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On the court, a center is a necessity; on the bench, he's a
rarity. Only one current head coach--Dave Cowens of the
Hornets--was a full-time pivot during his playing days. "I don't
know why there are so few of us in coaching," says Cowens. "I
guess most centers are smart enough to know better."

Since 1977-78, only four centers--Cowens, Dan Issel (Nuggets),
Willis Reed (Nets) and Wes Unseld (Bullets)--have coached a full
season in the league. No center can be found in the top 20 on
the NBA's list of total games coached, and only Bill Russell,
who put together a 341-290 record in stints with Boston, Seattle
and Sacramento, ranks among the top 60 in victories. "Most
coaches in the NBA are former guards," says Reed, vice president
of player development and scouting for the Nets. "Guys who
handle the ball are used to running the team on the floor. So
it's more natural for them to become coaches."

Because the position requires highly specific skills and
training, a center often doesn't get the all-around instruction
he'll need to draw on as a coach. Cowens, who has guided the
Hornets to a surprising 29-19 record this season, believes the
dearth of clipboard-wielding ex-pivotmen might also be a
function of personality. "Centers are good guys," he says with a
chuckle. "We're not into control issues as much as those little

Then there's the following theory, offered by a perfectly
coiffed and fashionably attired coach who wishes to remain
anonymous. "The reason there are so few centers coaching in the
NBA?" this fellow said. "That's easy. Ever try to find a good
Armani suit in the big-and-tall shop?"


COLOR PHOTO: JIM GUND The only NBA coach who was a center, Cowens bends the ear of Muggsy Bogues. [Muggsy Bogues and Dave Cowens]