Wednesday, January 31, 2007

Stu Inman, RIP

Stu Inman died yesterday.

He was the Blazers' first director of player personnel, and was the architect of the Blazers team that won the 1977 NBA title. I was really sad to hear he had passed away, because just a couple weeks ago I learned he was helping coach Lake Oswego High's basketball team (where my kids go to school) and I was going to swerve by and say hi to him.

I haven't spoken to him in more than 30 years. But I will always remember the grace of the man.

Back in 1970 when the Blazers started and Stu Inman moved here, I was a little leaguer, and my dad coached my team. He drafted for our team a kid named David Inman. After a few practices, we realized that the man who came to every practice and watched, cuffing his cigarettes, was Stu Inman. He didn't say a lot, didn't ever intervene in the coaching, he just watched.

His boy was a decent player, nothing special. Over the season, we got to know Stu a little bit. Very nice family. Very down to earth. But I started to realize, as a star-struck pre-teen, that this man went to work every day with NBA basketball players!

Throughout my youth I spent my summers caddying and working at Tualatin Country Club, and in about 1969 they started an annual "Celebrity Golf Tournament." I relished that tournament, because all the local celebs came. All the Blazers, and everybody else I idolized as a kid.

I remember Tom McCall's limo pulling into the club for one year's tournament. The license plate was a simple "1." One year, when I was 14, Bill Schonely drove up with Keith Jackson in the passenger seat, and handed me the keys to his car to park after we took the clubs out of the trunk. I parked it with no incident.

When I saw Stu Inman's name on the list of local celebs who were slated to play, I thought: "Wouldn't it be cool if I could caddy for him?" In those days golf carts were rapidly replacing caddies. Most players in this type of event didn't need any caddy - they just took a cart.

How could I make sure if Stu Inman requested a caddy that I was the one chosen?

My solution was to take chance out of the equation. I was about 14, and had caddied for 5 years. I knew the ropes. I knew that celebs like Stu Inman were used to a certain amount of special treatment. My solution was to lay in wait for when he arrived, then walk straight up to him and announce that I was his caddy. As if the club, wanting to treat their celebs right, had assigned caddies for all of them.

So I hung back as all the other caddies got their assignments, waiting for Stu Inman to arrive. Finally, he walked up, carrying his clubs. I jumped in front of him.

"Hi Mr. Inman! I'm your caddy today!"

He chuckled, and said "Great!"

And so we spent the day together on the golf course. I was in heaven. He bent over backwards asking me to read his putts, choose his clubs, steer him around the course, etc. Now, I was a pretty good golfer myself at that time, regularly breaking 80, which was about the score I think he would shoot. So I could actually add some value as his caddy. But it wouldn't have mattered if I was completely cueless.

Stu Inman new that I was a starstruck teen, and he indulged me. Because he was a class act.

Because I assigned myself to be his caddy, I knew there was some chance that he would assume that caddies were already paid by the club. So there was a chance that I would work the whole day and not get paid.

When I took Stu's clubs out to his car, put them in his trunk, he handed me a tightly folded up bill. I unfolded a $20 bill - which was about four times the regular caddy fee.

Stu Inman was a class act. He died at the age of 80. Not young, but many people live longer. I do regret that he died before I had a chance to reconnect with him.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

Having known Stu only the past four or so years, I can tell you that he did not change much over the years. Although I did not know of his fame when I first met him, I could tell he was a man who I should take note of.

After a few years of attending the same church as he did, he asked a few me and a few friends of mine to help usher for the services. As he coached us in all the "in's and out's" of ushering, I felt a lot like you in the presence of Stu: like he was indulging a star-struck teen.

After working with him for a couple of months, however, I can tell you that he did more than just indulge. He truely cared about each person he came into contact with. I'm sorry you missed knowing him in his final years...he would have loved to see you again.