Friday, November 13, 2015

Scotty Stirling: The 5-foot-7 (maybe) Giant

I knew Scotty Stirling for more than 25 years, but only a couple of months ago when I went to visit him in a nearby nursing home, did I learn his given name, Gordon.

“Gordon?” I thought, “Who knew?”

Little did I know that visiting Gordon, as I kidded him, was the beginning of my education about Scotty Stirling, who at the age of 86 died Tuesday morning at UC Davis Medical Center.

Stirling, who may have stood 5-foot-7 on a good day, nevertheless was a giant of versatility. As you read about him, feel comfortable that you are like the rest of us.

If you live to be 100, you’ll never do as much as this humorous, witty, sarcastic and multi-talented man got in for a life’s work.

Consider he was the general manager of the Oakland Raiders, the New York Knicks and the American Basketball Association’s Oakland Oaks. He was an assistant to the President of the Golden State Warriors and the NBA Vice President for basketball operations.

For longtime NBA followers, he was Rod Thorn before Rod Thorn. Stirling joined the Kings organization and held a number of positions in the scouting department for more than 25 years.

Stirling also was a newspaper reporter for the Oakland Tribune, at a time in which he’s credited for helping start fantasy football. He also had one of, if not, the first sports talk shows in the Bay Area.

I was talking with Stirling one day during the World Series when a technical problem temporarily halted the game. Television briefly lost its feed and there was no means for the replay system for a few minutes.

I remarked to Stirling it reminded me of the ‘Heidi game’ between the Raiders and New York. The Raiders scored two touchdowns in the final minute to overcome a 32-29 Jets lead. I watched that game in New York with my father, at least until the NBC telecast was halted and replaced by the television film, Heidi.

I thought for a second and said to Stirling, ‘”You probably were at that game, huh?” Stirling said, “Yeah, I was doing color commentary on the radio with (the late and legendary) Bill King.”

I’d never met anyone who was at the game, much less doing radio commentary.

Sounds like he did quite a bit, huh? Well, here’s former Portland Trail Blazers and Kings scout Keith Drum to add an intriguing piece of the pie.

“Scotty said he was in the military (Army) during the Korean War, but he never left the States,” Drum said. “His job was to accompany the bodies of those killed to their families.

“So on one occasion he had to go to Louisiana and notify a family about their loved one’s death. He said he was very apprehensive about going. He didn’t know where he was going and what he was walking into.

“He said he got there and didn’t know what to expect. He said the family was so nice and appreciative that he’d came personally with the body. They treated him so well he stayed for a couple of days.”

Drum gave Stirling’s overall description of the job. “He said he cried almost every time he had to do it.”

Drum told the story about how Stirling had to ‘babysit’ Hall of Fame wide receiver Fred Biletnikoff in order to allow Oakland to sign him and keep the NFL away when the league was battling the AFL for talent.

Stirling was described as hard working and honest by former Kings Vice President Geoff Petrie.

“He used to cover the Maui Invitational and the pre-season college basketball matchups in Anchorage every year,” Petrie said. “He covered the summer league in Las Vegas and had his own seat. Everybody knew it was Scotty’s seat. It didn’t really matter because he always got there before everyone else anyhow.”

Kings Broadcaster Jerry Reynolds said of Stirling, “I used to call him the Grand Puba. I’d kid him and say any young scout had to come by and kiss his ring if they really wanted to be a scout. He had his own seat because nobody else would be there to see every minute of every game.”

Reynolds said of Stirling, “He was just a real pro who loved basketball. He had a really diverse background and always was happy to do what he did. Everybody can’t do that.”

Stirling had the ability to appreciate life more so than most.

Petrie said of Stirling, “The guy had a great run. Everybody only could wish to have such a run.”

Stirling also found time to earn a B.S. from the University of San Francisco and an M.A. in Sports Management from Adelphi University in New York.

Stirling is survived by his wife Pam, sons Gordon, Donald and Kevin, Sister Helen Boak, brother Archie, six grandchildren and three great-grandchildren.


  1. What a great write-up for an amazing person! I too learned his given name just last Saturday at the hospital. I thought the nurse was confusing her patients when she said "Gordon" :) I guess there was a lot I didn't know about Scotty. Who knew that he was even more special than I already thought he was...

  2. Well, I just asked your sister about you Friday. I hope you are well. Only minutes ago did I see this comment. Pardon me for the delay. Yes, Scotty was a special man and I'm glad I was able to get closer to him during his last days.
    I look forward to seeing you soon. It's only been approximately a decade. Have a good one.