Eric Adelson penned a great profile of Rasheed Wallace for ESPN the Magazine. There are a lot of interesting points in the article, but I'd like to highlight two points:
It was during a game against the Jazz earlier this season in which a vision of the power forward, injured and wearing a blazer on the bench, first got GM Joe Dumars to wonder: How would Wallace be as a coach? Dumars has since gone so far as to suggest to the big man that he stay with the team and grab a whistle after he retires.
Coach Sheed. Give it a minute before you think your world has been turned upside down.
"He is bright and insightful," says Dumars. "He'll lead the league in techs, but he also knows where everyone is supposed to be at all times." Says coach Flip Saunders: "He has all the makings of a great coach. He sees things before they happen." Bill Guthridge, who was an assistant at North Carolina when Wallace came through, sees it too. "He absorbed everything. He'd be listening even if what was said wasn't directed at him. He had great savvy—almost a point guard savvy." Even an opposing coach, Stan Van Gundy, agrees. "He's extremely smart, ahead of every play. He doesn't miss helps or rotations. He knows when it's time to shoot and time to pass. I've never understood why he isn't a perennial All-Star."
More recently, Wallace, 33, mentored two of the quietest people he's ever met—former teammate Ben Wallace and current teammate Amir Johnson—in the extroverted art of court communication. "He teaches me," says Johnson. "You gotta see the floor, gotta be the guy who talks." Nobody (including Saunders) is louder on the bench than Wallace, whether he's calling picks or telling forward Jason Maxiell to stand "straight up" or assuring Rip Hamilton that his move to the basket will work "all day."
2) Wallace's bum rap. There's no doubt that the guy has made his share of mistakes, but it doesn't change the fact that he's almost universally misunderstood by fans and misrepresented by the media around the league. Why? Because he has zero interest in what other people think about him, let alone wanting the spotlight or making things easy for the media:
He rarely does commercials. "I could have had the soft drink contract," Wallace says, "but it's not me." He refused to be photographed for this story, saying he'd rather share the spotlight with the team's other stars, and during the 20 minutes he gave for an interview, he hardly made eye contact.
Most athletes seek praise and recognition; Wallace loathes both. In the 2005 Finals, each player was told to stand on a podium during the pregame intros; Wallace refused to do so before Game 1 and lasted on one for less than a second before Game 2. "Rasheed was totally embarrassed," says Larry Brown. "I had to beg him to do it. I almost had to hold his hand." His reaction to being named to this season's All-Star team was similar, with him displaying almost as much frustration at having to cancel a family trip to the Bahamas as at being forced to confront the possibility that he'd become one of those "baby dolls" he despises.
All in all, these anecdotes and quotes are nothing new to long-time fans, but it's nice to see them being repeated for a national audience. Wallace may not care if he ever gets his due, but it's about time he gets the credit he's due.