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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Correa knows it's time for his payday. Composite image by Jack Brame.

The Rangers made a big splash over the weekend when they agreed to terms on a 7-year $175 million contract with infielder Marcus Semien. Apparently, that was just the tip of the iceberg. According to multiple reports, the Rangers have also added arguably the most coveted player in free agency, Corey Seager. Seager and the Rangers have agreed to a massive 10-year $325 million contract.

Before the Seager news broke, many were starting to wonder if teams would be willing to hand out 10-year deals for over 300 million dollars with the lockout just around the corner. Now we have our answer, and Carlos Correa has to be a very happy man to see how the market is shifting. The Rangers not only added two incredible players, but they also made it pretty much a certainty that Correa will either leave Houston, or the Astros will have to sign him to a long-term $300 million deal, which is not likely based on their stance on multi-year big money contracts.

The Rangers aren't the only team in the AL West making blockbuster moves. The Mariners agreed to terms with 2021 AL Cy Young Award winner Robbie Ray on Monday. Ray and Seattle agreed to a 5-year, $115 million contract.

The Angels joined in on the action a couple of weeks ago when they signed Noah Syndergard to a 1-year 21 million dollar deal.

Clearly, the AL West is on notice that they're going to have to make big changes if they want to compete with the Houston Astros who have dominated the AL recently with 5 straight ALCS appearances and 3 trips to the World Series. With Correa likely out the door in Houston, these teams might believe this is a perfect time to make a run at the division and finally knock off the Astros. Only time will tell if these deals will work, and the Astros look to have a terrific team this season whether Correa returns or not.

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