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James and Pat Rich lost a son last week. Pat Rich says she feels like she has lost two sons.
This should be a week when the Rich family revisits a feel-good story. Dennis Rodman will be enshrined Friday in the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
While Rodman was playing collegiately at Southeastern State in Durant, he lived with the Riches in Bokchito, about 14 miles from campus.
The relationship between Rodman and the Rich family was heartwarming because of all that it entailed. One of the Riches' sons, Bryne, was distraught after accidentally shooting and killing a friend in a 1982 hunting accident. Bryne emerged from brooding after meeting Rodman at a basketball camp. They became pals and Rodman moved out of a dorm to live with the Rich family.
On Monday night, Pat Rich was contacted by the Tulsa World and was asked if Bryne would consent to an interview regarding the hall of fame-bound Rodman. She called back Wednesday to say Rodman's relationship with the Riches has deteriorated and she said the family has decided to be forthcoming about it with any media members who call their home.
"I'm not burning any bridges," she said. "This has gone on for 10 years."
Pat said the Riches built a new home 10 years ago and Rodman has never been in it. She said the family feels abandoned by Rodman.
"I would like for us to make amends, but unless we talk or communicate, we won't, and that's really sad," she said.
Rodman's manager, A.J. Bright, said in a Wednesday interview with the Tulsa World that Rodman loves the Rich family and is "not really sure what this is all about."
Bright said that, as far as Rodman is concerned, there is no bad blood. Bright said Rodman will mention the Riches in his hall of fame speech and Bright wishes the Riches had not chosen this particular time - right before the hall of fame ceremony - to air a grievance.
The Riches are coming off an emotional week because they just buried their oldest son, Michael, who died at age 49. Pat said Rodman initially indicated he would go to the funeral, but she said Rodman then sent word that he could not handle emotional situations and he did not go to the memorial service.
Bright said Rodman didn't attend the funeral of his own coach, former Detroit Pistons coach Chuck Daly. Bright said Rodman missed Michael Rich's funeral Friday because Rodman was contractually obligated to make a "Tonight Show" appearance that day. Bright said Rodman called the Rich family several times.
James Rich said Rodman could have sent flowers. James said he lost respect for Rodman and said Rodman hasn't treated his family very well.
Contrast that to 1996, when the Riches told the Tulsa World they were willing to give unconditional love to Rodman, never mind his eccentricities.
Before the tattoos and hair dye and flings with Madonna and Carmen Electra, Rodman was a fatherless kid from the Dallas projects who never played high school basketball and failed in an attempt to play at a Texas junior college. He got a second chance at college ball in Durant, but felt like an outsider because he was an outsider. He needed a friend.
Bryne was in dire need of a pick-me-up following the death of his pal and he gravitated toward the college basketball player who carried quarters in his ears because there were no pockets in his sweats. Rodman was invited to dinner. Then he moved in with the Riches, never mind what others thought about the situation.
"I just felt like it was a prayer, like Dennis was sent here as a gift to our family to help us through this struggle and to help Bryne and to help our family grow and that's exactly what happened," Pat said in 1996.
Touching story? Sure. Pat wrote a book about it. So did Rodman, who - in his "Bad As I Wanna Be" autobiography - credited James for steering his life in the right direction. Hollywood jumped on the story. A TV movie about Rodman's life aired in 1998.
Rodman helped the Riches with farm chores. Can you picture him on a tractor? James said the Riches helped Rodman, offering him transportation, financial help and a support system.
"The family did great things for Dennis," Bright said, adding that Rodman is appreciative.
A relationship continued after Rodman - an NAIA All-American at Southeastern State and five-time NBA champ - began playing for pay. James said Rodman backed the Riches in a business venture many years ago. James indicated Rodman got his money back and turned a profit.
"When that family was in need, Dennis came through," Bright said.
And now? "I just don't know what the beef is," Bright said, adding that families have disagreements and perhaps this falls under that category.
Pat said this is not about money. When told that people may see her family's comments about Rodman abandoning them and jump to a conclusion that the Riches are seeking attention, Pat said, "I wouldn't care what they said. It's the truth."
Pat said she is hurt rather than angry and she accused others of poisoning the relationship. Asked what she is hoping for as a result of going public with details of the relationship, she said, "Forgiveness. I would like for my son to have a relationship with Dennis like it used to be. I would like for Dennis to come home. It is just real emotional for us because he was like a son to us and that's how we treated him."
According to Pat, Rodman invited the family to the hall of fame ceremony in Springfield, Mass., but wanted the Riches to pay for their expenses. She said they aren't going.
Basketball Hall of Fame enshrinement
At Springfield, Mass.
7 p.m. Friday
Jimmie Tramel 918-581-8389
Original Print Headline: Reaching out to Rodman