We never met Howard Garfinkel but we had an interesting phone call with him once.
He told a lot of stories and was convivial and engaging, a nice man. And a New Yorker to his core.
At the end of the conversation, Garf threw a bit of a curveball: “could I write for you? Maybe about the NBA?”
It killed us to say no but there was no way to pay the man what he was worth. The money just wasn’t there.
We liked him instinctively though and who wouldn’t? He was a fascinating man who had a wide window on decades of basketball.
His Five-Star Camp faded away though and was eventually surpassed by the AAU system which doesn’t exactly put a focus on learning the game.
At Five-Star, you would see stations run by guys like Mike Krzyzewski, Hubie Brown, Rick Pitino and John Calipari, among others (remember in Garf’s day, those guys didn’t make a huge amount of money. Coach K’s first contract at Duke was for $40,000. Everyone wanted to supplement that, particularly young assistants).
Garfinkel died before he was voted into the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame, an oversight which has been corrected: he’ll be inducted on Saturday.
It’s long overdue. The man had a profound influence on basketball.
One quick story: he had something he called “the mirror,” if memory serves, and said he could sometimes see a young player and realize that they were bound for greatness.
Two guys come to mind. One went to UNC; the other Duke.
The UNC-bound kid was Michael Jordan who needs no introduction here.
The other? Robbie West. Garfinkel thought he was going to be great. He wasn’t great, but he did lead a memorable upset over UNC when Duke was truly bad in 1972 and on the day the name changed to Cameron Indoor Stadium too.