After a quiet retirement, Ellis feels pull

Ex-UT star interested in coaching, observing how Pearl's system works

Former UT basketball and NBA star Dale Ellis shoots around with senior Wayne Chism before practice at Pratt Pavillion on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009.

Photo by Amy Smotherman Burgess

Former UT basketball and NBA star Dale Ellis shoots around with senior Wayne Chism before practice at Pratt Pavillion on Wednesday, Oct. 21, 2009.

Former Tennessee basketball All-American and NBA All-Star Dale Ellis has been in Knoxville this week playing his way back into shape while taking a look at the coaching profession.

Ellis, the SEC Player of the Year in 1982 and 1983, and a two-time consensus All-American, will head overseas on Nov. 9 to play exhibition games in Germany, Belgium and Holland.

Fellow former NBA All-Stars Dennis Rodman and Anfernee "Penny" Hardaway are among the other players taking part on the exhibition tour.

"It's five retired players and five street-ball players teaming up on a 10-man team,'' Ellis said. "We'll play against some of the professional teams over there.''

Ellis, 49, stretched and warmed up at the end of the Vols' practices before swishing 3-pointers from all over the perimeter in Thompson-Boling Arena.

"It's good to be back here and get my mind on basketball again,'' said Ellis, who has enjoyed a quiet retirement living with his mother and playing golf in Marietta, Ga., the past eight years.

"So I'm trying to get in shape, and I also want to observe coach (Bruce) Pearl and see if I have an interest in coaching. I played 17 years in the NBA, but that was as a player. I do know I like to teach and be around young players.''

Ellis has done clinics all over the world, including supporting the U.S. Troops in Afghanistan, Kuwait and Iraq.

As for the NBA, Ellis said he doesn't miss the travel, but he does miss the camaraderie he shared with his teammates.

"I had another year left on my contract, but I didn't want to play for a team that couldn't win a championship,'' said Ellis, who retired before the 2000-01 season after going to the Miami Heat. "Miami was missing a center, and that was my problem my whole career, high school, college and NBA - I was missing a big man to play with.''

Ellis is regarded as one of the most prolific 3-point shooters in NBA history.

His 1,719 3-pointers rank third all-time. In 1997-98, he led the league with a .464 3-point shooting percentage. His .403 career 3-point percentage ranks 12th all-time in the NBA.

Ellis' most prolific season came in 1988-89, when he averaged 27.5 points per game for the Seattle SuperSonics and scored a franchise-record 2,253 points in a season.

The following season, Ellis set the NBA record for most minutes played in a single game, scoring 53 points in 69 minutes (out of a possible 70 minutes) in a 155-154 loss to the Milwaukee Bucks in five overtimes.

Watching UT's practices, Ellis admitted to getting fired up to play again.

"Bruce would really be a fun guy to play for; I love his intensity,'' Ellis said. "It was fun just to watch. I can't wait to observe him more this week.''

Ellis said he remembers Don DeVoe's practice were extremely difficult, too.

"You should have seen them!'' he said. "They were mean.''

But they got Ellis ready for the NBA, as he was selected ninth overall in the 1983 NBA draft by the Dallas Mavericks.

Ellis' career didn't take off until the Mavericks traded him after three seasons.

"I came off the bench, and they got Detlef Schrempf my third year,'' Ellis said. "He was playing more than me, and he was a rookie, and I couldn't take that.''

So it was off to the Seattle SuperSonics, where Ellis' minutes and production jumped significantly. Ellis went from averaging 7.1 points per game his final season in Dallas to 24.9 points per game for the Sonics en route to winning the NBA's Most Improved Player Award in 1987.

Just to make sure Dallas knew it made a mistake, Ellis led seventh-seeded Seattle to a playoff series win over the second-seeded Mavericks in the first-round of postseason action.

"They had beaten us like five times that season, and beaten us bad,'' Ellis said. "That was one of my favorite moments in the NBA.''

