Erik met Portland guard Terry Porter at one of the games, and from then on wore 30 as his jersey number. He got Air Jordans for Christmas. He attended Ramsay’s summer camps. At Jesuit High in Beaverton, he started as a 98-pound freshman at point guard and went on to be the consummate selfless leader for the University of Portland Pilots.
At home, Jon was strict about reading. He gave his kids reading lists. He would pay Erik and Monica 10 cents for each newspaper story they read and annotated. He paid them $100 to read all 1,100 pages of Atlas Shrugged by Ayn Rand. He devised a schedule for them to listen to 12 audiotapes by motivational speaker and “Dean of Personal Development” Earl Nightingale entitled “Lead the Field.”
“I wanted them to learn the fundamentals of how to stand on your own two feet, but without lecturing and harping from their old man,” Jon said.
Jon wanted to pass down the work ethic he had learned from his mother, who was of Irish descent, and his father, whose parents were part of the Dutch community in Holland, Mich.
As a kid, Jon delivered newspapers, and he figured out how to double his customer base without increasing delivery time by typing notes to the home owners on his route who were not subscribers.
“That was my first direct response campaign,” he said. “I was rich! I had an extra $5 in my pocket.”
As a Notre Dame student, he sold Encyclopedia Britannicas door to door.
“I was very, very shy and I forced myself to call on strangers to overcome my shyness,” he said.
He overcame it enough to introduce himself to a beautiful young woman in the Philippines, when he had stopped in Manila on his way to Australia, where he thought he would become a sheep farmer. But Elisa Celino changed his direction, he returned to Notre Dame to finish his degree and they married two years later.
Jon got a job with the NBA’s Buffalo Braves, dreamed up a tribute to Elvis Presley to draw fans and has been selling tickets ever since. He wrote the books Ice to Eskimos: How to Sell a Product Nobody Wants and Marketing Outrageously and is writing a manual for teams, The Ultimate Tool Kit to Sell the Last Seat in the House.
Jon’s influence is evident in the coaching style of Erik, who sold the Big 3 on the idea of team defense when superstar egos could have obstructed the plan. His motivational notes and talks about “trust” and “identity” stand out from the usual NBA coaching jargon with their mix of Nightingale can-do spirit and Portland weird earnestness.
Erik also learned from Pat Riley’s storytelling.
“Erik used to tell me Riley would give 10-minute speeches at every practice, and Erik took notes,” Jon said. “Riley is his Yoda. He got 98 percent of his knowledge from Pat and from Stan Van Gundy, too.”
The will to work was reinforced by Riley but originated with Jon.
“Work ethic isn’t something you inherit like blue eyes,” Jon said. “I used to tell my kids there will always be people more skilled or talented than you in this world but if you want to compete, you can outwork them.”
Erik recalled how Jon was always home for dinner at 6:30 p.m. The greatest gift he received from his father? “Discipline,” Erik said.