Portland, Oregon----Craig Ehlo is just flat a fun guy to talk with about basketball. He has a twinkle in his eye, much the same a seven year old would have after getting their first basketball for Christmas. You can also pick up right away his passion, drive and enthusiasm for the game still, at the age of 51 years.
Ehlo was in Portland on Monday night, doing what he loves to do right now in the game of basketball, coaching. Ehlo is an assistant coach for his close friend Jim Hayford, the head man of the Eastern Washington Eagles.
"I love this game, I have a passion to coach and eventually I have a strong desire to run my own program as a head coach", Ehlo said. " Jim is great to work under, I am learning a lot, I do not even consider Eastern Washington to be stepping stone, but if it is for a head coaching job, that would be great."
Craig Ehlo had a great career at Washington State, was drafted by the Houston Rockets in 1983 and then did something most players do not get to experience. He played 14 years in the NBA, with some pretty good numbers, including 7,492 points and 3,134 rebounds. Playing for four teams in those 14 seasons, the most time was spent with the Cleveland Cavaliers. And sadly or gladly, one night with the Cleveland Cavs for Ehlo will be remembered by basketball fans and beyond, forever.
It is called "The Shot". And "The Shot" helped propel a career in the NBA like none other and sent a team and city reeling. On May 7th, 1989, in the final game of a wild Eastern Conference series between Ehlo's Cavs and the Chicago Bulls, Michael Jordan hit the game winning shot over Ehlo, in what was at the time a huge upset, as the sixth seed downed the third seed. If you have not seen video of "The Shot", welcome back from the moon, as it is shown around the world constantly, as perhaps not only the greatest shot of Michael Jordan's career, but most certainly the shot that was the biggest at the time of what would be an awesome career. And to this day, it is always mentioned, Craig Ehlo was guarding Jordan, on "The Shot".
"Yes, I was bummed about it at the time", said Ehlo after his game on Monday night. "But now, it is still fun for me watch and I can still in my ears hear the great radio call, by Johnny "Red" Kerr, the Bulls iconic radio analyst."
And did it have any affect on the legacy of Craig Ehlo. "You bet it did," said Ehlo. "In a very positive way. Kids come up to me all the time, asking are you the guy who was guarding Michael Jordan. No one can remember the fact that Byron Scott was guarding Michael on his final shot in the NBA, but they sure can remember me guarding him on that famous night. Some might think I am crazy for enjoying the moment, but it is enjoyable for me to think about it right now and it will be in the future. Outside of losing a game, there really has been no negatives about Michael's shot for me. I love talking about it right now and will in the future."
Some other thoughts from the sharp basketball mind of Craig Ehlo. Does he think Michael Jordan could play in the NBA right now at the age of 50? "His mind might think so, like all of us might, but his body would tell him a different story, so the answer is no."
How about the comparison of Michael Jordan to LeBron James? "Two different eras, you look at the stat sheet and those guys are just awesome players, but in the end, the answer might come down to who wins the most championships, as to who will be the best of all time, between those two. I do love many things about LeBron's game, but one thing that stands out about him, he knows the history of the NBA better than anyone playing the game today and in no way is he ever going to say he is better than Michael, that is just not going to happen."
Anyone in the league you really admire right now? "There are several players that catch my eye, but one person who never gets enough credit is Erik Spoelstra. His story should be known by everyone. He rose from the bottom of the Miami Heat organization, to become a world championship coach, through hard work, never complaining and respecting the game. He is a truly great Americana sports story."
You can't help it like Craig Ehlo. He is candid, refreshing and enthusiastic. Here is hoping some day he gets his head coaching job, either in college or the pros. I think anyone would love playing for him, which is critical.
College Basketball Insider