Ellis said he plans to make a sentimental stroll through UT's Stokely Arena, where he played for the Vols, before leaving Knoxville later this week.

"This (Thompson-Boling) is real nice, and I was actually promised I'd get a chance to play in this new building,'' said Ellis, who eventually did, albeit in an NBA exhibition game.

"But that's all right. I loved Stokely. I love the gyms where the fans are right on top of you. It's going to be interesting to go in there.''

Certainly, as interesting as it was to see Ellis wearing Tennessee colors and practice gear this week for his individual workouts.

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Comments » 28

CoverOrange writes:

I only got to see him play one year in Stokely. Such grace to watch him slip around defenders for easy baskets. It was the beginning of the downward spiral for DeVoe after Dale left. I do remember DeVoe announcing how big a get Ellis was in his recruitment.

Slystone writes:

Dale was ultra smooth back then and many don't realize he never played wing under Devoe. His post play was incredible and if he could have had some more help in the front court that team could have gone somewhere.

FWBVol writes:

Because of his 3-point shooting in the NBA people often forget what a great defensive player Ellis was. He was 6-7 and DeVoe had him guard Virginia's Ralph Sampson, who was 7-4, and Dale put the clamps on the big man despite giving up nine inches.

He was one of the all-time greats to ever wear the Orange and play in the SEC.

MidTennVol writes:

Great to hear you're back around the Orange and White, Dale. Thanks for the fantastic memories. You'll always be a Vol.

Hope BP can find a way for you to help this team, especially with the 3s.

mytrifecta writes:

wow, this brings back memories of watching games at Stokely as a kid. Albeit small, it was a great venue. Ellis' jump shot was as smooth and effortless as any you will ever see. His skill, experience and expertise would definitely be valuable to developing players. I hope he finds a place in the coaching profession.

NO_DIGGITY writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So will Chuck Threets of Lackawana, New York as John Ward used to say. I always liked the way Ward would announce where the player was from.

Jonathon (Johnnie) Jones from Mumford, TN
Bernard King from Brooklyn, New York
Ernest Grunfeld from Forrest Hills, NY

Good Luck Sweet D from Marietta, GA.

CoverOrange writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Isn't he in jail?

golfballs03 writes:

Awesome!

AppreciativeAlum writes:

His turn around jumper was amazing. Don't know if he was tall enough to use it in the NBA, but it ruled in college.

gwtvol85 writes:

I'm from Dale's hometown of Marietta and ran into a few years ago at Chick-fil-A of all places. I had my daughter with me as we were just coming from here basketball practice. I recognized Dale immediately as I had watched his Marietta team torment my high school team for four years (I was a year behind Dale) and then had the privilige of cheering him on Stokley as he was the early day version of a Scotty Pippen. I struck up a conversation with Dale and introduced my daughter to him. He was very gracious and was pleased to know that there were still fans out there who appreciate his contributions to UT basketball. I just wish his son had chosen to go to UT instead of Wake, but I understand. I wish him all the best in his future endeavors.

Ironcity writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

So will Howard Wood, Kevin the Diesel Nash and and Willie brick hands Burton. I loved the competitiveness of those teams and players. What they lacked in talent they made up with desire. Devoe was a good coach until they put in the shot clock. He was never able to adjust

navyvolinva writes:

Michael Brooks had a smooth shot as well.

johnlg00 writes:

See my argument for Ellis on the Chism-snub thread. Agree with Scratch that Houston had one of the smoothest strokes ever. I'm also partial to one of the old-timers in that category, Mike Edwards. If the 3-pt shot had existed in his day, he would rank well into the top-10 career scorers at UT instead of his present 20th. Not only were most of his shots from WELL outside the present 3-pt range, he was a deadly free-throw shooter and would have had LOTS of those 3-shot FT trips.

johnlg00 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

So will Howard Wood, Kevin the Diesel Nash and and Willie brick hands Burton. I loved the competitiveness of those teams and players. What they lacked in talent they made up with desire. Devoe was a good coach until they put in the shot clock. He was never able to adjust

