Archive for Hubie Brown

PTRW #536 HUBIE BROWN

Posted in Basketball, Hubie Brown with tags on March 26, 2014 by hoopscoach

What’s the biggest piece of advice you try to pass on to players and coaches today?

We were very big on being on time. And if you’re late you’re going to be accountable. Knowing your job. Sounds easy. Be on time, know your job, be unselfish and we would tell players know when to shoot and when to pass.

We’re fanatical about being on time. And also for the player to know their jobs. As a staff, we are going to make you accountable on a daily basis. Discipline is a major part of the accountability because you’re totally striving for that one word, chemistry. And we throw that word around so often. But we know that the word chemistry is the key to the success of the team.

PTRW #523 HUBIE BROWN

Posted in Basketball, Hubie Brown with tags on March 19, 2014 by hoopscoach

What Stops a Player From Reaching Their Potential:

Uncoachable

Low Pain Threshold

Low IQ for basketball

Selfishness

Will not do the little things

Drugs and Alcohol

Academics

PTRW #467 HUBIE BROWN

Posted in Basketball, Hubie Brown with tags on March 1, 2014 by hoopscoach

“Team chemistry means you play just as hard at both ends of the floor.”

PTRW #114 HUBIE BROWN

Posted in Basketball, Hubie Brown with tags on September 29, 2013 by hoopscoach

“No one is bigger than the team. You’re going to be on time, you’re going play hard, you’re going to know your job and you’re going to know when to pass and shoot. If you can’t do those four things you’re not getting time here and we don’t care who you are.”

PTRW #108 HUBIE BROWN

Posted in Basketball, Hubie Brown with tags on September 28, 2013 by hoopscoach

“You can’t back down, this is a physical game.”

BROOKLYN’S IN THE HOUSE

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 2, 2012 by hoopscoach

The year was 1970, I was six-years-old living in Brooklyn, New York. It was the first time I fell in love; in love with the New York Knickerbockers.

That was forty-two years ago. It was also the year the Knicks won their first of two NBA championships.

How can a young boy growing up in the schoolyards of Brooklyn not be affected by the way the Knicks played the game?

“The New York Knicks in 1970 had a team that a college coach could take his team to see and say, ‘now there’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” said the late Pete Newell.

Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Phil Jackson and Dave Debusschere were together for both titles and all likable guys.  The Knicks hit the open man, defended well and played the right way. Red Holzman was the head coach who made it all happen. Red’s assistant coach was Danny Whelan, he was their team trainer.

In 1973 the Knicks had a starting five that all came from non-high major colleges: Frazier (Southern Illinois), Earl Monroe (Winston-Salem), Bradley (Princeton), Debusschere (U of Detroit), Reed (Grambling). I’m not sure you will ever see that again.

The Knicks were a team dedicated to one common purpose: Winning a championship!

It’s now 2012 and there’s a new kid on the block. The Brooklyn Nets will begin play this season on Flatbush and Atlantic Avenues. Some of my friends, who USED to be Knicks fans have switched over and will begin to root for the Nets and they have asked me to join them. It must be noted that some have said to stick it out and be loyal.

I have a tough decision to make, I know.  Do I hang with the Knicks or change my allegiance and go with the Nets?

As a kid I watched the Knicks on television and listened to the games on the radio. Marv Albert doing the play-by-play alongside Cal Ramsey who handled the analysis. I can’t forget the night while watching the Knicks play in Phoenix where Suns guard Ron Lee crashed into the press table after diving after a loose ball and spilled soda all over Cal’s new sport jacket.

The Nets of the 70’s were a fun team to watch. The ABA had the red, white and blue ball and the three-point shot. They had the dunk contest and some really cool team nicknames. The Nets had Julius Erving, Larry Kenon, Brian Taylor, ‘Supa’ John Willamson and the ‘Whopper’, Billy Paultz. They were coached by one of my favorites of all-time, Kevin Loughery. His favorite play was ‘LA 23′. In 1976, the Nets defeated the Denver Nuggets in the final championship before the merger.

On Christmas night in 1976 I attended my first Knicks home game; I was 12.  My older brother and I sat in the red seats just a few feet from the court. It was Erving’s first season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers after coming over from the Nets. Philadelphia, behind Brooklyn native Lloyd Free led the Sixers with 30 points leading them to the 105-104 win. I rode the ‘A’ and ‘F’ trains back to Brooklyn heartbroken.

