Sad news about Howard Garfinkel passing away today. He was 86.  There’s thousands of stories about “Garf,” co-founder of the Five-Star Basketball Camp. Here’s one.

I am in Columbus, Ohio.  It’s the late 90’s, spring time.  I know this because it was warm but I still carried a light jacket with me.  I had been living in East Lansing, Michigan for two, maybe three years.  The drive from East Lansing to Columbus wasn’t too bad.

Jerry Watson was putting on an AAU event.  Paul Biancardi was an assistant coach at Ohio State. Jim O’Brien was the head coach.  Paul and Jim are good guys.

On the second day of the tournament, Saturday afternoon to be exact, Garf and I are sitting in a half-empty gym watching a game.  We’re sitting in the front row of the bleachers at half-court.


The action is going up and down. Two solid teams. Caron Butler might have been on one team.  Garf and I are talking about each kid. Usual comments you hear when adults watch ball.

Good passer.”

“Great shooter.”


All of a sudden, the official standing on the court working the game, just inches away from us blows his whistle.  I found this odd because the kid with the ball was dribbling the ball at the top of the key running a play. (Half-court set about to be executed).

“YO, THERE’S NO SMOKING IN HERE,” the official said.

He was looking at me and Garf.

I was like, “I’m not smoking!”

I quickly glance to my right at Garf and he’s taking a drag from a cigarette.


Garf didn’t respond. He just took a long drag like it was his last.

“Yo, mister, you gotta go outside and smoke that!” the official said.

Garf looked at the perturbed man, took another drag and calmly pulled the cigarette from his mouth, placed it under his shoe and put it out.



Still, Garf didn’t say a word. I was expecting him to say sorry or something like that.

Instead he sat there, looking out to the court at the players with the look on his face like, “Okay, put the ball in play.”


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