Howard Wood was quite the low-post scorer himself, but I think he and Ellis only played one year together. Nash and Burton were battlers but didn't have much of an offensive game.

chargervol writes:

The thing about Dale Ellis is that while he was at Tennessee he was asked to play the post quite often. I think that was because the Vols just never had that complete center position guy, so Ellis would have to hang around the post alot. I remember the games he played against georgia(Dominique Wilkins), and Auburn(Charles Barkley). I would say that was a pretty good start of a talented SEC conference back in the day. Dale Ellis re-invented himself in the NBA, he became a wing player, three point specialist. The man was definitely self-motivated and looked forward to competition. He made the Vols proud. GO VOLS!!!

murrayvol writes:

in response to CoverOrange:

Isn't he in jail?

He would still be offended. :)

murrayvol writes:

in response to CatScratchFever:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Scratch, I don't know many Cat fans who have "all time favorite Vols" in any sport.

Dale would appreciate your support.

richvol writes:

Ah,Stokely...what great games I saw played there when Mears was coaching.

bUTchVFL writes:

Glad to see you are doing well Dale. I loved the high and tight haircut and the way you would back down the big guys in the low post. Go Dale! Go Vols!

VolunteerLifer writes:

in response to DukeDeLuca:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It's great to hear about Dale and know that he is doing well and has a dream about coaching. He is a truly great Volunteer, one of my favorite players of all time.

I don't know if I would classify Bernard's jump shot as smooth, at least not in the same league of smoothness as Dale and Allan Houston, but it was the most explosive jumper I've ever seen. He was just quicker off the floor than anyone else in the game. What great memories Dale and Bernark bring back. Many thanks to both of them.

stratocaster54 writes:

in response to rabidvolfan:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

Big Dan was in my buddy's freshman English class. I was told he got lost on the mandatory library tour (the one with the headset). Why did we expect him to find his way around the basket?

stratocaster54 writes:

I was at a frat party one night when some of my brothers came to tell me one of the BB players had nailed my parked car (Honda Civic). I don't remember the kids name, but I remember he was from humble roots but drove a spankin' new Chrysler Cordoba. When reported to the campus rent-a-cops, DeVoe told them that the kid had been with him studying all night. That was a fun call home as a 2nd gen Vol.

gwtvol85 writes:

Re: Federman, two quick stories to relate. He was in, OK registered for, my Psych class (into or 101, something like that). He was perpetually absent and when he did make it to class he'd either show up late and/or sleep. How do you suppose he passed that class? Huhmm. Secondly, with regards to Dan's "shooting touch", I had a guy from NJ who lived on my floor at Clement and when we would catch an away game on the B&W tube in my room he would hurl this spongey, nerf-like brick (ironic, huh?) at the sreen everytime Federman put up a shot and yell, "F you, Federman!" Ah, good times.

Down_The_Field writes:

"....(after going up by 12 in knoxville)...ellis.....ellis....(crowd so loud ward has to say name again)....ellis with a two hand slamp...and the cats..want to talk about....back in 60 second after telling you the score...tennessee 36...and kentucky 24...."

never forget it. i miss john ward calling basketball.

chargervol writes:

in response to MorristownVOL:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

It certainly wouldn't be you. You have never been on the court or bench. You are supposed to dribble not drivel. You give Morristown a bad name. I am sure they would like you to go away. GO VOLS!!!

BillVol writes:

No pics accompanying this article?

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to Ironcity:

So will Howard Wood, Kevin the Diesel Nash and and Willie brick hands Burton. I loved the competitiveness of those teams and players. What they lacked in talent they made up with desire. Devoe was a good coach until they put in the shot clock. He was never able to adjust

mmm looked pretty good at Navy couple years ago, I say more of adjusting to the players of today's world. Happens to the best of em

Orangeblood13 writes:

in response to MorristownVOL:

(This comment was removed by the site staff.)

dumb, man just plain dumb

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