues, a short video presentation would include personal greetings and feel good overtures directed to Deshaun from Dabo. The end result was Deshaun lighting up like a Christmas tree. There's a viable relationship in place there.

At the end of the day, Deshaun is a competitor. Losing DeAndre Hopkins was a major loss, but not to the degree that you might think. Deshaun still went out and threw for over 4,000 yards this season, and with a sub-par supporting cast, even pulling guys off of the practice squad in late December contests to fill out the receiving corps. The issue for Watson is trust, and culture. Hence, the recent headlines surrounding the Jets as a future home make very little sense. The Jets in 4 of their last 5 seasons have had double-digit losing seasons. Until the recent resurgence of the Browns, the Jets far and away have held the title of the "laughingstock" of the NFL.

The biggest challenge for the Texans is who could persuade Deshaun to stay? Could team President Jamey Rootes calm down the noise? It certainly won't come from Texans Ring of Honor recipient Andre Johnson. If I were Cal McNair, I would place a call to 105 Sikes Hall in Clemson, SC and ask for Dabo's office. That's as good of a place to start as any other.

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