Basketball standout Craig Ehlo, who spent 14 years in the NBA and last month resigned an assistant coaching position at Eastern Washington University, was arrested early Thursday on charges including domestic violence after firefighters found family members holding him down near a pile of burning clothes outside his rural Spokane home.
Spokane County sheriff’s deputies arrested Ehlo, 51, on the felony charge of first-degree reckless burning and a separate charge of domestic violence, according to the Sheriff’s Office. He was booked into Spokane County Jail shortly after 7:30 a.m. under his given first name, Joel.
Fire crews responded to a call about 1 a.m. in the 3300 block of East 77th Avenue south of Spokane, sheriff’s spokesman Deputy Craig Chamberlin said. They reported finding family members engaged in an altercation and a large pile of burning clothes. Firefighters then requested deputy assistance, Chamberlin said.
“As (deputies) approached, they saw two males holding down another male on the ground, who was Craig” Ehlo, Chamberlin said.
Deputies detained Ehlo and questioned witnesses.
“Through the investigation, the deputies learned that Craig had a domestic dispute. He had been arguing with his wife earlier in the evening,” Chamberlin said.
Family members then heard strange noises coming from the garage. They went out and “saw Craig piling up clothes next to the garage and he lit them on fire,” Chamberlin said.
The family members told the deputies they were holding Ehlo because “they thought he was … going to run and jump onto the fire. That’s why he was being detained on the ground.”
The fire melted some structure siding and damaged an awning, Chamberlin said.
Chamberlin said he didn’t know what happened during the 26 minutes it took for the deputies to arrive or if firefighters intervened in the altercation.
None of Ehlo’s family members reported any injuries, Chamberlin said.
Ehlo, who ended a two-year assistant coaching stint with EWU on July 11, is perhaps best remembered as the defender guarding a 26-year-old Michael Jordan in the first round of the 1989 NBA playoffs when Jordan hit “The Shot” to catapult the Chicago Bulls over Ehlo’s Cleveland Cavaliers. Ehlo had scored a layup just before Jordan’s buzzer-beater to put the Cavs briefly on top, 100-99.
In 14 NBA seasons, Ehlo averaged 8.6 points and nearly three assists per game. The Lubbock, Texas, native and Washington State University basketball standout was taken in the third round of the 1983 draft by the Houston Rockets before stints with the Cavs, Atlanta Hawks and Seattle SuperSonics. He moved to Spokane after his retirement following the 1996-97 season, coaching the Rogers High School boys basketball team for three seasons from 1998-2001, according to a biography on the EWU athletics website. Ehlo has also served as a television analyst for the SuperSonics and Gonzaga University.
Ehlo is expected to make his first appearance in Spokane Superior Court today.