Brooklyn has always been a great place for basketball. Back in the day the schoolyards were filled with outstanding players.  You could find a good run almost anywhere. High school basketball both the CHSAA and PSAL in Brooklyn was king. Outdoor summer league action was also very popular.

In 1978 the Knicks drafted Micheal Ray Richardson, an unknown, but very talented point guard from the University of Montana.  ‘Sugar’ quickly became my favorite player. I loved the way he defended and shared the ball. In the schoolyard I would emulate his game; including the “over-the-head” finger roll on a lay-up.

In 1982, after four seasons that saw the Knicks make the playoffs just once (losing to the Bulls 2-0) Sugar was gone; traded to Golden State. I was bitter for a short time but something positive came out of the trade; New York received Brooklyn native Bernard King.

Hubie Brown was the new Knicks head coach. The energetic, hard-working, passionate coach got the Knicks to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in his first season. Scraping up money to attend as many home games as possible was the norm for me. Reading about my team every single morning in the New York Post, New York Daily News and the New York Newsday; I became an expert. I also came around to embrace Hubie and even memorized his legendary “POWER RIGHT” call on offense.

Scrounging up loose change to buy Basketball Digest each month kept me up on not only the Knicks but the entire league. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete Vecsey of the Post providing the best coverage around the league.

As a teen, my love for the game was growing. I began to feel like an expert by taking notice of other players and teams. I became a huge NBA fan, I was so into it that I could tell you where every player attended college.

My life-long friend Glenn and I went to the Garden on Christmas night in 1984. MSG was sold out. “This place is electric,” he said as we watched both teams warm-up.  King dropped 60 on the Nets. Little do people realize the Nets won the game and Michael Ray, playing for the Nets scored 36 points, including 24 in the second half.

While Sugar was a member of the Nets, I loved watching them play too. I would catch a bus at Port Authority and make the short trip over to the Meadowlands. At first there was no stop for the arena, I was left off at the racetrack and had to walk through the grass and the mud to get to the game.

One night I missed the bus back to the city and Darryl Dawkins gave me a lift.

The highlight of 1984 came when the Nets upset the defending champs Philadelphia 76ers in the first round of the Eastern conference play-offs. Before the series Erving announced, “You might as well mail in the stats.”  OK Doc, whatever! That’s why we play the games.

The Nets won the series (3-2) and beat the Sixers in the fifth and deciding game on the road at the Spectrum. The place was stunned; as well as the rest of the league.

After Knicks home games we would wait outside the Garden for the players to get autographs and try to get their sneakers. One night we walked with Hubie from the Garden to the parking lot across the street where he kept his car. Hubie had a stat sheet in one hand, a can of diet soda in the other, a black leather bag over his shoulder. He talked to us like we were his coaching staff.

One season I attended 39 of the 41 home games at the Garden. You could use your high school student I.D. card to get half off of a ticket. We bought a ticket for $8, sat in the blue seats but snuck down after each quarter. By the fourth quarter we were sitting behind the Knicks bench. Being a die-hard hoops fan cost me my first girlfriend too. I put the Knicks ahead of a wonderful girl. Big mistake.

During the 80’s, (one the best decades of pro basketball) the NBA scheduled pre-season doubleheader exhibition games at the Garden; 6PM and 8PM. It was there, in 1986 that I first caught a glimpse of a future Hall of Famer, Dennis Rodman. The ‘Worm’ minus the tattoo’s and body piercings was a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in the six o’clock game. There were about 400 people in the stands.

This year’s Knicks squad has gone back to an “experience” philosophy with guys like Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39), Rasheed Wallace (38), Pablo Prigioni (35) and Marcus Camby (38).

I lived through Pat Riley, who came on board in 1991. Riley brought a different brand of basketball than the one he used in LA. Instead of the fast-breaking, up-tempo style, Riley came in with the “tough-guy” approach. The Knicks had guys like Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason and Greg Anthony to provide the muscle. They battled every night.

Riley coached the Knicks for four seasons reaching the finals in 1994.  Assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy took over after Riley left.  JVG is a grinder, one of the hardest working guys in the profession. Five years later the Knicks made it to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs (the strike season). New York’s regular season record was 27-23. But they came up short in the finals four games to one.

