In John Feinstein’s excellent book Forever’s Team, there’s a great story about Scott Goetsch.
Goetsch was an outstanding backup to Duke legend Mike Gminski and while he was a rugged big man, he had a quiet demeanor on the court. He came in, did his job well, and went back out.
But there was this one time...
Duke was playing Notre Dame in the Final Four in 1978 and Goetsch, normally reserved, was rocking back and forth on the bench saying two words over and over:
Laimbeer sucks. Laimbeer sucks. Laimbeer sucks.
When he got in the game, totally out of character, he took a long jumper and pointed his finger in Laimbeer’s face to taunt him.
Turned out that Laimbeer, like Goetsch, grew up in Southern Cal and Goetsch couldn’t stand him.
He was kind of ahead of the curve.
When he got to the NBA, Laimbeer developed a reputation as a very dirty player. Everybody hated Laimbeer.
Robert Parish famously clocked him from behind with a couple of karate chops to the head and shoulders after Laimbeer pulled off a dirty play against the Boston Celtics in an earlier playoff game.
He just invited it and didn’t really seem to mind. In fact, it was probably key to him playing for as long as he did. He certainly didn’t stay in the NBA for 14 years on his talent because he really didn’t have much. Dirty play leveled the field.
It also got him in a lot of fights, including this rather intense one with Charles Barkley.
There are a couple of other things of interest here. Rick Mahorn was still with Philly then and so was on the other side. When he was traded to Detroit, he and Laimbeer were the basis of the Bad Boy championship teams. Hatred of Laimbeer went into overdrive.
And secondly, former Blue Devil Johnny Dawkins makes two cameos. First he has a sweet steal and an assist for a layup and second he’s interviewed after the brawl.