They are basketball's odd couple: the fiery little guard with the 1,001 moves and temper to match and the balding, brassy coach with the nerve of a TV car salesman and the ego of Orson Welles.
There really is no way Kevin Porter, whose clashes with his coaches already are part of the NBA's folklore, should get along with detroit Piston Coach Dick Vitale, who struts through life making sure the spotlight follows his every move.
Yet in Vitale's sometimes stormy reign in Detroit this season, Porter finally has found tranquility, happiness and fame.
The pint-sized guard from St. Francis (Pa.), who once stole the hearts of Bullet fans, has become the consummate playmaker in legue history, shattering the best assist totals that the likes of Oscar Robertson, Bob Cousy, Lenny Wilkens, Buy Rodgers and Nate Archibald could produce.
He already has broken the single-season record for assists and is nearing the magic 1,000 assist barrier, which has never een threatened previously by an NBA player.
He has 971 assists and, barring an injury, will coast past the 1,000 mark en route to averaging 13-plus assists a game.
The highest previous aerage was Archibald's 11.4 in 1972-73, when he had 910, the old record. Cousy's top production was 715, Robertson's 899 and Rodgers' 908.
Over the last third of the seasone, Porter has been the kind of playmaker that coaches dream about, not expecting o ever see such near-perfection materialize on the court.
In his last 28 games, he has averaged an incredible 16 assists a contest. During 22 straight games in that stretch, he never had fewer than 10 assists and he went over the 20-mark three times. No other NBA player has had more than eight games of at least 20 assists: Porter nor has hit that target 14 times, including five this year.
He has been playing so well that it became almost routine for him to establish some sort of individual assist record every night out. He set a Chicago Stadium mark with 22 assists (along with 32 points) and broke the Milwaukee Bucks' opponent record with 19. His 21 assists at Houston was his career road high until he topped it with 25 (and 30 points) against Boston.
"No one else in the league can penetrate and dish off as well as Kevin," said Bullet center Wes Unseld. "He's the best around right now doing that one thing. He's better now then he was with us, but he has more freedom with Detroit."
Porter's dazzling performances have brought a flair to what otherwise has been a shattering season for the driven Vitale. The coach has trumpeted a new beginning for the Pistons, but the club has been out of tune much of the year, with injuries and constant roster changes ruin any harmony.
Bitale, who is no fool despite the bragging and sometimes outrageous behavior, saw in Porter a chance to at least excite the Detroit fans, something the Pistons have done rarely. So he gave his playmaker the green light at midseason, telling him that he could drive the middle any time the thought moved him.
Porter jumped at the opportunity and his assist total skyrocketed. And not just at home. He is averaging 13.5 in the Silverdome and 11.9 on the road, but the Pistons also score five more points a game at home and shoot much better.
"But what makes Kevin's season so impressive," said Vitale, "is that we don't have a lot of great shooters surrounding him. If we did, heaven knows what he would do."
Porter has overcome the Pistons' shooting limitations by learning their strengths. He gets each player the ball where the teammate can best use his talents. The result has been a 500 record for Detroit the last 30-plus games and Porter's assault on the record book.
Although he led the league in assists last year (and when the Bullets won 60 games in 1974-75), Porter has been shadowed by a "bab-attitude" label the last few years, starting when he clashed with former Detroit Coach Herb Brown.
When the two got to the point where they weren't talking and Porter wasn't playing, he was traded to New Jersey. Despite a strong finish for both the team and the player, Nets Coach Kevin Loughery decided he didn't Kevin Loughery decided he was having problems with his playmaker, Eric Money, so the clubs made another deal.
Porter still has temper, but he has curbed it enough to reduce his chronic foul problems, the main reason the Bullets unloaded him. He has picked up six fouls in five games this year, compared with 12 last season with Washington.
He also is scoring 15 points admit the fact that he will be a free agent at the end of the season -- Porter says he may want to play in his hometown of Chicago -- could be a reason for his wonderfully productive output.
But even Porter's heroics can't completely remove the sptlight from Vitale, an outgoing, likable man who gave up college coaching last year because of stomach problems.
Bitale (pronounced Vi-Tal as in Pal) took the Detroit job in May accompanied by the greatest exhibtion of self-publicity in NBA history.
He was officially named coach at a press conference at the massive Silverdome. The theme from the movie "2001" sounded over the publicaddress system. The Telscreen flashed, lights flashed and Vitale grabbed a microphone and introduced himself, then talkd nonstop for 30 minutes.
He has worked tirelessly to promote the club and himself, redoing the dressing rooms, hyping the season-ticket sales, making hordes of speeches and stalking the sideline like a caged lion.
He can be loud, outrageous, over bearing -- traits he'll readily admit -- but he also has pumped life into a faltering franchise. And along the way, he has been slapped with technicals and there ejections dragged screaming from a game by a courtside policeman, hospitalized for stomach pains and openly branded as a showboat.
He also has asked opposing coaches for autographs and told reporters that the Pistons now have pride; "That's spelled P for perseverance, R for respect, I for intelligence, D for desire and E for enthusiamsm."
And he quickly adds: "I've never been a loser in my whole life and I don't intend to start now."
Detroit has three first-round picks in the draft that Vitale hopes to use to direct his club into that promised land of winning. Until then, the best he can do is hope he and Porter can keep fans' minds off all the losing.