Vinny Cerrato's Friendship With Flip Saunders
Flip Saunders, Vinny Cerrato, Sam Cassell, DeShawn Stevenson, Stephen Curry, Jonny Flynn, Brandon Jennings, A.J. Price, Andray Blatche, Lindsay Czarniak, Javaris Crittendon, Chris Miller, Ivan Carter, Michael Lee, Trajan Langdon, Sara Walsh, ex-George Mason hoopster Jen Daniels, Nick Young, David Aldridge, Alana Beard, Marissa Coleman, Nikki Blue, and Crystal Langhorne. Not a horrible list, all in all.
The one name that sort of stands out is Vinny Cerrato, whose basketball connection isn't obvious. Until you remember that he and Flip Saunders were both assistants at the University of Minnesota in the early '80s, where they struck up a friendship that has lasted a quarter-century. They have seen each other socially and texted frequently since Saunders was hired to coach the Wiz, and they were scheduled to go to lunch with Lindsay Czarniak today to tape a segment that will air on NBC Washington sometime in the future.
While Cerrato watched Sam Cassell work out Nick Young this afternoon, I asked a few questions about their history together, starting with their time at Minnesota.
"Well you know what, [the basketball team] used to always bring their recruits over because they always wanted Lou Holtz to talk to them," Cerrato said. "I remember Flip bringing them over all the time. And did we have big dreams? Absolutely. You're both young assistants, and you have high aspirations. [When] Flip left there, I know he had Lou help him get the head job at Tulsa when he got that, because all the big shots at Tulsa were Notre Dame graduates."
Cerrato said he's taken time out to watch Saunders's teams play throughout his NBA coaching career, and that Saunders called Cerrato a month before he accepted the D.C. job to ask about "the city, the area, the whole thing."
"I told him all good stuff," Cerrato said.
Did Saunders ask any questions about the local media, I asked.
"I told him about the local media," Cerrato said.
What'd you say, I asked.
"No comment," Cerrato said with a smile, which actually make me laugh.
Anyhow, as the Wiz's hiring process continued, the two stayed in frequent touch.
"Yeah, he and I texted back and forth all the time," Cerrato said. "He called me right when he signed his deal. We'd already been back and forth. Then I texted him the day he went to New York for the draft [lottery], I said, 'Don't come back unless you get the first pick.' Then he called me, he said 'I thought you'd be at the train station with a band when I got back.' "
Cerrato said Saunders has been too busy preparing for the draft to come to Ashburn for a Skins practice, and that he will be too busy this fall to go to many Wiz games when both teams are going at the same time, but that in the offseason he will stop by Verizon. He said he had never been to an NBA workout, but that "you can always learn stuff, pick ideas up from them, just exchange ideas about how they do things. You can always learn something."
He said the two men haven't discussed how odd it is that they wound up running pro teams in the same city half a continent from where they met as young assistants, but acknowledged that things "worked out pretty good." I asked whether they would bet on whose team would go further in the playoffs this year.
"I hope we both win it all," Cerrato said.
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