Things have not been the same since.

Lenny Wilkins, Don Nelson, Herb Williams, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas all tried to bring the glory days back to the Garden. Since Holzman stepped down in 1982, the Knicks have had 16 head coaches.

The Nets made it to the NBA finals twice (2002 and 2003) only to find themselves on the losing end. It’s been five years since they have tasted the play-offs.

Mike D’Antoni arrived in New York in 2008. His uptempo style called “.07 seconds or less” in Phoenix was met with mixed emotions in the Big Apple. Some said that style was only good for the regular season and would not work in the playoffs. D’Antoni was gone after three and half years, making the playoffs just once.

D’Antoni gave Jeremy Lin a chance last SEASON. Lin brought excitement to the Garden. The Harvard graduate who was cut by three teams, played in the D-League and was sitting at the end of the Knicks bench when D’Antoni called his number. In 35 games, Lin scored 14 points per game and dished out 6.2 assists per game. Lin wound up getting hurt and missed the last part of the season, including the playoffs. No offense to Carmelo Anthony, but Lin was by far the most popular Knicks player.

This past summer the Houston Rockets (a team that cut him last year) signed him; the Knicks refused to match the offer. Fans were ticked off, including me. When I think back to the Knicks of the early 70’s, Lin is the one player who would fit in rather nicely with them.

The past twelve years the Knicks have been difficult to watch. They have not won a playoff series during this stretch. From 2001 to 2010 they managed to make the post-season just once! This is NEW YORK CITY…THE MECCA OF BASKETBALL!

A few months ago Phil Jackson was interviewed on HBO’s, Real Sports. The former Net and Knickerbocker said of the Knicks “the pieces do not fit.”

I have been with the Knicks for a long time. I have a chance to switch teams.

Athletes file for free-agency and leave their team, right? Why can’t fans switch teams?

Here’s the deal; I’m a basketball guy, not a fanatic that dresses up in a jersey, attends games and screams like crazy. I don’t call into sports talk radio shows and place blame on the coach for the team’s loss.  I coach high school basketball and enjoy players that play the right way. I don’t live and die with the Knicks results anymore. I think it’s great that Brooklyn has a team to call their own. It’s also fantastic that New York City now has two NBA teams.

I welcome the Nets to Brooklyn with open arms and will still keep a close eye on the Knicks.

From this day on… I will root for both teams!

Yes, you read that right.  I will cheer for both New York basketball teams. (On nights they play each other, I will sit back, relax and enjoy the game.)

So good luck to both the Nets and Knicks. I hope to see you both in the Eastern conference finals someday.

-Coach Steve Finamore

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM

TWITTER: @CoachFinamore

BACK PEDAL: DAN ROUNDFIELD, R.I.P.

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on August 7, 2012 by hoopscoach

The basketball world lost a good guy. Former Central Michigan University power forward Dan Roundfield has passed away. Roundfield drowned trying to save his wife while the family vacationed in Aruba. He was 59.

Michael Cunningham of the AJC with the horrible news.

Roundfield played for the Chips from 1971 to 1975.  In 1975, the Detroit native was named MVP of the MAC.

“I remember watching pro basketball on television as a kid and vowing I wanted to pattern myself after certain players. I would watch a Bill Russell or an Elvin Hayes, and I would tell my friends I wanted to be like them.”  (Basketball Digest, December 1979)

Roundfield was drafted by the Indiana Pacers of the ABA in 1975 where he played for the Pacers for three seasons.  Roundfield then signed as a free-agent with the Atlanta Hawks where his career took off. The power forward spent six seasons in the ATL.

I first recall seeing Roundfield play for the Atlanta Hawks at Madison Square Garden. The Hawks had an interesting and fun team. Coached by Hubie Brown and Mike Fratello they had guys like Doc Rivers, Tree Rollins and Dominique Wilkins. Roundfield was a tough inside player with some hops. In a game that I watched live at MSG he had a couple of hard dunks.  Roundfield could post you up, run the floor and shoot the mid-range jump-shot.  Roundfield could defend very well and he was one of the better rebounders in the league. Roundfield was always a guy who was crashing the offensive glass when a teammate missed a shot.  To me Roundfield was very underrated during his time with the Hawks. Roundfield brought his hardhat and lunch pail every night; a typical blue-collar guy from the city of Detroit.

