When Big E Used to Call Bill Walton's Mama

One day the phone rang and my mom answered and this real deep voice on the other end of the phone said, 'Is Billy there?' And my mom said, 'Who's this?' And the guy says, 'Is Billy there? I need to talk to Billy.' And my mom says, 'Who's this?' And the guy goes, 'Tell Billy it's the Big E and I need him to open the gym. We gotta get a game tonight.' And my mom turns to me and says 'Billy, Billy, who's this Big E guy? It's somebody named Big E. What does he want? Who is he?' I said 'Mom, that's Elvin Hayes. He's the Rookie of the Year in the NBA and he's a star, No. 11 for the San Diego Rockets. And she says, 'He sounds so old.' Elvin still calls me. Still calls me Billy. Still calls about Helix. And when I was having all my back trouble, he'd call me and say, 'Don't give up, Billy, you can make it. Just think of those days at Helix. You can get back.' "

More on Bill Walton's high school connections to the San Diego Rockets after the jump

November 18, 2008

Bill Walton was at Lindbergh Field yesterday when the news came, via the NBA, of the death of coaching and teaching legend Pete Newell.

"He was an icon, loved and revered by all," Walton said of his fellow Basketball Hall of Fame member. "He touched everybody who has ever played basketball. He was a caring, loving, selfless man who was a coach of not just basketball but life.

"Pete Newell made you feel good about the game and he made you feel good about life. The outpouring of love for him today is a tribute both to him and his accomplishments, and the accomplishments of all those he touched.

"I can't help but feel that he's looking down and listening to all the incredibly nice and true things that are being said about him, and blushing."

Newell, who built his legend in the Bay Area, was the general manager for the NBA's San Diego Rockets before their move to Houston in 1971 and had resided in Rancho Santa Fe for more than a decade. He died yesterday at age 93.

Newell died at about 10:45 a.m. in Rancho Santa Fe at the home of retired Dr. Earl Schultz, who played for Newell at Cal and had watched over him for the past several years.

Walton's association with Newell went back to Walton's days at Helix High. Walton had a key to the gym and on occasion Newell and Rockets players would come over for practically all-night playing sessions, Walton said.

Walton also recalled playing pickup games with the Rockets, particularly Elvin Hayes.

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