Maravich family tells its story
New Orleans Times-Picayune
Sunday, January 14, 2007
By Tammy Nunez
It's not unusual for Jaeson Maravich to find himself lying awake in the middle of the night.
He hasn't had a good night's sleep in years, it seems. When he nods off, he dreams of his famous father. And when he's awake, he thinks of him then, too.
"I would say, 'God, you can take me tomorrow if I could just have 24 hours with him,' " Jaeson said.
It hasn't been easy to live in the shadow of their father, basketball legend Pete Maravich, but it's been even harder to live without him. Jaeson, now 27, Josh, 24, and their mother, Jackie, have spent much of the 19 years since Pete Maravich's death trying to avoiding all the Pete-induced attention, often tucked away in the haven of their Covington home.
But the family stepped into the spotlight in recent weeks, with the publication of "Maravich," the latest in a long line of books about "Pistol Pete" but the first written with Jackie Maravich McLachlan's cooperation and collaboration.
'Too much, too fast'
Pistol Pete Maravich was one of the most influential players in basketball history. He still holds the all-time collegiate scoring record despite playing only three years on the Louisiana State University varsity in the era before the three-point arc was drawn. The remarkable shooting, dribbling and passing styles he displayed at LSU and over a 10-year pro career foreshadowed the dazzle of the current NBA game.
Maravich McLachlan said she has always wanted to shed light on the darker corners of the legend. But it just wasn't the time.
"I kind of put it off for a while; I was dedicated to raising my two sons, and they've turned out to be two fine young men," Maravich McLachlan said.
Pete Maravich died from an undetected heart condition during a pickup basketball game in January 1988, leaving Jaeson, then 8 , and Josh, then 5, with a legacy that they have struggled to come to terms with, ever since.
As a teenager, Jaeson turned his back on basketball because of all the unwanted cameras, interviews and fan attention. In seventh grade, network basketball analyst Billy Packer and a CBS camera crew tried to do an interview with him. He wasn't Jaeson to them, it seemed -- only the Pistol's son.
"It was too much, too fast," Jaeson said. "I just shied away from it all.”
"He just decided to walk away," his mother said. "It's really sad. Even today, I think he could have played in the NBA. But I see the pressure of having to carry that name and the expectations mostly of himself. Pete always told them and me, he didn't care what they did as long as they had Christ in their lives."
Josh, though more outgoing than Jaeson, also looked for something other than basketball. He tried BMX racing. He took up skateboarding. He played soccer.
Affinity for the game
But neither brother could deny their affinity for the game their dad made cool in droopy socks and Chuck Taylors.
"I guess it's in my blood. I can't get it out," Jaeson said. "He definitely wouldn't have cared about the basketball part and I know if he were here, I wouldn't have quit in high school. I think he definitely would be proud of me now."
As youngsters, Jaeson and Josh had grown close to their grandfather, Press Maravich, who coached Pete at LSU. "Papa Press" even lived with the family for a time in Covington. But his death in 1987, preceding by just nine months the loss of their father, was a double whammy for the boys.
"I think about (how things would be different) every day and I get a little jealous every time I see what my dad and grandpa had, seeing how tight they were," Jaeson said. "I was going to have that with my dad. I was like my dad's shadow (years ago), I was like always at the hip."
Josh joined the LSU basketball team as a walk-on in 2001 and reveled in the arena named for his dad. Pistol Pete's stardom elevated the stature of LSU's basketball program and prodded the university to construct the Assembly Center, enabling the team in 1972 to finally move out of the John M. Parker Agricultural Center, known as the cow palace, where rodeos and livestock shows were held. The Assembly Center, across the street from the north end zone of Tiger Stadium, was renamed for Maravich following his death in 1988.
He lost that connection with his dad when his basketball career at LSU ended. What few memories he has of his father, he would prefer to keep to himself. The other struggle with going public with Pete's memory is all those out there who can't separate Pete's sons from Pete, the Maraviches said.
Even after scoring more than 50 points in a junior college game a few years ago, Jaeson was informed by a reporter that his dad had scored more than 60 in a game. No matter how many points he scored or how many Pistolesque ball-handling moments he had, it was never enough for some people. He had trouble finding a peaceful place to play.
So Jaeson kept moving. He bounced from school to school, even stopping at Alabama and playing for William Carey before giving up his dream of the NBA because of the chronic insomnia. He is still battling it, but said he is happy with the book and said he is in awe of all his dad achieved both in basketball and as a person.
That awe and his and Josh's desire to remember their father was one of the reasons the boys were OK with their mother's writing the book.
"It was time," Josh said.
Dispelling the myths
The family knew all the interviews were coming. As soon as the book hit the press, all the questions would come back. It's not like they didn't already field them almost everywhere they went.
Jaeson was walking in an airport a few years ago wearing a Pistol Pete shirt. A middle-aged man stopped him and told him he couldn't possibly know Pistol Pete as well as his generation. Jaeson pulled out his driver's license after a few rounds of questions and the man walked away red-faced.
As painful as it is for Jaeson in particular, he wants his dad's story out there. He's proud.
For Maravich McLachlan, it's cathartic to dispel the Maravich myths. Yes, Pete used to dribble at the movie theaters and out of cars and on bikes, but no, he never had a UFO landing pad on his roof. He wasn't a racist, either, she said.
"He was very, very humble," Maravich McLachlan said. "A lot of people misunderstood him because he was aloof. They thought he was into himself and had an ego, but he didn't."
Maravich McLachlan, 60, has long since remarried. Covington remains home for her and her sons. Her life with Pete Maravich is long gone in one respect, but ever alive in another.
"Everybody loved Pete," she said. "I think his dad worked with him a lot, but I also think (he) was a God-given talent."
It was a talent his sons are still trying to connect with. The guy the world knew as Pistol Pete was just Dad at night when he slipped in Christian cassettes for Jaeson to fall asleep to.
"Maybe I should try that now," Jaeson said.
Tammy Nunez can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or (985) 898-4861.