Matt Calkins: Bayno was a Trail Blazer who blazed a trail

Reports say that he's heading to Minnesota, but the longtime assitant coach leaves a unique imprint in Portland

By Matt Calkins, Columbian Sports Reporter

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LaMarcus Aldridge will tell you that Bill Bayno is largely responsible for morphing him into an All-NBA forward.

Marcus Camby will tout the 49-year-old as one of the lead executives in his transformation from boy to man.

Bayno’s enthusiastic teaching almost always bred enthusiastic learning among the players he coached in Portland. Thing is, his most resonant lesson had nothing to do with drop steps or jump hooks.

Six months ago, Bayno stepped into the Trail Blazers practice facility weight room to exercise his body and exorcise his demons. For the first time since his diagnosis 2½ years earlier, he publicly divulged the details of the mental health disorder that forced him to resign as the head coach of the Loyola Marymount men’s basketball team.

The revelation included tales of near sleepless weeks and a willingness to swallow eight times the amount of his recommended medication dosage, all in an effort to combat the “maladaptive perfectionism” that emerged whenever he was placed in charge of a program.

It’s easy to see why Bayno would keep mum on the particulars of his condition. Mental illness tends to be the possum of diseases — immune to public sympathy and generally subject to abuse.

You wouldn’t hear fans yell “where’s you dialysis machine?!” at Alonzo Mourning when he was battling kidney disease, but “take your pills, Ron!” is a constant barb shouted toward the once-depressed Ron Artest.

But these days, Bayno hides who he is sort of the way the Kardashians shy away from the spotlight. He sees his disorder as a provider of character, not shame.

So as reports swirled Thursday that Bayno would be heading to the Minnesota Timberwolves after spending six seasons as a Blazers assistant coach, perhaps that acceptance of self is what should serve as his most enduring teaching here.

“Hopefully this will help somebody,” Bayno said last March.

Well, to some extent, it already has.

Six months ago, a “senior director of advanced analytics” emailed me to say that Bayno’s disclosure helped re-evaluate how he manages his employees; that his team of high performers and business changers were susceptible to the pitfalls of perfectionism, and that Bill’s struggle shed light on their approach to the job.

And that’s just one example of Bayno’s impact. Who knows how many people were touched or enlightened while keeping their thoughts to themselves.

But it is not just Bayno’s elucidating on mental health that deserves recognition. It is also the fact that he’s willing to broadcast any form of perceived weakness.

There is a reason no homosexual in any of America’s four major sports has come out, and it stems from the same mindset that caused nationwide ridicule of the Miami Heat when players cried after a regular-season loss.

Among jocks, the Man Card still requires an application process in which certain offenses simply aren’t tolerated.

Look, it’s not as though Bayno should be canonized. He spent little of the 1990s sober, and avoided a meeting with his players upon resigning from LMU (though he admits that is his biggest regret). He also didn’t detail his mental condition with the idea of changing the world but rather to answer the questions of a reporter.

That said, there was still courage in his confession, daring in his disclosure.

Mark Twain once said that “biographies are but the clothes and buttons of the man. The biography of the man himself cannot be written.”

I took this to mean that a man’s actions are independent of his experiences, that what someone does may in no way reflect how he or she feels.

Emotions are often kept bottled for fear of mockery — character traits kept hidden to avoid public hazing.

Most coaches teach their players how to be superior in every way. Bayno showed how it’s OK if they’re not.

Matt Calkins covers the Trail Blazers for The Columbian. He can be contacted at 360-735-4528 or email matt.calkins@columbian.com