Learn how to overcome adversity in your work and personal life from the Assistant Coach for the LA Lakers. Paul Pressey has spent over 30 years in the NBA as either a player or coach.Sign Up to Watch
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-So what type of adversity did you deal with playing for him at this time in your life in college?
-Meeting my girlfriend.
CLAY CLARK: What's that?
-Meeting my girlfriend.
CLAY CLARK: Meeting your girlfriend.
-Yeah, who's my wife. That was diversity to me.
-Yeah, of course it was. When I met her, she was already in love.
-With her high school sweetheart.
-That was not you.
-That was not me.
-I just want to make sure it's this love triangle deal. I wasn't sure.
-No, no. It was not me.
-OK, so she was definitely liking another dude, loving another dude, and then you came in. You are a wild man.
-What did you do? What happened?
-She was very focused on school work and her home life. Her home was only 50 miles away. And I'm trying to-- I'm away from home two, three months, and I need somebody to talk to and not my teammates. Someone who has a pretty good smile. But she helped me also, because her first date was if you want to even have a chance-- first of all, she wouldn't talk to me because she was in love.
-And it's hard to get to know someone-- they won't talk to you. Research has shown that.
-One day I was going to practice, I said, coach, what's up with this girl? That Hooper girl?
-She played basketball?
-Yeah, they would practice after us. So he said, what do you mean, Paul? I said, she don't talk to nobody, blah, blah, blah. He goes, oh, she's in love. I said, love? Ain't nobody seen her with nobody on the campus, where her boyfriend would come and pick her up on the weekends. And I was like, oh. We lived in a co-ed dorm. One of these--
-Oh you did.
-Girls over here, boys go over here. It wasn't a big adversity thing, but it was adversity for me in the sense that I had a deal where me taking care of school-- now I've got this girl I like--
-If you're trying to impress her, you got to get your stuff together now to get her--
-I do this with my wife every week. I've tricked her to stay married to me for 13 years now, going on 14. It's like every week can I get my stuff together, hide the stuff, fix the stuff, act like I'm a decent person to trick her each day. It's tough. Very challenging.
-It's very hard.
-A lot of stress.
-It's very hard.
-Now, let me ask you this here. Now "Webster's Dictionary"-- they define a mentor as somebody who teaches or gives us advice or gives advice to a less experienced and often younger person. What kind of mentorship were you getting from Nolan Richardson at the time off the court or on the court? How was he helping you develop as a dude?
-Well, you know, I'm sitting here watching a man that has three kids-- two boys and a girl-- and he made us part of the community. We would go to round ups this, and wild game dinners, and stuff I'd never been to. It was the first time I had rattlesnake, and quail, and rabbit, and whole--
-You ate rattlesnakes?
-Oh, yeah. I had all that stuff.
-You still feel kind of sick?
-No. It's actually pretty good. I'm not going to tell you what it tastes like, but they say it tastes like chicken.
-Really? Well, OK.
-I'm watching the father figure thing going on here, and at home, taking care, we would go to his house, and eat, and have dinner. His wife would cook. We would get $5 for the weekend, because school is done. No cafeteria food, so we would get $5 for the weekend to eat on. So what he did was he said, you guys, just give me the $5, and I'll pull it all together. My wife will cook for you guys. Saturday we'd get breakfast, lunch, and dinner. Saturday and Sunday.
So I'm watching this, and taking care of us on the weekend-- he didn't have to that. He could have said here's your guys' $5. Good luck to you. And then he would come to work and teach us how to be young men, how to be respectful to these women, because at that time, I could say we was all really dogs.
-Not a bunch of good dudes at this point in your life.
-Yeah, I mean, we weren't bad guys, but you know what guys do.
-Just real quick. On behalf of any of the Thrivers watching this who are ladies, I apologize just for mankind. We're a horrible species. We're somewhere between the dog and the monkey in terms of the evolution.
-Yes, all of that.
-We're just bad. Ladies are more evolved--
-Roll it all up together, you get us.
-Now Paul, I was born in 1980, yet I have a very, very impressive memory of the first year of my life. And I think I remember that you won the National Junior College championship in 1980, is that right?
-Yes, yes, we were undefeated.
-And again, that was-- Nolan really was about winning. At any cost, just win, and it was amazing, the guy's he recruited were from all over the United States-- from New York to Alabama to California to Mississippi to Texas. We just had them everywhere.
