POSTED: 1:30 a.m. HST, Jun 15, 2011
Each year June Jones invites George Killebrew to play in the June Jones Foundation Golf Tournament on the Neighbor Islands and, invariably, Killebrew accepts with one proviso:
"I tell him, I'll be there ... unless we are still in the (NBA playoffs)," Killebrew said.
It had gotten to be almost something of a standing joke because Killebrew, a Punahou School graduate, is an executive vice president with the Dallas Mavericks who, for all their consistency in making the playoffs, had never won a championship.
"The plan, this year, was to come home for my 30th reunion at Punahou and then play in June's tournament," Killebrew said. "Needless to say, I think they understood when I had to cancel both of those."
They understood, for example, that after 20 years in the Mavericks' front office that Killebrew wasn't about to miss this NBA Finals for anything. They grasped that someone who worked his way up from a fresh-out-of-school front office loaner was going to see this one through, whatever the outcome.
In that, the Mavericks' championship was an overnight success story decades in the making. "I mean you have to look at this holistically," Killebrew said. "The first year I was (in Dallas), we were 11-71 and then 13-69. Mark Cuban is the third owner I've worked for and the day he got here was the day this franchise really turned around."
Killebrew said, "Under Mark's guidance and with the Big German (Dirk Nowitzki) on the court, there was a commitment to winning. There were 11 50-win seasons, so the franchise became a consistent winner. It wasn't like we weren't winning. It was just that we hadn't made it over the top yet. So, this was the pinnacle of that journey."
One that ended in triumph Sunday night in Miami, where Cuban and Killebrew, seated behind the Mavericks' bench, were shown on TV high-fiving and hugging after the final buzzer as friends back here took note.
It was a scene Killebrew could have hardly imagined when he went to Southern Methodist University out of Punahou in search of a business degree in 1981. "I had passion for sports and wanted to work for one of the pro teams in Dallas when I graduated," Killebrew said.
HE BEGAN IN the marketing office of the Dallas Sidekicks, an indoor soccer team operated by the owners of the Mavericks at the time. His marching orders were, "to keep doing the soccer thing, but you are welcome to help (on the basketball side)."
From such a modest foot in the door, Killebrew began a climb up the corporate ladder that has him in charge of corporate sponsorships.
On Thursday, there is a parade celebration in the American Airlines Center. And, somewhere down the line, a championship ring.
For that, even golf and a long-awaited class reunion could wait.
Reach Ferd Lewis at firstname.lastname@example.org.