FROM HIS living room in Caldwell, Idaho, Matt Muniz watched his TV screen Tuesday night and radiated with pride and excitement as the Boston Celtics won the NBA title.
From his own living room in Lincoln, near Sacramento, Charley Kendall did the same.
Their special connection to the Celtics' coronation? Guard Eddie House, the role-playing NBA journeyman who wound up playing a major part in turning the series against the Lakers during the pivotal Game 4 comeback victory.
House was one of two former East Bay prep legends who had big moments in Boston's championship quest, the other being former Oakland Tech and Cal star Leon Powe. House was born in Berkeley, grew up in Union City and played at Hayward High, where he shared the backcourt with Muniz and was coached by Kendall before graduating in 1996.
"I think (winning the championship) means everything to him," said Muniz. "I know how excited he was at the beginning of the year when he got picked up (House signed the day after the Celtics acquired Kevin Garnett). I can remember him saying that for everyone on their team, it was like starting over for their first year in the league."
Muniz is assistant basketball coach at College of Idaho in Caldwell, where he also starred after graduating from Hayward as a stellar point guard. He still regularly talks to House and they try to hook up at least once per season when Eddie is playing somewhere in the vicinity of Idaho.
"I met him in Salt Lake in December and we just hung out for a couple of days," Muniz said. "When we went to dinner, he used the salt and pepper shakers to show me the plays he ran in games. So when he was in there and going to certain areas, it was fun to see because I knew exactly what he was going to do."
Kendall was glued to his set when House scored 11 points, including two 3-pointers, in the Celtics' 24-point Game 4 comeback. The second, a bomb from the corner, came with 4:07 to play and gave the Celtics their first lead, 84-83. When he made the shot, it was like deja vu for the former longtime Farmers coach.
"One of the things Eddie's noted for is his quick release, and we had a drill that we worked on back then where you set your feet and stepped into the pass as you caught the ball so you're really on your way up with it," Kendall said. "I kind of saw that drill with that big final jumper he made from the corner the other night."
While former players from Hayward High and the Hayward Area Athletic League have been Super Bowl and World Series champions, House is the first player from the school and the HAAL to win an NBA ring. Former Bishop O'Dowd High standout Brian Shaw was part of a title team — with the Lakers, ironically — but O'Dowd was in the now-defunct Catholic Athletic League when Shaw played there and didn't join the HAAL until the late 1990s. Mt. Eden's Dell Demps is the only other HAAL player who has even logged minutes in the NBA.
It's been a rough road as a pro for House after he graduated from Arizona State in 2000 as the Sun Devils' all-time leading scorer. After spending his first three years in the league with the Miami Heat, he has played for eight teams in five years.
After being part of the regular Boston rotation much of the season, he appeared to be out of the loop when the Celtics acquired veteran Sam Cassell. House didn't play at all in the first two games of the NBA finals. But when Cassell injured a wrist and starting point guard Rajon Rondo struggled, he got playing time in Game 3 then really came on in Game 4. He averaged 18.8 minutes over the final four games, and scored nine points in the Game 6 clincher.
"If you've followed his career, he just got into situations where opportunities kind of closed up for him," said Kendall. "I've watched him play throughout the year with Boston, and I just thought he did more for them than (veteran Sam) Cassell by far. I couldn't see how Doc Rivers hadn't figured that out. Obviously, I'm a little biased, but Eddie plays better defense, he's quicker, he gets his hands on balls, he makes things happen. And of course, he can really shoot it."
House shot 39.3 percent from 3-point range this season and has an 38.3 percentage for his eight-year career. Kendall said he always had shooting skill but really worked to refine it at Hayward High.
"He was a very, very hard worker," the coach recalled. "I would stay after practice with him in the gym, and we'd work on shooting for maybe an hour and a half on a pretty regular basis. I also used to take a tennis racket and stand in front of him so when he had to go against someone much bigger he would learn to shoot with a great deal more arc.''
Muniz said that during his annual visits with House, they still reminisced at length about their Hayward High playing days. House had his number retired at Hayward one night in 2000, and the day after, scored 61 points against Cal.
"Eddie still has every game that he played at Hayward on film," Muniz said. "He's actually supposed to be getting those dubbed through the Celtics film guy and sending me copies."
Now House can throw in a tape of an NBA championship run as well.
Contact Carl Steward at (510) 293-2451 or firstname.lastname@example.org.