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.”


On Klay Thompson and Steph Curry:

“To watch these guys play and play the game the right way, it’s probably the greatest feeling in the world. They genuinely like each other. They play the game the way it’s supposed to be played, are brilliantly coached by Steve Kerr. He’s done a remarkable job and these guys have really bought into what he’s trying to accomplish.”


On D’Angelo Russell:

“You know I think when some of these guys come in the league, they think they’re entitled and that’s how I felt he thought when he first got with us that he almost tried to act like he was a veteran and I tried to make sure he knew he wasn’t.  You have to earn your stripes, so yeah there were times I was a little tough on him just to bring him down to Earth, let him know that this is not an easy task being in the NBA, that’s the easy part – getting there – the hardest part is to stay there and get better and better and better. So, yeah, I had some tough love for the young man, but just like I told him, when I stop talking to you that’ll be a problem. I had a lot of love for him, he obviously went through some tough times, but I think he’ll be a good player.”