When you watch Dwight Howard play in the Worlds Games, think Clifford Ray. Dwight and his dad credit Clifford Ray with his development and his play. When you watch classic Celtics games from the 80's and see Parish dominate in the middle, think Clifford Ray. Parish credited Clifford Ray with helping him to develop his game. This offseason, Danny may have scored one of the biggest free agents in the league by signing Clifford Ray as an assistant coach. He has succeeded everywhere he has been and one thing is agreed - Clifford Ray is the best big man coach in the NBA. If his past success is any indication, we should expect big strides in our bigs this season.
A 6-9 center, Ray played three of his ten seasons in the NBA with the Chicago Bulls (1971-74) and the other seven with the Golden State Warriors (1974-81).
Ray played his college basketball at the University of Oklahoma. In 1971 the Chicago Bulls selected him in the third round of the NBA draft. He spent three seasons with the Bulls, his best being 1973-74 during which he averaged 9.3 points and 12.2 rebounds per game.
After the 1973-74 season Ray was traded to Golden State for fellow center Nate Thurmond. At 6'9", Clifford Ray was one of the shorter starting NBA centers to ever win a title. Without even a lot of athleticism or anything else to make up the difference, he manned the center as Golden State won a championship in 1975. Ray is one of a handful of players to have played at least ten seasons in the pros and record more rebounds (6953 over 784 games for an 8.9 average) than points (5821, for a 7.4 average) for his career.
After his playing career, Ray worked as an assistant coach with the Dallas Mavericks. He also coached in the Continental Basketball Association, where he landed his lone head coaching job with the Fort Wayne Fury, replacing Barry as head coach at the end of the season. Later, he worked as a New Jersey Nets assistant before returning to Golden State as an asistant coach. He had also worked as an assistant coach with the Orlando Magic where he was responsible for the development of Dwight Howard.
As an assistant coach who specializes in teaching big men, he has had wonderful results wherever he has worked. If you follow his career, teams where he has been an assistant have been among the league's best in rebounding, in spite of being among the worst before he arrived. That's a huge fact since rebounding is very important in determining who wins in the NBA. He has molded a long list of players: P.J. Brown, Adonal Foyle, Roy Tarpley, Erick Dampier, Nazr Mohammed. In his first year as a part-time coach in Dallas, in 1987-88, the Mavericks led the league in rebounding. When Ray was an assistant in New Jersey in 1995-96, the Nets led the league in rebounding. In Ray's two years at Golden State (2000-01 and '01-02), the Warriors ranked first and second in rebounding. In Cleveland two years ago, Ray had the Cavs up to second in the league. The Magic, which ranked 23rd in rebounding the season before Ray arrived, ranked second the following year.
Celtic legend Robert Parish has credited Clifford Ray for lifting his game to another level as well. For years Parish and Ray held big men camps in Florida.
Clifford Ray was also responsible for saving the life of a dolphin. In 1978, Mr. Spock the dolphin at Marine World had his tank repaired. The diver dropped a large stainless steel screw. They assumed that Mr. Spock had swallowed this screw. So, they took him to the local hospital for an x-ray. They couldn’t do surgery and could not get the screw. The doctor exclaimed, if only my arms were 9” longer, I could reach down his throat and pull it out. Mike Demetrius then remembered Clifford Ray. Clifford Ray volunteered to try. He cut his fingernails, greased his arm (which is three feet, nine inches long), reached down through the dolphin’s mouth, grabbed the bolt, and pulled it out."
He was diagnosed with prostate cancer while coaching in the CBA and underwent chemotherapy while coaching with the Cavaliers. He still has his blood checked every 60 days and works hard to keep his energy level up. "One thing about cancer, though," Ray says. "It makes you realize you don't have time to sit around and feel sorry for yourself."
We know for certain that Clifford Ray isn't sitting around and feeling sorry for himself. Over the summer Ray has been a regular at the Celtics' practice facility working with the Celtics young bigs. He has a sense of urgency about him that is catchy to the players fortunate enough to be taught by him. In Summer League he could be heard yelling instructions to the players and was very active on the side lines. If the Celtics can improve in rebounding as much as the other teams he has worked with, Clifford Ray may just be the most important move Danny has made as GM.
Thanks for that enlightening article, FL. I had no idea that Clifford Ray made that much of a difference in team rebounding on the teams he helped coach. Its our turn now to see a spike in our rebounding numbers. With Perkins and Jefferson, plus with DJ and Gomes, we have the talent to become a good rebounding team.
I agree that picking up Clifford Ray may be the biggest move Ainge has made this offseason. We need Jefferson and Perkins to reach their ceilings if we are ever going to compete with the big dogs in the league.