“Every possession matters. The game isn’t over until it’s over.”
“I just want to do whatever I can to help the team win.”
Came across this quote from the greatest point guard of all-time.
36 years ago, Magic was the first player taken in the NBA draft.
Here are his words after officially becoming a Los Angeles Laker.
“I hope I can come in and be a floor leader. Get everybody to work as a unit. That’s what it takes to win – team basketball.”
Keep in mind, Magic was 19 years old at the time.
While browsing through a copy of Basketball Digest from the late 70’s, arguably the greatest magazine dedicated to basketball, I came across a name of an NBA player from Flint, Michigan. You remember Basketball Digest, right? Loved the crossword puzzle and rosters in the back.
The city of Flint has produced dynamite basketball players over the years. Guys like Trent Tucker, Glen Rice, Mateen Cleaves, Antonio Smith, Morris Peterson, Kelvin Torbert and Charlie Bell just to name a few.
Terry Furlow, one of the top players out of Flint Northern High School known for his scoring ability is a player who doesn’t get talked about when discussing the top basketball players from Flint.
On May 23, 1980, Terry died in a car accident. He was 25 years old.
While at Northern Furlow helped lead his team to an undefeated season and the State title.
MSU head coach Gus Ganakas was recruiting Furlow’s teammate Wayman Britt at the time but Britt decided to attend the University of Michigan; so Ganakas offered Furlow.
Playing four seasons for the Spartans, Furlow led the Big Ten in scoring in his junior and senior years. In his 4th campaign in East Lansing Furlow scored 31 points per game during Big Ten play. On January 5, 1976, Furlow dropped a 50 spot on Iowa.
Think about that for a minute. 31 a game? Half a hundred on Iowa?
Right before the car crash just outside of Cleveland, Furlow had just completed his best season in his short NBA career while playing for the Utah Jazz. Furlow dropped scoring 16 points per game. Few days after the crash they found traces of cocaine in his system.
“My best friend free-based,” Johnson says. “He did a lot of things I didn’t want him to do. I tried to get him to change, but Terry felt like he could conquer anything. When he died it was a blow to me. He was like the big brother I had never had.”
Furlow was taken in the first round (12th overall) of the 1976 Draft by the Philadelphia 76ers. It was there that he became roommates with Julius Erving.
The first and only year with the Sixers Terry played in 32 games but during that time he caught a glimpse of what it was like to win; Philadelphia went to the NBA championship before losing to the Portland Trailblazers 4-2.
Furlow got a chance to play with George McGinnis, World B. Free, Darryl Dawkins and Doug Collins. He also appeared in three games during the NBA finals.
The following season Furlow was traded to the Cleveland Cavaliers where he played for head coach Bill Fitch. In his second season with the Cavaliers he was traded to the Hawks. After helping Atlanta in the playoffs he found himself moving once again early the following season this time to headed West to Utah.
While a member of the Hawks in 1978-79 Furlow played with John Drew, Eddie Johnson, Tree Rollins, Dan Roundfield and Charlie Criss.
Furlow came off the bench in the playoffs and pumped in 15 points per game (including 21 in one game) against the Washington Bullets in the Eastern Conference Finals.
During the series Furlow had a few words for his opponents.
“They’ve got nobody who can stop me. I am going to dominate their guards physically and psychologically.”
During Game 6 of that series there was a loose-ball on the floor; Bullets center Wes Unseld and Furlow got tangled up. Furlow tore away, fists balled, and the two men had to be separated.
“Lucky for one of us,” the 6’7″, 260-pound Unseld said.
I would not have sold Furlow short in that one.
“There were nights when we would (work out) late into the evening and I would get a little worried because I was staying in the dormitory, so they stopped serving dinner at a certain time, and I also had to get to study hall four nights a week,” Kelser says. “I was worried that I wasn’t gonna eat dinner and Terry would say, ‘Don’t worry about dinner, you can come and eat with me.’ He had an apartment and he obviously had plenty of food in that apartment and he would say, ‘Hey! You’ll just come and eat with me!’ That to me was just the epitome of leadership, because here’s a senior taking massive interest in a freshman and showing him the ropes, and I wanted very much to be just as good as Terry Furlow. He was tremendous”
Furlow will be remembered by some as a player who worked tirelessly to perfect his basketball skills in order to become an NBA star. “I envision that he might never have been an All-Star, but I think Terry could have been a very solid NBA player for at least 10 years,” Kelser says. But for others, he will be remembered as a brash kid who was taught a very important lesson about driving under the influence. Terry Furlow may not have become a household name, but to so many who knew him, Terry Furlow was a man they will never forget.
My guy Patrick Hayes at Ballin Michigan interviewed Woodyard about what he learned in researching Furlow.
First, I know you are a Flint guy, but what specifically got you interested in telling Furlow’s story again?
Honestly, I was bugging SLAM magazine pretty much every chance I got to get a feature-length story in the mag. I had been hearing about Furlow ever since I was a kid and a lot of people knew about him somewhat but they didn’t know just how great he actually was so that is what got me started. From then I did all my research and took the time to look at all old clips in the Flint Journal’s archive and over the internet and I wanted to tell his story the right way without letting the way he died influence his basketball legacy.
