Mike’s Memorabilia

I saved many mementos from my coaching days, but I think I’m missing this Coca-Cola/Majik Market/V103 Atlanta Hawks team card set that one lucky collector stumbled upon in the dollar box at the 2011 Atlanta Sports Collectible Fall Show. The set of 15 cards is comprised of the 12-man roster from the 1979-80 Central Division champion Hawks, head coach Hubie Brown, assistant coach Brendan Suhr and me.

I’d say that this vintage treasure was totally undervalued, wouldn’t you?

Mike’s Memorabilia

When 7’1” rookie Shaquille O’Neal entered the league during the 1992-93 season, the NBA hoops weren’t quite sturdy enough to withstand a 300-pound Shaq attack.

On February 7, 1993 Marv Albert and I were broadcasting the Orlando Magic at Phoenix Suns game live on NBC. Less than three minutes into the first quarter, Shaq followed up an offensive rebound with a thunderous dunk and managed to take down the entire basketball hoop with him on his way down.

Marv eloquently summed up the sentiments of the roaring crowd, “That’s one we haven’t seen!” It was like watching a heavyweight boxer deliver a knockout punch to an opponent who teeters for a couple seconds before losing consciousness and hitting the deck. The steel mechanism was no match for Shaq. The pole behind the backboard buckled and collapsed in slow motion upon impact.

Luckily, the arena had a spare. They wound up having to replace the entire apparatus with a brand new one before the game could continue. The spectacle the rookie phenom unwittingly created with his display of colossal strength was indicative of the huge mark the big guy would make during his 19-year pro career.

After the game I asked Shaq if I could have his Reebok high tops. He autographed his size 23’s on the toes and gave them to me. It was one of those nights you never forget. Later that month Shaq was voted into the All-Star starting lineup, and at the end of the season he was named the 1993 NBA Rookie of the Year.

Mike’s Memorabilia: Ralph Galtelli Cup

Though I have never played on a regular basis, I’ve been able to hone my bocce skills at various Italian eating establishments such as New York’s Il Vagabondo over the years. Back in June team Bella Sera came away with its fourth Ralph Galtelli Cup after winning the bocce tournament at the 21st annual Memphis Italian Festival. I proudly boasted our championship title while doing the Riviera Basketball Camp over in Italy last week. Every time I came across a bocce court I would try to line up an international match against Bella Sera, but I couldn’t find any challengers. Guess they were all intimidated.

Team Bella Sera: Mike Fratello, David Hudman, Bill Lucchesi and Jim Lucchesi

Mike’s Memorabilia: Red Auerbach Trophy

Red Auerbach Trophy for Coach of the Year – 1986: One of the highlights and tremendous honors of my coaching career was being named NBA Coach of the Year for the 1985–86 season.

It was my third year as head coach and going into the season the outlook was bleak. We were the second youngest team in the NBA. We had only won 34 games the previous year and my contract was up at the end of the season. Somehow I had to convince our guys that we could bounce back and turn things around.

Led by NBA Hall of Famer Dominique Wilkins and point guard Doc Rivers we went into the playoffs on the back of a hard-fought 50-win season. We beat the Pistons in the first round but unfortunately we were defeated by the Celtics in the second – they would go on to win the Championship.

Beyond our team’s success, Wilkins led the league in scoring with 30.3 ppg and made his first All-Star appearance. Spud Webb (one of the few players I could look in the eyes without a step stool) won the NBA Slam-Dunk Championship – becoming the shortest player ever to win the contest. I was named Coach of the Year and the Hawks signed me to a four-year extension. We went on to have three consecutive 50-win seasons. It was a magical year.

Check out this Hawks Highlight Reel from 1986.

Mike’s son admires his Coach of the Year trophy in 1986.