-Now you guys, after you won the championship, you didn't go to Disney World, but apparently you guys were like we're going to go to the next best thing-- and people who are watching this who aren't aware of the next best thing, you've got Disney World, and then there's Tulsa, Oklahoma. You know, it's right in that top tier. So you guys--
-We were close to Branson, though.
-Yeah, well, Tulsa's the birthplace of tourism and then Branson just feeds off of that. So many people that it spills over, people just come from miles to see sod farms and stuff.
So now walk me through this transition from Western Texas to University of Tulsa. How many players did Nolan choose to take with him from the junior college team up to the Division 1 level?
-Very interesting. This is going to really mess you up, but it's a true story.
-The rattlesnake thing messed me up, I'm still trying to just get my bearings here.
-When he took the job there, it was-- I think-- six spots he needed, maybe seven spots he needed to fill. So I got hundreds of letters to go to schools all over the United States, and his wife had all the letters-- who today I wish I had them, just to have them in a box and be that treasure you can open up and just reminisce a little bit.
-But God knows where they are. But my wife-- at the time, my girlfriend-- also played, and they had a very good team. So at that time, I'm past that side where I'm in love now.
-Oh, you've made the transition.
-You're not totally a ManBearPig, now you're starting to be nice. Are you opening doors?
-I was a one lady guy.
-I had two women in my life.
-So you were going to class, you were going to school. You're being not a complete ManBearPig, now you're civilized, refined, that kind of thing?
-It caught up with me a little bit. It's like, you know what? This is where I need to be, and part of that was from my upbringing watching my aunties and my uncles and all them, take care of the household.
So I'm in love with her, so Nolan, first thing he does is he said, I'm going to recruit her first.
-And if I recruit her, he's coming.
-So it was like, the first female point guard on the men's team? What happened? How'd that go down?
-Well, he recruited my wife and three of her teammates--
- --went to Tulsa, and then Nolan brought myself, David Brown, Greg Stewart, and [INAUDIBLE] Bradley.
-And you guys came up from the junior college level to boom, now you're at the University of Tulsa.
-University of Tulsa.
-Now when you played for the University of Tulsa, who were your mentors there? Was Nolan continued to be a very strong influence or did you have other mentors now?
-Oh yeah. I had another guy by the name of Jake Jorishie, who is still a dentist in Tulsa. He was another guy that just said, hey, I heard you like to fish. Oh, absolutely. So he would take me fishing. Every chance I got, we went fishing. And we were able to roll and I was able to get to know him and his family.
-Was that dude a good father figure?
-Well, not really because he wasn't married, never had kids, but his mother and father were good mentors. When you look around and see other people with their cousins and other relatives and you watch other people raising their kids, you draw from that. You go, man, they've got these kids in order, they're well mannered, they're all in school, they're doing well. Those things--
-Your normal started to change, though. You started realizing, over here is how I lived, this used to be my normal, but this is another normal and I kind of want that?
-Yeah, that's what I wanted. It slowly began to change in that way, and then of course, again, my girlfriend was still a big part of that. She was a mentor to me from the standpoint of being a friend and teaching me how to respect a young lady, teaching me how to treat a young lady, teaching me how to be a one-woman person. Like, stick to this, this is who--
-How long have you two lovebirds been married now?
-Boom. Can I get a boom there? Boom, awesome. Now let me ask you this. You're at the University of Tulsa, you guys did pretty well. Did you guys go to some NCAA tournaments? How well did you guys do?
-The first year there, we won NIT.
CLAY: Won the NIT, boom.
-Second year, we went to the tournament and lost to Houston. At that time, the Phi Slama Jama, as they called them.
-Now real quick, before anybody watching this starts to hate on the NIT, the NIT used to be a big, big deal.
-Now it's digressed overtime, the NCAA has taken over. Then when you guys lost to Phi Slama Jama, can you clarify who Phi Slama Jama was, because I don't think people are ready for it.
-I can only remember two of the guys.
-OK, just give us the two.
-Yeah, Hakeem Olajuwon.
-Hakeem "The Dream" Olajuwon.
-And Clyde Drexler.
-On the same team.
-Sick, that makes me nauseated.
-And the kid that Cleveland drafted, Wiggins? His father played on that team.