Roundfield might not have been the most talented player with the Hawks but he was the backbone of the that team.

Here’s an outstanding article from back in 1980 on Roundfield via Sports Illustrated.

People weren’t always trying to get Roundfield to play basketball for them, however. He grew up in Detroit thinking he was going to be a baseball hero and didn’t even begin to play organized basketball until the 11th grade. “My first year was a total wipeout,” says Roundfield. “We lost every single game. I was the shortest center in our division, and we got killed every time.” By his senior year at Chadsey High School, Roundfield’s game was improving, but he was often overshadowed by a couple of other future stars from the Detroit area—Campy Russell and James McElroy, both now in the NBA with Cleveland and Atlanta respectively.

Roundfield was a three-time NBA all-star from 1980-1982. More from the SI story…

Only six or seven colleges bothered to recruit Roundfield, but he chose none of them, electing instead to go to Central Michigan after his parents urged him to apply for a basketball scholarship. Had his parents been less persuasive, Roundfield would probably be a bank teller today. Come to think of it, he is a bank teller today, working at the Fulton Federal Savings & Loan in Atlanta during the off-season.

Roundfield wound up leading Central Michigan to a 1975 Mid-American Conference title and impressed pro scouts by blocking eight shots in a loss to Kentucky in the NCAA Mideast Regional that year. He was drafted in the first round by Indiana, then in the ABA, for whom he sat on the bench most of his rookie season. Roundfield had always been a great leaper, but he wasn’t prepared for one experience. “My second year with the Pacers, Len Elmore got hurt,” says Roundfield, “and I started 61 games for them at center. That was the first year of the merger, so I had to go up against guys like Bob LanierBill Walton and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. I learned a lot that year. I was quick enough to stay with those guys. but I wasn’t big enough to really do battle with them. I had to get by on quickness and jumping ability, which didn’t do me any good most of the time because those big guys would just push me out of the way.”

In 1980 Roundfield made first team all-NBA. In 82-83, Roundfield put up 19 PPG and 11RPG.

Roundfield was also a three-time member of the first team all-defensive team.

Roundfield finished out his career in Detroit and Washington.

His career numbers over 12 years in the ABA and NBA: 14 points per game and 6 rebounds per game.

When you talk old school players, Roundfield would be the guy you would want your players today to emulate.

While doing some research on Roundfield I came across this funny exchange between an NBA official and Roundfield’s coach Mike Fratello compliments of Sports Illustrated.

Earl StromNBA referee, complaining to Atlanta coach Mike Fratello after the Hawks’ Dan Roundfield protested a call: “I don’t think he has the right to yell at me just because I miss a call. I don’t yell at him when he misses a layup.”

Thoughts and prayers go out to the Roundfield family.

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM

TWITTER: @CoachFinamore

PARTING IS SUCH SWEET SORROW

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on July 19, 2012 by hoopscoach

I was six-years-old when my love affair began with the New York Knicks. That was forty-two years ago. It was also the year they won their first of two NBA championships.

How can a young boy growing up in the schoolyards of Brooklyn not be affected by the way the Knicks played the game?

“The Knicks in 1970 had a team that a college coach could take his team to see and say, ‘now there’s the way the game is supposed to be played,” said the late Pete Newell.

Three years later the Knicks won the championship once again. The core of their organization; Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Willis Reed, Phil Jackson and Dave Debusschere were together for both titles. The Knicks were a team that played the right way. They hit the open man, they defended and pulled for each other. Red Holzman was the head coach who made it all happen. Red’s assistant coach was team trainer, Danny Whelan. It was a time teams didn’t have “second-row” assistants.

It’s probably the last time you will ever see an NBA championship starting five (1973) all from a non-high major college: Frazier (Southern Illinois), Monroe (Winston-Salem), Bradley (Princeton), Debusschere (U of Detroit), Reed (Grambling).

The Knicks were a team dedicated to one common purpose: Winning a championship!

Over the next few years I watched the Knicks as much as possible on television and listened to them on the radio. Marv Albert doing the play-by-play alongside Cal Ramsay who handled the analysis. I can’t forget the night while watching the Knicks play in Phoenix, Suns guard Ron Lee crashed into the press table and spilled soda all over Cal’s new sport jacket.

