NEVER UNDERESTIMATE RUDY T

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

Rockets 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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Astros defeat the Rangers, 9-2. Photo by Tim Warner/Getty Images.

Kyle Tucker doubled twice and had three RBIs and Jose Altuve added three hits and drove in two runs as the Houston Astros used a seven-run seventh inning to break a tie and coast to a 9-2 victory over the Texas Rangers on Saturday.

The Astros snapped a four-game skid and bounced back after allowing the Rangers to score their season high in a 12-8 win in the series opener.

Altuve said he hopes this game can help get the Astros on a roll after their early struggles.

“We as a team are very confident... this is the kind of team we are, we have done it before,” Altuve said. “I don't see why we can't start doing it again.”

It was tied at 2 and the bases were loaded with one out in the seventh when pinch-hitter Victor Caratini’s RBI single to right field off José Ureña (0-1) put the Astros on top.

Altuve followed with a double to the corner of left field to send two more home and push the lead to 5-2. Austin Pruitt took over and intentionally walked Yordan Alvarez before Tucker doubled to center field to score two more.

Houston made it 9-2 when Alvarez scored on a sacrifice fly by Yainer Diaz.

“That was great,” manager Joe Espada said. “That’s the offense that I’m used to seeing. When we get pitchers against the ropes, we've got to put them away and that’s exactly what we did today.”

Ronel Blanco, who threw a no-hitter in his season debut and pitched six scoreless innings Sunday, gave the Astros another solid start Saturday. He gave up two runs in the first inning before settling down to pitch five scoreless frames. He allowed five singles with three walks and five strikeouts.

It was a much-needed performance after Houston’s starters had allowed 31 earned runs with a 20.93 ERA across 13 1/3 innings in the last five games.

“It started with Blanco,” Espada said. “He set the stage and then our offense got some big hits.”

Texas starter Andrew Heaney yielded four hits and two runs while walking four in 3 2/3 innings.

“I’m fighting myself a little bit right now, mechanically, mentally, just having a hard time getting some traction, getting going,” he said. "So I’m just going to keep working.”

The Rangers loaded the bases with two outs in the seventh, but Bryan Abreu (1-1) struck out Evan Carter to escape the jam before Houston took the lead in the bottom of the inning.

Rookie Wyatt Langford had two hits and an RBI for Texas and Adolis García added two hits.

Houston’s José Abreu, who is hitting just .122 this season, had two hits with a double for his first multi-hit game this season and his first extra base hit of the year.

Blanco walked Evan Carter and García with two outs in the first before giving up his first run of the season on an RBI single by Josh Smith. Langford followed with a run-scoring single to push the lead to 2-0.

Abreu opened the fourth with a double and moved to third on a groundout by Jake Meyers before scoring on a groundout by Mauricio Dubón to cut the lead to 2-1.

Heaney then hit Altuve and Alvarez with pitches and was lifted for Jacob Latz. Tucker lined a double into center field to score Altuve and tie it at 2-2.

TRAINER’S ROOM

Rangers: LHP Brock Burke was placed on the 15-day injured list Saturday after breaking his right hand punching a wall after a poor outing Friday night. … Pruitt had his contract selected from Triple-A Round Rock to take his spot on the roster. … INF Justin Foscue (left oblique strain) was transferred from the 10-day injured list to the 60-day list.

Astros: 3B Alex Bregman missed a second straight game with flu-like symptoms. … RHP Shawn Dubin (forearm strain) was reinstated from the 15-day injured list Saturday to take the spot of RHP Joel Kuhnel, who was optioned to Triple-A Sugar Land.

UP NEXT

Texas RHP Nathan Eovaldi (1-0, 1.45 ERA) opposes RHP Cristian Javier (1-0, 1.10) in the series finale Sunday.

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