I reached out to George Hamo a Flint native and asked him his thoughts on Furlow:
Shit, I played against him, they had him and Wayman Britt. They played for Bill Frieder at Flint Northern. One of best teams in Flint history, I believe they were undefeated their senior year. Britt and I guarded each other. Then we all played together on Flint’s USA-Canada team. We kicked Canada’s ass every game. Terry was a pure shooter-one of the all time best.
During his days as a Spartan, Furlow took a liking to a young high school standout from around the way.
In his autobiography, “My Life”, Magic Johnson writes about how Furlow took him under his wing while he was at Everett High School. Johnson would play in pickup games and team up with Furlow.
“Young fella, you’re gonna hang out with me.” Furlow said to Magic one night after a game.
The two young men formed a friendship and could often be seen playing one-on-one after pickup games where Magic said that Furlow “destroyed me every single time we played.”
One-on-One is a lost art. Kids don’t play anymore and I’m sure those games against Furlow helped Magic progress as a player.
“It was always 15-0.” Magic said.
Guys like Furlow would not let younger guys get off easy. It was their way of getting the young players tough. They made it hard.
“It was a couple of months before I finally scored my first points against him,” Magic said.
It wasn’t until two years later that Magic finally beat Furlow in a game.
“Finally, after two years of these games, I actually beat him.”
Furlow would visit Magic at Everett High School on occasion and take in a Vikings home game. After a pretty good performance, Johnson checked in with his ‘big brother’ and was surprised at what he said.
“You played all right young fella,” he said. “But when you went in for that left-handed lay-up, you took it with your right hand!”
Playing in 55 games with the Jazz during the 79-80 season Furlow was their 3rd leading scorer behind Adrian Dantley and Pete Maravich. His career high of 37 vs the Denver Nuggets that season was the highlight of his short stint.
To this day Furlow still holds the record for most points scored in a single game for the Spartans and still holds the record for single season scoring average of 29.4.
In a one-week stretch Furlow scored 50, 48 and 42 points for Michigan State. Unheard of today in big time basketball.
Who knows what might have happened with Furlow’s playing career if he had not crashed his car in the Spring of 1980?
Jack Ebling, author of “Magic Moments: A Century of Spartan Basketball” said of Furlow: “He wanted the ball. He wanted it all. And when Terry “The Trigger” Furlow was right, there was nobody better.”
From 1999 to 2001 I spent time as a member of the men’s basketball support staff at Michigan State University. It’s amazing how much I learned. Here are the Top 10 items.
1-WORK ETHIC: Nothing gets accomplished without it. Spartan players are expected to punch the clock as well as the coaching staff, team managers, and staff personnel. Show up early; leave late. I witnessed players work on their shooting at 1:00 a.m. I have also seen them in the gym at 6 a.m. like the summer morning I helped out with Draymond Green and Travis Walton.
2-ACCOUNTABILITY: Everyone has to carry their weight. No one can hide. No weak links. Best example was the video coordinator and managers on the road having the hotel ballroom set up for watching film. Scouting reports have to be studied and memorized. Your best ability at Michigan State is your availability. Everyone is held accountable.
3-PASSION: You have to bring it every day and every night. No such thing as “down time” during the season. You come to work and you give all you have. 100% effort, nothing less is acceptable. “Players Play Tough Players Win.” Leave it all on the court.
4-COMMUNICATION: Everyone talks. Everyone cheers. Everyone inspires and encourages. “Every day you should think about and talk about how the practice went,” Coach Izzo once mentioned in a staff meeting. At practice everyone is lifting each other up. I’ve never seen so much chatter at one practice. It’s electric and alive. Lots of energy. Every day.
5-RECRUITING: One word, relentless. That’s what it’s all about at Michigan State. You’re recruiting non-stop (within the rules of course). Writing letters, phone calls, text messages, evaluations, on-campus visits, AAU events, high school games, individual skill development workouts…always have to be working. Recruits are invited to football games in the Fall enabling the coaching staff a chance to spend time with them. It’s important you learn about a kid off the court.
6-RELATIONSHIPS: At Michigan State you build and nurture relationships. Every day you can meet someone new. You build friendships that last forever. Coach Izzo is big on relationships during summer basketball camp. Coaches meeting coaches. Campers meeting campers. Working camp in the summer gave me an opportunity to meet some great people; to this day, years later I still have contact with guys I worked with at camp. One day in the summer I watched Draymond Green work out. After the workout he came over to me and introduced himself. That gesture says a lot about him. “Get to know the person next to you that you don’t know,” Coach Izzo once said.
7-REBOUND AND DEFENSE: If there’s two basketball attributes that stick out in my mind about Michigan State it’s rebounding and defense; the Spartans pride themselves on crashing the boards. Everyone hits the glass. Everyone rebounds. You learn to battle. At the defensive end of the floor you never relax. If you don’t defend at MSU, you sit on the bench. Michigan State is famous for the war drill. I once watched two players go at each other for three straight possessions, ripping each others jersey, drawing blood. A fist-fight almost erupted.
