Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown is proud to say he coached Zydrunas Ilgauskas, who will have his jersey retired Saturday night.
INDEPENDENCE, Ohio -- Beyond the blocked shots, long-range jumpers and key rebounds, Cleveland Cavaliers coach Mike Brown saw something different when he looked at former center Zydrunas Ilgauskas.
He saw a mentor for younger players and a leader within the locker room.
"He helped a lot of our guys when he was here, not just on the floor but off the floor, how to take care of your body, how to work on your game, how to be a better teammate," Brown said after Monday's practice at Cleveland Clinic Courts. "Little things that don't show up on any stat sheet or box score. Zydrunas was big for in terms of helping all of our guys.
"(Anderson Varejao) would be the first to tell you that he learned a whole lot, not even talking stuff on the court, but a whole lot from Z."
This Saturday night, the Cavaliers will pay tribute to the much beloved Ilgauskas, and they will recognize him with the highest honor a club can give to a person, retiring their jersey.
Ilgauskas battled multiple foot injuries and had to undergo extensive, and oftentimes, cutting-edge surgeries in the early part of his career, but managed his way through the obstacles and became a two-time NBA All-Star.
When Ilgauskas left the Cavaliers after the 2010 season, he did so as the franchise's all-time leader in games played (771), offensive rebounds (2,336), total rebounds (5,904), and blocked shots (1,269). He ranks second in points scored (10,616), defensive rebounds (3,568) and minutes played (21,823), as well as third in free throws made (2,495) and attempts (3,197).
Ilgauskas is tied for the most playoff games played in Cavaliers history, and during those 71 contests, he averaged 11 points, totaled 523 rebounds, and blocked 82 shots. His 784 points are third-most in Cavaliers playoff history.
At halftime of their game against the New York Knicks Saturday, the Cavaliers will raise Ilgauskas' No. 11 jersey to the rafters of Quicken Loans Arena, where it will join banners recognizing the careers of Mark Price (25), Brad Daugherty (43), Larry Nance (22), Austin Carr (34), Bobby "Bingo" Smith (7), Nate Thurmond (42) and radio broadcaster Joe Tait.
"First of all, throw the basketball stuff out the window," Brown said. "You just talk about a great human being. He's a terrific, terrific human being. I really, really enjoyed being around him on the floor, off the floor, in my time here. He, obviously, has a great family, a great wife in Jennifer. It's second-to-none.
"I think it's definitely well deserved. I'm excited for him, for Jennifer, for the rest of his family and hopefully, he's looking forward to it as much as we are."