The first time I met Sam Mitchell was the day it became public that Vince Carter wanted out of Toronto. I was finishing shooting a stand-up for a story when he walked outside with the Raptors head of media relations and all-around good dude Jim Labumbard. It must be noted that Jim is a Motley Crue fanatic. Biggest I've met. But I digress.
I asked them if Sam would comment on the situation, which he agreed to do. While my camera operator began scrambling to set up his gear again, I proceeded to make small talk with the Raptors' new coach.
Cybulski: How do you like the city?
Mitchell: It's good. Still figuring it out but I like it.
Cybulski: Are you settled in yet?
Mitchell: Not yet, but we're getting there.
Cybulski: Do you have a young family to move up here as well and get adjusted?
(It was here that Sam went a touch sideways)
Mitchell: What the @$%& is up, man? What's with all the questions? You trying kidnap my kids or something?
Cybulski: Sorry, I was just trying to make some chit-chat.
Mitchell: Labumbard, whats up with this #*$&%¤ guy? Is this guy trying to hi-jack my *$#& family!?
Labumbard: Well, Sam...it's just people are a little nicer up here.
Mitchell: What the $+*#?
Finally, the camera was ready to roll, and that was my first of many wild experiences with Mitchell.
He's now an assistant with New Jersey, and he finally passed through Toronto on Friday night for the first time since being turfed by the Raptors two years ago. He was more than a pain to deal with on several occasions but you couldn't help but laugh at the wild things he said during his four-and-a-half years in Hogtown.
I spent some time on YouTube the other night remembering some of his great one-liners. "Guys, guys, guys!" is generally the first thing that comes to mind when I think of Sam Mitchell. It's pretty much how he spoke to the media if he didn't like a line of questioning.
But it seems evident that the Sam Mitchell from the Raptors is a distant memory. Seeing and speaking to him the other day was almost like he had gone through an extreme makeover. He spoke glowingly of his time in Toronto, and looked back on everything like someone looks back at their college days, like he was "Frank The Tank" or something along those lines. Mitchell did a lot of good for the Raptors franchise, and he definitely kept media types on their toes. There were days when he would engage some of us with his views on politics and life and they were always enjoyable discussions.
In an age of political correctness and bland quotes, he was anything but. And more often than not, it made for great television.