On Christmas night in 1976 I attended my first Knicks home game. I sat in the red seats, just a few feet from the court. It was Julius Erving’s first season as a member of the Philadelphia 76ers. That night ‘The Doctor’ broke my heart with a couple of big shots down the stretch to beat my team 105-104.  Brooklyn’s own Lloyd Free led Philly with 30 points as Bob McAdoo scored 24 for the Knicks.

Two years later the Knicks drafted  Micheal Ray Richardson; an unknown, exciting point guard out of the University of Montana. After watching “Sugar” play for the Knicks, he became my favorite player. I loved the way he defended, shared the ball and slashed to the basket. In the schoolyard I would emulate his jump-shot and his over-the-head finger roll.

In 1982, after four seasons that saw the Knicks make the playoffs just once (losing to the Bulls 2-0) Sugar was gone. I was bitter for a year or two but the good thing was they traded him for Bernard King.

Hubie Brown was the new Knicks head coach and he got them to the Eastern Conference semi-finals in his first season.

Scraping up money to attend as many home games as possible was the norm. Reading about them every single morning in the New York Post, New York Daily News and the New York Newsday; I felt like an expert. Picking up Basketball Digest each month also kept me up on not only my team but the entire league.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention Pete Vescey of the New York Post providing the best material in and around the league.

We would use our student I.D. at the ticket window in the lobby of the Garden to get half price off an eight dollar ticket only to find ourselves climbing the countless escalators to the roof.  We sat in “Blue Heaven.”

If there was a sell-out (19,500) we were screwed. One night I recall the LA Lakers in town and the game was sold out.

I was crushed. I was hoping to see Magic vs Sugar.

But fear not, we found a way to sneak in. I walked around the Garden searching for an open door. The gate to the ramp where the visiting bus would use was up, there was a delivery truck talking to the security guard, I snuck around the other side and ran up the to the game.

The never-ending escalator climb sucked. On our way up to the top, at each level we’d try to schmooze the usher standing at each door but to no avail. The old men in their MSG-issued red blazers knew we were students.

Watching King, the former Fort Hamilton High School scoring machine dominate the opposition either in the post with his sweet turn-around or soaring in from the wing for a slam-dunk. BK had the Garden jumping. Or if they were giving the more talented Boston Celtics with Larry Bird all they could handle only to come up short, we admired the Knicks toughness.  Last bit not least, listening to Hubie shout out from the bench, “POWER RIGHT, POWER RIGHT!”

After games we’d wait outside on the street for the players. Chatting them up sometimes close to midnight. I recall one night hanging out with Hubie in front of the parking lot where he kept his car. He had a stat sheet in one hand, a can of diet coke in the other, a black leather bag over his shoulder. He talked to us like we were his coaching staff.

The Garden was electric on Christmas night in 1984 when King scored 60 points against the New Jersey Nets. What people forget is the Nets won the game and Michael Ray, playing for the Nets scored 36 points. I should know, I was there rooting for Sugar as he dropped 24 points in the second half against his former team.

Players like Rory Sparrow and Edmund Sherrod ran the point. I admired Louie Orr battle bigger and stronger forwards on a nightly basis. Watching Billy Cartwright shoot that odd-looking shot and of course there was the late Marvin ‘The Eraser” Webster swatting shots into the third row.

One season I attended 39 of the 41 home games. I was nuts; it cost me my first girlfriend too. I put the Knicks ahead of a wonderful girl.

I watched guys like Larry Demic, Sly Williams, Eddie Lee Wilkins and Ken ‘The Animal” Bannister. Others that came through 33rd and 8th that should always be remembered is Eric Fernsten, Brian Quinnet.

The NBA used to schedule pre-season doubleheader exhibition games at the Garden; 6PM and 8PM. It was there that I saw a glimpse of a future Hall of Fame player in Dennis Rodman.  ‘The Worm’ minus the tattoo’s and body piercings was a rookie with the Detroit Pistons in the six o’clock game. There were about 400 people in the stands.

I can’t forget the veterans who were a little past their prime but had a ton of experience on their resume, brought in by the Knicks front office. Guys like Kiki Vandeweghe, Paul Westphal, Mike Newlin, Doc Rivers, Rolando Blackman, Derek Harper, Penny Hardaway and Steve Francis.

