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Detlef Schrempf weighs in on Sonics case: 'It's just sad'
Detlef Schrempf never envisioned a scenario where this discussion would occur.
When the University of Washington alumnus returned to the area in a 1993 trade with the Indiana Pacers, the Seattle Sonics had just reached the Western Conference Finals.
Two seasons later, Schrempf, along with guard Gary Payton and forward Shawn Kemp, helped their team to the NBA Finals, where they lost in six games to the Chicago Bulls.
Now, Schrempf watches closely as the floor has shifted from KeyArena to Judge Marsha Pechman’s courtroom to decide whether the Sonics must fulfill the two remaining years of their KeyArena lease.
Team owner Clay Bennett wants to relocate the franchise to Oklahoma City.
“It’s just sad,” said Schrempf, who hosted the 15th annual Detlef Schrempf Celebrity Golf Classic Monday at McCormick Woods. “For us to lose a team after all these years, a lot of people missed the boat on it. We had an opportunity to keep something here and make it happen.”
Schrempf, a 6-foot-9 forward from Leverkusen, Germany, who now lives in Bellevue, said there is plenty of blame for the Sonics‚ predicament.
He cited Bennett, former owner Howard Schultz, politicians and the community for the situation.
Schrempf said he hasn’t lost hope that Pechman will rule in Seattle’s favor or that Schultz can win his lawsuit to rescind the team’s 2006 sale to Bennett, but believes they will be gone “sooner or later.”
“It’s sad and a little bit embarrassing for the community,” he said. “We screwed up and now we’re sitting here probably without a team.”
Schrempf, 45, was an assistant coach for the Sonics in 2006-07, but left the professional game when coach Bob Hill was fired after a 31-51 season.
He now works in wealth management for Coldstream Capital Management, but remains involved the local basketball scene.
He and his wife, Mary, have two sons — Alex, a 6-foot-4 forward, who will be a senior in the fall, and Michael, an incoming freshman.
Unlike another former Sonics great, Jack Sikma, whose son Luke, played with Alex at Bellevue High School, Schrempf doesn’t plan to pursue another position in the NBA.
Schrempf and Sikma, who now is an assistant with the Houston Rockets, worked together with the Sonics.
Schrempf said the 82-game NBA schedule didn’t allow him to watch his sons play often, which is important to him.
He also can attend University of Washington basketball games — he guided the Huskies to a Pac-10 championship in 1985 — as a season-ticket holder.
His favorite basketball memory comes from his time with the Sonics, where he spent six of his 16 seasons after being acquired for Derrick McKey and Gerald Paddio.
His best years came with Seattle, where he averaged 16.6 points per game, and the Sonics won four Pacific Division championships.
And the championship series against Michael Jordan and the Bulls.
“That was a lot of fun and a great playoff series,” said Schrempf, who averaged 13.9 points per game in his career with Dallas, Indiana, Seattle and Portland.
The Sonics, who were established in 1967, are Seattle’s oldest professional sports team and also won the city’s only major championship in 1979. Schrempf believes those factors contributed to the team’s current predicament.
“That’s why our community was so slow to respond,” he said. “The Sonics are the Sonics and they’re going to stay here. Not when you sell it to a group from out of town. I think we were pretty naïve in that regard.”
Schrempf said he was disappointed that he wasn’t able to attend the “Save Our Sonics” rally outside the courthouse last week - former players Xavier McDaniel and Payton spoke at the event — because of a work obligation, but is focused on what can be done to help with the situation.
He said he hasn’t considered an ownership possibility with an expansion or relocated franchise to Seattle because he wants to see how the court case settles.
Schrempf was noncommittal about an ownership stake if the new team comes to Seattle, but also didn’t rule it out.
After all, he identifies himself as a Sonic and wants future generations to experience professional basketball in the Puget Sound region.
“This is the team we want to watch when go to a game,” Schrempf said. “This is the team we want to cheer for.”