Former Vancouver Grizzlies point guard Mike Bibby was in town Sunday to help show off the league’s new Nike-designed jerseys.
Drafted second overall in the 1998 draft by the Grizzlies from the University of Arizona, Bibby played his first three NBA seasons in Vancouver. He also played for Sacramento (where he was traded shortly after the Grizzlies announced their move to Memphis), Atlanta, Washington, Miami and New York.
He retired from the NBA in 2012, but played this summer in the Big3 League, the three-on-three basketball league founded by Ice Cube.
His son Mike Jr., who was just a toddler when Bibby played in Vancouver, is now playing NCAA basketball at the University of South Florida. Bibby and his wife Darcy have three daughters as well.
He’s now a basketball coach at Shadow Mountain High School in Phoenix, the same school he went to as a teen.
Q: Mike, have you been back since you left Vancouver in 2001?
A: A few times. I’m not really the travelling type, unless it’s for something I want to do, for an appearance or something. I travelled my whole life, so I try to keep it to a minimum now. I try to stay home, since I’ve been gone for so long.
Q: What can you say about what it was like playing for Ice Cube?
A: It was fun. It keeps you in shape. The league is an older-guys-group as of right now, I think it’s going to turn in to something big at the same time. It was just fun getting the camaraderie back too.
Q: Was there that old competitive edge to it too?
A: Definitely. The first week, a lot of guys didn’t know what to expect when we came in. It was a little bit slower, a little bit ugly at first, I think once guys realized “I’m not going to get embarrassed out here”— they went home, worked out.
We don’t have to work out like we used to but you still do stuff to get the footwork back, your shooting touch. It is like riding a bike.
Q: I suppose it must be nice knowing you still got it.
A: Well I’ve been coaching at my old high school, so I do get out on the court with them. I show them how the game should be played, how to do stuff they haven’t been taught yet.
Q: How’s the coaching life?
A: This is my fifth year (coming up). I started when my son was a sophomore there. I went to practice and just tried to help a bit. I didn’t want my son to grow up with someone that wasn’t going to help him.
I coach because I want to ensure, when these kids go on to the next level, they’re not behind the eight ball. The best thing I heard was from one of the kids, he went to the University of Memphis, and he said ‘Coach Mike, we’re doing the same things as you were coaching us!’ I said, “yeah, I’m coaching so that when you guys get there, you guys don’t look dumb. It looks like you learned something.” (Bibby smiles.)
Q: What do you do to push yourself as a coach?
A: Well I still go to training camps. I went to San Antonio Spurs training camp, got to watch Coach Popovich, probably one of the greatest coaches in the world, if not the greatest coach ever, and just tried to pick things up. I’m still learning. Every year in the NBA I learned something. I want the kids to know you never stop learning.
Q: What makes Pop the greatest coach?
Sure he had Tim Duncan, but he’s never had a guy like Kobe or guys like that. He wins. It seems like he’s had the same team for 30 years in a row. He’ll get on the superstars. I’ve been on teams where you’re a superstar and nothing really gets said to you, nothing gets blamed on you. I’ve seen him yell at Duncan, yell at Parker, yell at Ginobili, that’s what you do, you treat everybody the same.
Q: He seems like someone who speaks with impact to his players.
A: He’s respected. That goes a long way in this game. You see a lot of coaches that aren’t respected by the players and it shows up on the court. No one ever disrespects Popovich.
Q: Your son is playing in college now, what’s that like as a dad?
A: It’s good. My main thing was to just get him off to that next level. I’m proud of him. He’s a smart kid. He never gets in trouble.
He grew up so fast, he was out here when he was two, three years old. We were laughing watching an old interview, he was dressed the same as me, he was saying “Ball! Shoot, shoot!”‘ I said, “why are you wearing the same thing as me?” He laughed, said “you dressed me!”
Q: You were a young dad while learning to be a professional athlete, that must have been a challenge.
A: I had to grow up quick. The draft was right after I turned 20. We had him in college, I knew what I wanted to do. A lot of people said, “if you have a kid, that might hamper what you want to do.” But I knew, I knew I had to get better and quicker, it just made me grow up quick.
Q: What do you think about when you think about your time in Vancouver?
A: I think everything happens for a reason. The talk was I was going to go No. 1 to the Clippers — I don’t know how the Clippers franchise was then, but I heard it was bad — but I came to Vancouver for a reason. I was young, I think I just had to have that as part of my life.
Being 20, having a child, going out of the country; it was tough. The losing didn’t help.
Q: Do you think Vancouver would have had a better chance to become an NBA market now, given how much more international the league is now?
A: I think so. Look at how Toronto has survived. Look at my draft class, when Vince came out, he was so much more exciting than what we had over here in Vancouver. I think that made it harder for us. We were weren’t winning. We weren’t exciting. We had guys who played below the rim in Country, Shareef and myself.
Q: Do you keep in touch with any of the guys you played with here?
A: I talk with Shareef here and there, I played with him again in Sacramento. (Michale) Dickerson, I still talk to Dickerson. In college, we weren’t that close, but when we came here, that’s when we really started to get close. When I was in New York, he stayed with me almost the whole year. He stayed in my living room.
(Bibby laughs.) There’s a lot of guys that came in and out of here.
Q: When people ask you what you’re doing now, what do you tell them?
A: I’m coaching now. I want to eventually go to the college ranks or the NBA ranks. That’s what I do. I’m good retired but I just can’t sit still. I love teaching.