Facts and figures

"The best pure
point guard
who ever
the game"

Terry Irwin
Stockton's coach at Gonzaga Prep

Learning from the best: Terry Irwin coached John Stockton for three seasons at Gonzaga Preparatory School, and even after moving on to coach at Central Valley, Irwin remained deeply impressed with Stockton's approach to the game of basketball.

So much, in fact, that he often suggested that his CV players hook up with Stockton in a summer pick-up game, whenever possible, in order to tap his competitiveness and savvy.

One such player was David Sanders, a young shooting guard for the Bears who went on to play at Washington State.

‘‘I told David to go and play with John over the summer, `' Irwin recalled. ‘‘He (John) was always back in the summer playing in pick-up games.”

Sanders took his coach's advice, and when he came back from playing against Stockton for the first time, he gave Irwin a wide-eyed assessment of his talents.

‘‘He came back and said he couldn't believe how intense John was,” Irwin said. ‘‘And then he said, `But he cheats!”'

‘‘I asked him what he meant and he said, `He never calls a foul on himself. He slaps you across the wrist and steals the ball. It's a foul every time, but he never calls it. There's no way you can beat him.' `'

Irwin figures Sanders learned an important lesson.

‘‘That's the way John was, and still is today,” Irwin explained. ‘‘He'll do anything to win -- even if it's just a summer pick-up game.”

Irwin on Stockton: ‘‘He came out as a sophomore. He was very thin, not very big, didn't shoot the ball very well and didn't have very good technique. But he was a gym rat, and he loved the game. And there was enough there to make you think, `Hey, he could maybe help us down the road.'

‘‘He was a better college player than he was a high school player and a better pro than he was a college player. He got better at each level. When you looked at him, physically, it didn't seem possible. But you could never measure what was going on inside his heart and his head.

‘‘He was making pro passes back in high school -- behind-the-back, no-look passes. He always hit guys in stride. And he's the only player in my 25 years of coaching who, after almost every game, wanted to know how many assists he had, not how many points.

‘‘I'm amazed -- not only at him going to the level that he did, but for doing it for as long as he did.”


Utah Jazz guard John Stockton, right, looks to pass against pressure from Dallas Mavericks guard Steve Nash during an April game in Salt Lake City. (AP Photo/Steve C. Wilson)

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