Rudy T's TO leaves Lakers in chaos

Rudy Tomjanovich's life has completely come full circle as the league suffers the loss of a selfless coach.

Updated: February 15, 2005, 11:36 AM ET
By Bill Walton | ESPN Insider
With all the focus on coaches lately in the NBA, the league is starting to make college basketball look like a players' league.

Rudy Tomjanovich's story, the big picture of his resignation as coach of the Los Angeles Lakers this week, is unbelievable. You can't make this stuff up. Who would have ever thought this could happen to an NBA veteran who loves the game so much?

I was there with Rudy the opening week of this NBA season on assignment for ESPN. Jim Durham, Jim Gray and I were in the Lakers' locker room in Salt Lake City with Rudy T in his road debut as the Lakers' coach, and I've never seen a happier guy. Overflowing with hope and optimism. He had stared down cancer and here he was, living the L.A. dream.

My long-term relationship with Rudy goes back more than 35 years to when I attended Helix High School in La Mesa, Calif. He was the San Diego Rockets' No. 2 overall pick in the 1970 NBA draft. Rudy was identified for general manager Pete Newell and head coach Jack McMahon by Frank Hamblen, who, amazingly, will now take over for Rudy T on the Lakers' bench in an example of life coming full circle.

This story has come full circle and is now on yet another loop. NBA Insider and Basketball Hall of Famer Bill Walton will again serve as a game analyst for ESPN's NBA telecasts. He joined ESPN and ABC Sports' in their inaugural season of NBA coverage in 2002.