This year’s Knicks squad has gone back to that “experience” philosophy by bringing in Jason Kidd (39), Kurt Thomas (39) and Marcus Camby (38).

Hubie lasted four seasons in New York; early in his fifth year he was fired after going 4-12. Bob Hill took over.

The following season Rick Pitno took over after Hill went 20-46. Hubie’s former assistant made the playoffs in both of his years at the Garden.

Then it was Stu Jackson and John MacLeod running the show with players like Trent Tucker, Rod Strickland, Mark Jackson, Gerald Wilkins and Johnny Newman.

Pat Riley came on board in 1991. Riley brought a different brand of basketball than the one he used to be successful in LA. Instead of the fast-breaking, up-tempo style, Riley came in with the “tough-guy” approach. The Knicks had guys like Charles Oakley, Xavier McDaniel, Anthony Mason and Greg Anthony to provide the muscle.

Riley coached the Knicks for four seasons reaching the finals in 1994.  Assistant coach Jeff Van Gundy took over. JVG was a grinder, one of the hardest working guys in the profession. Hard work paid off.

Five years later the Knicks made it to the finals against the San Antonio Spurs (the strike season). New York’s regular season record was 27-23. Once again they came up short going down four games to one.

Coaches like Lenny Wilkins, Don Nelson, Herb Williams, Larry Brown and Isiah Thomas all ran the ship at one time or another. Since Holzmann stepped down in 1982, the Knicks have had 16 head coaches.

Mike D’Antoni arrived in 2008 and tried to clean up the mess.  His uptempo style that was called “.07 seconds or less” in Phoenix was met with mixed emotions. Some said that the style was only good for the regular season and would not work in the playoffs.  He was gone after three and half years, making the playoffs just once.

I will give credit to D’Antoni for giving Jeremy Lin a chance of  a lifetime last year. Lin brought excitement to the Garden.

The Knicks picked up Carmelo Anthony and Amare Stoudemire; two very good players to build the Knicks into contenders. Last year, Lin came on the scene and lit the Garden up. He was by far the most popular Knicks player.

The former Harvard guard who was cut by three teams, played in the D-League and was sitting at the end of the Knicks bench when D’Antoni called his number.

In 35 games, Lin scored 14 PPG and dished out 6.2 assists per game. But Lin wound up getting hurt and missed the last part of the season, including the playoffs.

Now, in the summer of 2012, the Houston Rockets (a team that cut him last year) has signed him; the Knicks refused to match the offer.

When I think back to the Knicks of the early 70’s, Lin is the one player who would fit in rather nicely with them.

The past twelve years the Knicks have been difficult to watch. They are still trying to win their first play-off series in that period. From 2001 to 2010 they made the post-season just once! Going out in the first round the past two years, it’s been difficult to watch.

Like Phil Jackson recently said on HBO’s, Real Sports;  “the pieces do not fit.”

How much can a Knicks fan take?

Knicks fans deserve much better.

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM

TWITTER: @CoachFinamore

BACK PEDAL: JOHN DREW

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , on June 30, 2012 by hoopscoach

(Image Compliments of Ray LeBov via Sport Magazine)

Four decades ago, during the early 70’s John Drew scored 77 and 74 points in back-to-back high school games.

This was a time when there was no recruiting services, no skills academies, no AAU and no sports talk radio shows.

Drew played his high school ball at J.F. Shields High School in Beatrice, Alabama.

During his senior year, Drew scored 44 PPG. Over his scholastic career, Drew averaged an amazing 41 PPG!

When you think of basketball players from the State of Alabama guys like Charles Barkley, Robert Horry and Chuck Person come to mind. Drew deserves to be mentioned with this group.

Drew, a 6-foot-6 wiry, athletic forward attended Gardner-Webb University, a small college in North Carolina where in his first two seasons he scored 24 and 25 PPG. By the way, Gardner-Webb has produced two NBA players, Eddie Lee Wilkins and Drew. Artis Gilmore attended GW when it was a Junior College. (FYI, Hubie Brown coached all three guys at one time or another.)

After two seasons at Webb, Drew went hardship; these days that description is obsolete, now they use ‘One and Done’.  The Atlanta Hawks picked Drew in the second round (25th pick overall) of the 1974 draft. The Hawks wanted to make Drew their first pick but their scouting staff didn’t want other teams around the league to laugh at them.

