DALLAS –When he suits up for the Dallas Mavericks in their Tuesday night home game against the Denver Nuggets, Tony Romo will be wearing jersey No. 9.
That’s the same jersey number Romo wore during his 14-year career with the Dallas Cowboys, which ended when he retired last week. It’s also the same jersey number worn by current Mavs rookie forward Nicolas Brussino.
So what gives? How can two players on the same team wear the same number?
“(Romo is) not signed to a contract, so there’s no technical illegal thing about it,” coach Rick Carlisle said Monday on ESPN radio. “This is very much a ceremonial thing on the one hand, but on the other hand he’s going to participate in (the Tuesday morning) shootaround.”
Carlisle is going to treat Romo like he treats the other 14 players on his team. Whatever drills they have to go through, whatever team meetings they have to attend, Romo must experience the same process.
Just because the Mavs are honoring Tony Romo and making him a Mav for a day, that doesn’t mean they’re going to allow him to skip the duties the other players must adhere to.
“There’s a group text message that goes out every day towards the end of shootaround by Mike Procopio, who coordinators all of our player development stuff, and it has shooting times on it,” Carlisle said. “I shot him Tony’s cell number, so Tony will get a text message with a shooting time before the game, presumably on the practice court.
“He’s a guy that’s got a great intellectual curiosity about basketball. I can tell that by spending a lot of time walking by him and he’s kind of going through his narrative of the game.”
Romo frequently attends Mavs’ home games and sits at the scorer’s table not too far from the Mavs’ bench. In fact, since Carlisle spends a lot of time standing up during Mavs’ games, sometimes he’s standing right in front of Romo.
In the meantime, although Romo received a scholarship to play football for Eastern Illinois, he also was an All-State basketball guard at Burlington High School in Burlington, WI, where he averaged 24.3 points, 8.8 rebounds and 4.7 assists as a senior in 1998. He had visions of playing basketball in college, but had already accepted a football scholarship at Eastern Illinois.
Meanwhile, Carlisle is close friends with Romo and with Cowboys coach Jason Garrett. Carlisle said he and Garrett had dinner three nights ago where they discussed this tribute the Mavs are having for Romo, and that Garrett gave his overwhelming approval.
“I’ve had a great experience going over to the Cowboys many, many times sitting in on the football meetings and seeing the differences and learning things about how they do things that might help us over here on the basketball side of it,” Carlisle said. “I just think Tony’s looking forward to the opportunity and seeing what a prep day in the NBA is like.
“From the meeting before shooting, to the shootaround, to the prep before the game, the team meeting before the game, and then getting ready to go. I’m excited, because he’s excited.”
“Again, we have such great respect for the Cowboys’ organization that this thing was run by them on virtually every level from ownership, to coaching, to PR. We have that kind of regard for their franchise and their organization.”