-That team was ridiculous. That's two hall of famers in the same college team.
-And we lost on a last-second shot, but it was a good game.
-Now you were a defensive specialist.
-That's what they tell.
-Did you ever actually score a point in the college level?
-Yeah, a couple.
-So I mean, you were good at defense, but also, you could score. You could score a little bit.
-You know, I'll talk about, like my son, for example. It's about winning. And I could've averaged 20 points, and probably still would've won. But when you see what's around you, just like any other business you're in, when you see other tools that are around you that can help you get to your goal, then you try to pull from everybody and get the best out of them all. Where my thing was to be, I was a play maker. Move the basketball.
-What amazes me is that you or a guy who, your team could win, and you-- your team won, you didn't have-- how many points did you average in college, roughly?
-You're averaging 11 points a game. The reason why I'm mentioning this for the Thrivers is that you, at 11 points a game, you were still good enough and your team still won enough that you got drafted.
And I'm going back to my memory here. I have a very good memory. But I was two. I remember anything before five, I remember it like every day, just bam. But you were drafted I think 20th overall by the Milwaukee Bucks?
-21st. The fact checking department here just really is just, what's going on?
-It could be. Now I could be wrong.
-So you were drafted by the Milwaukee Bucks. And what was that feeling like, getting drafted in the NBA?
-I know I had no clue. I mean really, it just totally shocked my head. You know how guys talk about today, I had this dream that I could be in the NBA. It wasn't me. I was about-- my next move was to coach if I didn't get a chance to play on.
-Now your story's more like you grew up on the village, you go to college and meet a lady, you fall on her blindly in love. Boom, you're in the NBA. That's basically-- if your wife didn't just beat you into submission, you would not be in the NBA.
-That's how it happened.
-So now, here's the deal now. So you're going to the NBA. And when you get in the NBA, I would just imagine it could be a little bit scary, playing with 10,000 to 15,000 people watching every night. Was it a little scary? Or what was it like, your first game in the NBA. Do you remember?
-No, it wasn't scary all. Because again, I was about winning. People didn't bother me. It was about what was on the court. And I've always believed in playing at a high level because of the mindset that Nolan Richardson put in my mind, this is the way you play.
And at that time, 40 minutes of hell, this is what I want. And so, the competition level, the fans never bothered me. Actually, I would thrive off of that because I wanted to give them something feel good about.
-You were one of the first guys in the NBA though, who's a forward who brought the ball up the court consistently, right?
-You were one of the first dudes. I've watched some NBA games, they talk about how you're one of the first dudes to do this.
-They call it a point forward.
-So, the point guard, I was a forward playing the point, running the offense. And Don Nelson, who was my head coach at that time--
-Don Nelson, by the way, has got some weird coaching philosophies that didn't get accepted until later as being normal. Right, he was the first one to go after the European players, the first one to really do the point forward. He's just kind of a little bit ahead of his time all the time, isn't he?
-Winner. Just a winner. The thing that I learned from him most of all was the fact that he was able to get the most out of his players. If you was a shooter, he put you in a position that's all you could do. If you was a rebounder, if you was a multi, like I was a defender.
I could handle the ball, I could get to the basket and shoot. I mean, I could make open shot, but that wasn't my strength. So he said, I want you to get the ball to my players like Moncrief and Marques Johnson, Bob Lanier. These are the guys that could score. Well, it looked like me shooting 12 shots when you've got these guys that could score.
-Now, for anybody who's watching this who maybe is struggling, kind of in a funk, if they're watching this and they have the kind of mentorship that you had that helped you go from the village to the NBA, what advice would you have for that person?
-I think the biggest thing is you've got to find people that you trust. Your got to find some people that you trust. And rely on their ability to help mentor you.
That's basically what I did. It just didn't happen, even when I got to Milwaukee. Now, I'm married right out of college. And I meet this couple at church. My wife, first thing, said we have to find a church home. I said OK, let's go to some churches.
And we met Oscar and Jimmy Johnson, who was mentors to us. Again, because then once we started our family, they were the people that helped us raise our kids because they had two boys. So they was raising their kids, going to church, going to work, going to Bible study, da da da. And I'm going, this is all right. This is cool. This is how I want to raise my family.
So through all that, as you get on a level of being in the NBA, it's such a wild and crazy business that it's very easy for you to--
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