My latest Chicago Tribune column is on happy day for Craig Sager after a rough 11 months.
From the column:
Craig Sager, the man who has sports coats in every color with the possible exception of conventional black and navy, had a choice in mind for his return to the NBA sidelines. After an 11-month battle with leukemia, he planned on a blood orange selection for TNT’s coverage of the Oklahoma City-Bulls game Thursday. That is the color of the disease.
However, there was a problem. The coat is made out of linen, which hardly is the fabric of choice to be wearing in frigid Chicago. Plus, it no longer fit properly since he still is working to replace the 50 pounds he lost during his ordeal.
So the long-time sideline reporter reverted to his roots for plan B. The native of Batavia and graduate of Northwestern will be donning a coat made of red and black, Bulls colors.
“I grew up watching them,” Sager said. “My heart goes to the Bulls.”
Sager, 63, has been looking forward to this day for a long time. The 33-year veteran of Turner Sports knows it isn’t going to be just another game.
“The fact that I haven’t been allowed in an arena for 11 months…It’s going to be a different experience,” Sager said.
One coach in particular stood out. Sager often has been on the other end of San Antonio coach Gregg Popovich’s infamous, irritated to the point of uncomfortable, in-game interviews. Popovich’s beef, though, always has been with the league, which makes the interviews mandatory. The coach’s personal feelings toward Sager were a different story.
“He sent so many cards and notes,” Sager said. “One of them said he missed seeing me and that he felt we made a great team. That’s pretty special.”
Sager, though, doesn’t expect any special treatment from Popovich when he does his first Spurs game. “If he’s nice to me, I wouldn’t know what to do,” he said.