He was a gritty 6-foot-3 guard from the Bronx with boundless energy and a long, sweet jumper that seemed to kiss the Civic Center's ceiling before finding its mark.
"Bullseye!" Baltimore Bullets broadcaster Jim Karvellas would exclaim as Kevin Loughery scored again.
For eight years, Loughery starred for the Bullets, averaging 16.6 points and helping the club to five playoff appearances and the NBA finals in 1971. Only forward Gus Johnson (nine years) spent more time here before the Bullets, after a decade, moved to Landover in 1973 and eventually become the Washington Wizards.
"I had a long run in Baltimore and enjoyed every minute of it," said Loughery, 72. He ranks fourth in franchise history with 9,833 points, despite having played before the advent of the 3-point shot. Many of his baskets came from 20 feet or further.
His best years were from 1968-70, when Loughery teamed with three Hall of Famers — the flamboyant Johnson, bulwark center Wes Unseld and legendary guard Earl Monroe.
"Heck, I averaged over 21 points a game because of them," Loughery said. "Wes set great picks and had the best outlet pass of anyone who ever played. Gus had the body of a player today, without having lifted weights. And Earl revolutionized the guard's play, with his spins and twists. Other teams had their top defensive players guard Earl.
"Any one of them could have played today, easily."
Loughery went on to coach seven pro teams over 23 years, including a stint with the Washington Bullets (1985-88). Now retired, with two children and two grandchildren, he lives in Atlanta with his wife, Sheila. They wed in 1962.
"I play golf four times a week, and Sheila plays tennis," he said. "I guess that's why we're still married after 50 years."
Loughery's favorite Bullets' memory? Defeating the New York Knicks in the Eastern Conference finals in 1971. The Knicks had booted the Bullets from the playoffs in the previous two years; worse, Baltimore had been ousted by New York teams in the Super Bowl and World Series, too.
"Joe Namath and the Jets had upset the Colts, and the Orioles had lost to the Mets," he said. "It was very important that we beat the Knicks, not only for us, but for the city."
The Bullets won the seventh and deciding game, 93-91, in Madison Square Garden.
"How great was that, for a kid from New York to go in there and win it?" Loughery said. "The circus was playing the Garden then, and you could smell the animals during the game. My brother-in-law was in the stands, and when the buzzer sounded, he stood up in a crowd of Knicks fans and shouted, 'Bring on the circus, the Knicks are gone!' "
The Bullets had yet another incentive to win that game, Loughery said:
"Beforehand, owner Abe Pollin gave the greatest pre-game speech we'd ever heard. He said, 'Boys, if we win this one, you can have my share of the gate.' "
Pollin kept his word. Never mind that the Bullets then lost the NBA finals to Milwaukee in four straight games.
"We still got way more money for the playoffs than the Bucks did," Loughery said.
Dogged by injuries, Loughery tried to play through them. In 1970, he suffered four fractured ribs in a collision with Milwaukee's Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Loughery returned several weeks later, wearing a corset, but shot poorly and took off the undergarment, in disgust, at courtside during a playoff game. He then scored 17 points in as many minutes.
Had he not entered coaching, Loughery said, he'd have settled in Baltimore.
"We lived in Dulaney Valley, near a ton of athletes," he said. "Our first dog, a collie, came from one of [Colts coach] Don Shula's litters. We named it Bullet."
Dealt in 1971 to the Philadelphia 76ers, in a swap that brought guard Archie Clark to the Bullets, Loughery played two more years, then picked up the clipboard.
"Know how I learned I'd been traded? I was standing in line at McDonald's, waiting for a hamburger, when [Orioles pitcher] Jim Palmer walked by and said, 'Sorry to hear about the trade.'
"I'm just fortunate I had the opportunity to play [in the NBA]. When I joined the league [in 1962], there were only nine teams, with 99 total players. Now there are five times that."Copyright © 2015, The Baltimore Sun