“They told me I had to do this and had to do that to make it in pro basketball,” Drew told Phil Elderkin of the Christian Science Monitor back in 1976. “And I told them I didn’t have to do anything except what I’d always done.”

In Drew’s rookie season he scored 18 PPG and pulled down 10 RPG, making the all-rookie team. It must be noted that Drew led the league in offensive rebounding that year. Drew was great at following his own shot. Thanks to my friend Ray LeBov for this comment from Tom Heinsohn via the 1976 Pro Basketball Handbook:

“John Drew is the only person who reminds me of Elgin Baylor when following their own shot”

This from E.C. Coleman in his analysis of the top scorers in 1976:

His biggest asset is crashing the offensive boards. After he shoots, he’s headed for the basket before his feet hit the
floor.  Shoots 15 times & will miss seven, but he’s following up the shot & putting the ball in on his second attempt, so you have to box him out.

Drew holds an NBA record that many do not strive for;  most turnovers in a game with 14. (Tied with Jason Kidd).

The scoring machine was a 2-time NBA all-star over an 11 year career.  For seven straight seasons, Drew led the Hawks in scoring. The following mention is taken from Sport Magazine, March 1979.

Drew, one of the most-fouled players in the league, often lets his aerial technique take him to the FT line.

“This is one of my secrets,” Drew says, “but I’ll tell it to you.  When I’m on offense & I’m in the air & I have the ball, I hold it out in front of me.  Most defenders reach for he ball & they hit my arm.  I’m strong enough to keep control.”

Much of the control is strength – Drew does leg presses.

“Being a kid growing up, well, most kids like to dunk the ball, touch the rim, get above then rim.  Once I could reach up there, it was a big thing in forming my ego…and when I jump, I like to put my legs up under me.  Psychologically, I feel lie I’m jumping higher.”

Of course, he’s not really jumping higher. “Maybe not, but it feels good.  It’s good for the mind.  And what’s good for the mind is good for the game.”

This past season, when Jeremy Lin of the New York Knicks was putting up incredible numbers, according to the Elias Sports Bureau, Lin in his first 5 starts and his 136 points in those starts is the highest total for a player in his first five starts since John Drew scored 139 points for the Hawks in the 1974-75 season.

That’s 37 years!

Before Drew’s 21st birthday he was able to record six games where he scored 20 points and 20 rebounds in one game!

I recall watching Drew light the Knicks up at Madison Square Garden. The guy had some motor!

Hubie Brown coached Drew for 5 seasons in Atlanta. Taken from an article written by Bruce Newman via Sports Illustrated in 1983:

One of the most idiosyncratic Hawks was John Drew, the All-Star forward to whom Brown regularly referred—both in front of his teammates and to the press—as “cement head,” “moron” and “cinder head,” those being among the least harsh and more printable epithets he applied to Drew. In a painfully public way, Drew had become the ultimate whipping boy. Brown never flinched from his role of bully. For his part, Drew refused to say an unkind word about the coach. But by that time, Drew, by his own subsequent admission, was a heavy user of cocaine. The season the Hawks won 50 games, 1979-80, Brown rode Drew mercilessly, a tactic that further alienated him from many of his players.

Drew was hard to stop on the court; off the court he couldn’t stop. Drugs was Drew’s toughest defender. David Stern banned him in January of 1986 for repeatedly violating NBA’s substance abuse policy.

Roy C. Johnson wrote this piece on Drew in the NY Times back in 1983.

Josh Bean of Alabama.com wrote a piece about Drew two years ago.

“John was like Kobe (Bryant) or Magic Johnson or Larry Bird — he knew when he was hot,” Averett said. “What I would do, when he got hot, he’d shake his hands. I’d tell ‘em, ‘Feed him. Feed him!’ And he’d tear ‘em down, from anywhere, from any angle.”

Had he not succumbed to cocaine addiction, how would Drew be remembered?

“I believe he would have gone farther than Charles Barkley,” the 83-year-old Averett said. “John Drew had the capabilities of being a player like Magic Johnson and Kobe Bryant. He had that kind of talent. It just wasn’t no telling how far he could have gone.”

After 8 seasons in Atlanta, Drew was traded to the Utah Jazz where he played three seasons.

