Ed Pinckney went to the NCAA Final Four in Detroit to watch Villanova, his alma mater. The last time the Wildcats had gotten that far, Pinckney had led them to a stunning championship victory over Georgetown in 1985.
This time . . .
"It was an amazing experience,'' Pinckney said on Comcast SportsNet's ''Daily News Live. ''I sat next to Rollie (former Villanova coach Rollie Massimino) and Riley (former Miami Heat coach Pat Riley. They both were coaching both teams.''
Pinckney will not be coaching this season, at least not officially. He will, however, be analyzing. He was introduced as the analyst on 76ers telecasts, joining play-by-play voice Marc Zumoff and sideline reporter Dei Lynam. Zumoff is entering his 16th season as the play-by-p-lay voice and his 28th as a member of the Sixers broadcast team.
Pinckney, 46, is the successor to Bob Salmi.Speculation during the summer indicated he became the choice after consideration had also been given to Donyell Marshall and Rick Mahorn.
Pinckney decided his time as an assistant coach with the Minnesota Timberwolves was up when Kurt Rambis was named their new head coach and put together a staff including onetime Sixers guard Dave Wohl, Bill Laimbeer and Reggie Theus, even though he had an opportunity to remain there.
''This is my home,'' he said. ''I consider this a once-in-a-lifetime chance. It's a very historic franchise, and I had a chance to play here. I just thought this was a better opportunity for me, a chance to actually be home.''
Pinckney worked as a radio and TV analyst for the Miami Heat frrom 1997 to 2003; he was director of the Heat's mentoring programs in '02-03 before returning to Villanova as an assistant coach. He has a copmfort level not only with the responsibilities of being an analyst, but also in working with Zumoff.
''The more you do it, the more chance you have to develop chemistry with your partner, and this was an immediate chemistry,'' he said. "I've known Marc for a number of years; sitting next to him, we're just talking about the game, the way we did over the phone or when we'd see each other on the road.''
And when it's time to be critical . . .
''You have to be able to do that,'' he said. ''But the way I do it is more important. I need to be able to articulate my case, make sure it's valid and that there's some substance to it. I'll try to make sure I find a happy medium, where I can be respectful to all parties.''
And, yes, he has some of the same questions about the team that most people have.
''Sure,'' he said. "One question is how Lou Williams handles major minutes. Then, how Elton Brand manages his minutes and his health, and whether Sam (Samuel Dalembert) can play to his capabilities. But that's the case with any organization. I'm just excited to be part of it, to be able to talk about it.''
The No. 10 overall pick in the '85 draft, taken by the Phoenix Suns, Pinckney appeared in 793 regular-season games befrore retiring in '97. He logged time with the Suns, the Sacramento Kings, the Boston Celtics, the Milwaukee Bucks, the Toronto Raptors, the Sixers and the Heat. He appeared in 27 games with the Sixers in 1995-96, making 23 starts.
He arrived in mid-season, coming to a team that won 18 games, laughingly recalling the experience as ''not one of the shining moments.''
He scored 1,865 points and took 1,107 rebounds in his Villanova career. During that span, the Wildcats were 92-37, including 11-3 in NCAA tournament games. He was named the Final Four's Most Outstanding Player in 1985.
And now he's back.
"I'm back in Philly, where my heart is,'' he said.
To read our earlier post on Allen Iverson and the Sixers, click here.