Utah Jazz: Maynor's father comes full circle
Given that it was 29 years ago, George Maynor can't remember exactly what was said, but he does recall that it was a Friday night on the eve of an exhibition game when he was called into Jerry Sloan's office and told he was being cut by the Chicago Bulls.
Those weeks in the fall of 1980 were the closest that Maynor, a fourth-round draft pick out of East Carolina, ever would get to playing in the NBA. But all it took was hearing his son's name called in Thursday's draft for the memories to come rushing back.
As the Jazz's newest first-round pick, Eric Maynor will start his NBA career playing for the same coach in Sloan who cut his father all those years ago, a twist of fate still difficult to believe in the draft's aftermath.
"I'll be glad to see [Sloan] and shake hands with him and wish them the best of luck," George said. "I wish Eric success with him and the ball club. They have a nice, veteran team, and I think Eric, with a coach of Jerry's style, his game fits that style."
"He's just a true point guard," added George, now 52 and living in Raeford, N.C., who played the position himself. "But I'm looking forward to when I go out, to seeing [Sloan] and saying hello and wish him all the luck in the world."
Although Sloan didn't remember Eric's father, George said he was one of the last five players cut by the Bulls. Rod Thorn was Chicago's general manager. Reggie Theus was the team's star. Ronnie Lester was the top rookie.
"That was the first time I'd ever been cut from a team," George said. "It hurt, it really hurt, but I had to move on."
He took away a lesson from the disappointment, reminding kids over the years that they can't depend only on basketball, no matter how talented they might think they are.
"A lot of guys that were in front of me, I thought were pretty good, too, and got released," George said. "I can't recall some of their names, but I know some of them should have been on an NBA roster."
As for as his memories of Sloan, Maynor described him as a "hard-nosed coach" but also a "respectful man" who wanted the best out of his players and the best for his team.
George was drafted in 1979, but returned to East Carolina for his senior year. He described himself as a shoot-first point guard and still claims a better jumper than either of his two sons: "I always tell both of them, 'I'm still the master.' "
After he was cut by Chicago, George pursued opportunities with a team in Cologne, Germany, as well as in the CBA, but nothing worked out. Eric was born in 1987 and George worked as a correctional officer and a school security guard.
He suffered a broken neck in a car accident Eric's freshman year of high school and has been on disability since. Eric went on to star at Virginia Commonwealth and saw his NBA dream come true when he was drafted by the Jazz with the No. 20 pick.
George reminded his son of the connection with Sloan before Eric interviewed with the Jazz on Wednesday. He said he had flashbacks as soon as NBA commissioner David Stern announced the pick the following night.
"It hit me right then," George said, "but I didn't say anything to anyone about it."