Tracy Letts Winning Time

‘Winning Time’: Tracy Letts on Playing Lakers Coach Jack McKinney

SPOILER ALERT: This text comprises spoilers for “Who the F**okay is Jack McKinney?,” the March 27 episode of “Successful Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which is now streaming on HBO Max. Like each different episode of HBO’s “Successful Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” Sunday’s episode picks up with the Los Angeles…

SPOILER ALERT: This text comprises spoilers for “Who the F**okay is Jack McKinney?,” the March 27 episode of “Successful Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” which is now streaming on HBO Max.

Like each different episode of HBO’s “Successful Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty,” Sunday’s episode picks up with the Los Angeles Lakers group pinned towards a wall, this time scrummaging for a brand new head coach after the abrupt resignation of Jerry West (Jason Clarke). With a Palm Springs pre-season coaching camp on the horizon, the Lakers land on a person who may need extra concepts than they’ve bargained for, main proprietor Jerry Buss (John C. Reilly) to bellow over the cellphone, “Who the fuck is Jack McKinney?”

Tracy Letts had the identical query when he was requested to play the Lakers coach on the collection. Though the actor, playwright and Chicago theater mainstay is sufficiently old to recollect the Showtime Lakers’ dominance within the Eighties, he wasn’t conscious of the person who innovated the staff’s model of play earlier than becoming a member of “Successful Time.”

“I definitely was accustomed to the Showtime Lakers and I keep in mind the Larry Chook-Magic Johnson rivalry very nicely,” Letts tells Selection. “However Jack McKinney I didn’t keep in mind in any respect, if I ever knew who he was. It was solely after they reached out to me to gauge my curiosity in doing the present that I discovered who he was.”

When McKinney takes over coaching camp, he skips no precautions in instituting his private basketball philosophy, instantly starting apply upon his arrival in Palm Springs and shutting apply to group leaders. McKinney believes in quick break offense — a technique that entails pushing the ball as shortly as doable throughout the ground after regaining possession. “Any longer, we gained’t await anybody to offer us breaks. We’ll make our personal. Fixed movement offense,” he explains. McKinney’s method shortly causes friction among the many Lakers gamers, a lot of whom stay territorial about their roles on the staff.

Right here, Letts talks with Selection about his interpretation of McKinney’s devotion to his personal basketball philosophy, how he sees the character as an outsider inside the Lakers group and the troublesome path forward for McKinney within the season’s coming episodes.

Do you comply with the NBA? Are you a basketball fan?

I comply with soccer, I comply with baseball. I’m slightly extra honest climate about basketball. If my groups are doing nicely, I’ll watch extra fastidiously.

Who do you root for then?

Due to my Chicago connection, I used to be solely a Bulls fan. I by no means understood how anyone might cheer for multiple staff. After which Oklahoma Metropolis obtained a staff. I’m from Oklahoma, and we’ve by no means had an expert sports activities staff. I didn’t really feel like I might simply shift allegiances, so I simply added the staff.

This week’s episode follows McKinney’s introduction into the Los Angeles Lakers, the place he’s confronted with resistance from each gamers and group leaders over his emphasis on fast-break offense. How does McKinney method that opposition?

What I admired in regards to the writing of [McKinney] was the concept that he’s fairly single-minded in his pursuit. One of many issues the present does so fantastically is it actually delineates, very explicitly, what all the person characters have invested on this. For [showrunner] Max Borenstein, [he was] very open about saying, “We’ve finished substantial analysis on this.” However past that, it’s a inventive imagining. I don’t wish to say “he created fast- break offense,” however he definitely is likely one of the main figures in popularizing it and bringing it into this staff. And so [we made] him very single-minded in his pursuit of that [thinking] it will not solely be a success of [his] life as a coach, however it would additionally convey pleasure and curiosity to this recreation. When you boil issues all the way down to important parts like that, it doesn’t matter for those who’re speaking about basketball. He could possibly be a scientist who’s found a treatment for one thing.

How would you say McKinney thinks of himself in comparison with different leaders within the Lakers group?

There’s one thing energetically slightly totally different about him than among the different characters, even within the teaching realm. He appears very totally different than the character of Jerry West within the present, very totally different than Jerry Buss, very totally different than Paul Westhead or Pat Riley. I really like these distinctions in character. That they had accomplished the pilot and shut down for the pandemic. So that they despatched it and the pilot was so nice, enjoyable and energetic. Who doesn’t wish to be part of one thing like that? However then additionally they despatched me the scripts and so they have been finished. They weren’t solely finished, they have been polished. For me, that was a part of the enchantment. It was type of all there in entrance of me on the web page already.

That appears like a very nice working expertise.

Properly, the present was very difficult to shoot [through COVID], on this trendy TV age, the place we wish our tv to appear to be films, however we nonetheless wish to shoot eight pages a day on a TV schedule. On high of that, we’re going to stage NBA video games. How the hell are you ever going to drag this off? However we at all times had the scripts to return to. I don’t keep in mind a day when the actors didn’t flip to 1 one other at one level or one other and say, “What an ideal gig.” It had such a readability of imaginative and prescient and objective. That’s such a present as an actor to know precisely what I have to do to assist inform the story.

For many who know the story of the Showtime Lakers, there’s a motive why McKinney is taken away from the steering wheel throughout the season. Trying forward, does McKinney have a way of possessiveness relating to his basketball philosophy? How does he really feel about his system being instituted with out his enter?

He feels extremely possessive. The actual McKinney had been requested how he thought in regards to the flip of destiny [and] if he was bitter about the best way issues had turned out. McKinney’s response was “No, as a result of I’ve had love in my life.” That’s the type of philosophy it’s important to evolve into. [But] now, he’s a man who’s single-minded in his pursuit. That was one of many nice issues to play reverse [of] Jason Segel and Adrien Brody. Oh man, simply give me extra of that.

This interview has been edited and condensed for readability.

“Successful Time: The Rise of the Lakers Dynasty” airs Sunday at 9 p.m. on HBO.

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