8-CHARACTER: Coach Izzo looks for guys with character, not characters. You come to Michigan State to improve your game and to graduate. You attend class and you give all you have in practice. You don’t bring attention to yourself. It’s about the team, not you. You arrive in East Lansing as a boy, you leave a man. Always have to do the right thing.
9-INTEGRITY: Do things the right way. Don’t cheat. Tell the truth. Be responsible on and off the court. Respect people. Respect the support staff.
10-OPPORTUNITY: In the Spring of 1996, when I arrived in East Lansing from Brooklyn, New York Coach Izzo gave me a golden opportunity to become a better coach and a better person. When I experience a tough situation, I look back on the time spent at Michigan State and always utilize what I learned to get me through. Players and coaches who arrive in East Lansing get an opportunity to help sustain a great tradition. Winning games the right way; and a chance to prolong their careers whether in the NBA or playing professional basketball over seas (or an assistant coach getting a head coaching job) It’s not only players and coaches who are given the opportunity at Michigan State but team managers make the most of their time under Izzo too. There are a handful of former support staff members from Michigan State that currently hold positions with NBA teams.
“Coach Izzo taught me the fundamentals of the game so that I could become a better player. When he recruited me, he promised me a chance to play in a championship game to become an all-American. Because of him, my dreams became a reality.”
The Miami Heat and Boston Celtics tipped off the 2010-11 NBA season last night. Today, in our 90 Day Basketball Improvement Plan I discuss playing time.
Day 63 – M.P.G.’S
Last night LeBron James played 42 minutes in the Heat’s 88-80 loss at Boston.
To me, he needed to play 48 minutes.
Yes, I said 48 minutes. The whole entire game!
That is of course, if he gets into foul trouble or gets injured he comes out of the game.
I know for a fact the 6’8″ 270 pound extraordinary athlete from Akron, Ohio did not need to get any splinters last night at the Boston Garden.
In the 4th quarter, with 9:07 to go in the game the Heat were down 65-61 (this after scoring 9 points in the entire first quarter). James was replaced by D-Wade… At the 7:23 mark, James checked back in the game with the Heat now down 9. Did he really need that rest?
I don’t care what anyone says…you stay on the floor until you can’t go; especially in a huge game like last night. (Yes, I said HUGE game)
Mateen Cleaves, formerly of Michigan State University once said, ‘leave it all on the court.”
First game of the season at the age of 25, you don’t need a rest.
During the 1961-62 season, Wilt Chamberlain played 48.5 minutes per game for a whole season; look it up. And just so you know, an NBA game is 48 minutes long. But wait, there’s more. During that entire season, Wilt only rested for 8 minutes total!
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Michigan State University men’s basketball had their Team Camp this weekend. Many high school teams from around the great State of Michigan including a Ohio school and a few schools from Chicago went head to head in some great action. AAU tournaments all over the country get under way in a matter of days. Players will be flocking all over the country to compete against one and other. Here are my 12 Laws for summer basketball players:
1-Say Hello: Especially at team camp. The college that is hosting always has their coaches around and there will also be coaches from other schools at all levels. Juco, NAIA and D-3. Make sure to say hi to the officials too.
2-Show Respect: Everywhere you go, you should respect people. Fans, coaches, opposing players, trainers and officials.
3-Bathroom Behavior: Don’t laugh. It’s amazing how many times I walk into a bathroom and see a mess. In the sink, toilet and on the floor. Keep the restrooms clean.
4-Hallway Behavior: Many times you are required to walk from gym- to- gym for your games. You may even have to go across campus to a different venue to play. Be careful how you act. Toss your empty paper cups and Gatorade bottles in the trash can. You never know who’s walking behind you.
5-In the Community: You’ll be at a hotel, dorm and of course local restaurants during your stay. You want people to enjoy your company. The team name on your shirt will give you away. You want people to say good things about your school or organization. Act civilized.
6-In Between Games: Instead of sitting on the side like everyone else, find an open basket to get up some shots. Too many players sit around. How about getting a ball and working on your dribbling?
7-Game Time: Share the ball, defend, rebound and play hard. It all begins with an inspired warm-up line prior to the start of the game.
8-Bench Behavior: You can’t be out on the floor the whole game. So while on the bench, be a great teammate. Cheer your guys on, sit up straight and pay attention. Don’t whine at the end of the bench with a towel over your head.
9-Sprint, Sprint, Sprint: I’m not talking about your cell phone provider. Stop all this jogging. You need to sprint the floor while you’re out on the court. Why travel hundreds of miles to jog up and down the floor?
10-Communicate: Talk on defense. Let your teammates know where your next game is being held. Stay in contact with your coach. Know what time you are leaving the hotel/dorm for your game.
11-Build Confidence: Enjoy the trip. Get better. Work on your confidence. If you play bad one game, bounce back the next ready to go.
12-Parents: Make sure to tell your parents to act civilized. Last thing you want is your parents screaming at the refs. Many officials working the team camp games are there to improve. A college coach will not want to recruit you if your parents are out of control.
“You never know who’s watching.”
Follow me on Twitter: @CoachFinamore