The death last week of Fred Schaus at 84 sent my mind spinning back to the 1960s.
Schaus was the first coach of the Lakers when the team moved to Los Angeles from Minneapolis. He had the job seven years and didn’t win any championships because of Bill Russell, but that was the beginning of the Laker-Celtic rivalry.
He was also Jerry West’s coach at West Virginia and then with the Lakers and West has called him “my mentor.”
That much information you can get anywhere, but the rest of this piece comes from personal experience.
You see, I spent many days in the Lakers’ office in the Sports Arena, for one year as the publicity director and then as a young writer on the Los Angeles Herald-Examiner.
The entire Laker staff consisted of six people, general manager Lou Mohs, ticket manager Cecil Cronkite, publicist Gil Smith (then me), secretaries Mary Betz and Maureen Hagerty and Schaus.
Mohs was a crusty guy who had been a newspaper circulation man and owner Bob Short was in Minneapolis.
Mohs would call Short many days to provide the financial report –how many tickets had been sold, whether advertisers had paid. Details of that report would often be heard on Jim Healy’s nightly sports show on KLAC.
Mohs would be furious and demanded to know which one of us had leaked the information. I can honestly say none of us had.
Then one day I noticed the ceiling had cracks, and when I went next door to the office of the Los Angeles Blades, the hockey team that played in the Sports Arena, I realized what had happened.
Jack Geyer, who ran the Blades’ office, was a prankster. He could hear Mohs talking to Short and then he’d call Healy.
To the best of my knowledge this has never been written. But once our Laker staff learned about it we swore each other to secracy.
The Lakers weren’t big time in those days. They were struggling to survive. Celebrities who wanted complimentary tickets had to come in, convince Mohs they were important and hope for the best.
One day a secretary told Mohs the star of a popular television show wanted tickets. She gave him the name but I won’t do that here.
“I never heard of him,” replied Mohs, “Who is he?”
“Well,” said Mohs, “He must be a bad actor if he can’t afford to buy tickets.”
One year the great Elgin Baylor was in military service in Seattle but received passes to play for the Lakers on some weekends. Callers would ask if Baylor was going to play.
Mohs encouraged us to say “yes, we just talked to his commanding officer. He’s on his way.”
Did Mohs ever talk to the commanding officer? I’ll leave that for you to decide.
Mirror Sports Editorsports@smmirror.com