“The main thing is to play as hard as you can all the time; whether you’re up 20 or down 20,” Drew told Elderkin from the Christian Science Monitor.

The State of Alabama has a Sports Hall of Fame; Drew is not in it, I think it’s time that changes and the folks behind the scenes need to induct one of the greatest scorers in the history of Alabama High School basketball.

Who knows the whereabouts of John Drew? Let him know I was asking about him. The guy was a big-time scorer back in the day!

HOOPS135@HOTMAIL.COM

TWITTER: @CoachFinamore

MICHAEL RAY RICHARDSON

Posted in Basketball with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on August 17, 2011 by hoopscoach

Thanks to Clarence Gaines for tweeting this link (via Grantland.com) on a story about former NBA all-star Michael Ray Richardson. ‘Sugar’ was my favorite player back in the 80’s.

That’s Larry Bird he is abusing. Midcourt at the Garden, and Bird pushes a two-handed pass above Sugar’s head; Sugar leaps, steals the ball clean, and then it is just he and Bird, and this is a mismatch to end all mismatches, so Sugar takes him off the dribble and lays it in. You watch those highlights of Richardson as a young man and it’s like someone put Magic Johnson on fast-forward: He is quick and strong and fearless in the lane, a point guard from the slums of Denver unleashed on the streets of New York at a precarious moment to be young and rich in America. He blew through half a dozen agents and (according to a 1985 Sports Illustrated profile) bought 16 cars, including a Mercedes with “Sugar” inscribed in gold on the handle of the stick. He partied at Studio 54 and Plato’s Retreat. He clashed with coaches (Hubie Brown most of all) and he demanded more money and he disappeared at inopportune times, often without adequate explanation, and amid that erratic behavior he would tantalize you with absurd lines like the 27 points, 15 rebounds, and 19 assists he put up against Cleveland in March of ’81.

Eric Clapton once said, “I hate listening to my old records, which I did stoned or drunk.”  You can bet Michael Ray feels the same way about his game back in the day.

During my teenage days in the 1980’s I grew up in Brooklyn, New York; I idolized Sugar.

I fell in love with his game. I loved the way he defended, rebounded, shared the ball and most of all, the confidence he displayed.  Of course I had no clue he was killing himself, off the court. We didn’t have TMZ, Sports by Brooks or even Deadspin. We didn’t have camera phones either.

Sugar’s downfall was white lines; no, not the ones that make up the baseline, free-throw line, or half-court lines.  He liked to party. It’s a shame because the two (hoops and drugs) don’t mix. Or how about this equation? New York City, the 80’s, ladies, a superstar…?

Sure there have been many star athletes come through New York and not ‘fuck up’, but Michael Ray couldn’t overcome the temptations.

I saved up a few dollars to purchase an authentic Knicks jersey with RICHARDSON sewn on the back from Gerry Cosby’s Sporting Good store. It ran me close to $200. When I wore it people thought I was crazy. Today, you have grown men wearing jersey’s.

My friends and I also collected sneakers and practice jersey’s from NBA players. We’d wait outside the Garden after a Knicks home game and ask the players for their shoes. Michael Ray was one of the coolest cats I ever met. He always made time to rap with us after the game.

When Richardson was traded to the Golden State Warriors in 1982 he played in 33 games; he was then traded back East to the New Jersey Nets. Along with Otis Birdsong, the duo teamed up to form a sweet backcourt. Their highlight came in 1984 when they upset the defending champions Philadelphia 76ers in the playoffs. In game 5, down in Philly  Sugar had 24 points and 6 steals clinching the series.

When people mention Bernard King first thing they talk about is the former scoring machine’s superstar 60 points on Christmas night in 1984 at MSG vs the New Jersey Nets. Little do they realize the Knicks lost that game 120-114 behind Richardson’s 36 points.

I was heartbroken in 1986,  the day Sugar was thrown out of the league for good-by David Stern.

Forget autographs, who needed that when you could get Trent Tucker’s practice jersey?

Just for old times sakes, I carry a basketball card of the Sugar Man in my wallet.

There’s no telling how good Michael Ray could’ve been if drug addiction didn’t get the best of him.

-Coach Finamore

hoops135@hotmail.com

Follow me on Twitter; @CoachFinamore

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