Basketball fans at the College Basketball Experience and The Midland Theatre knew Shaquille O’Neal, Grant Hill and Darrell Griffith. They knew the coaches and others who made up the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame class enshrined on Sunday.
Howard Garfinkel might not have been as familiar.
But perhaps nobody was as connected or impacted the sport as the man known as “Garf.”
“I didn’t go to your camp, but I know you and what you’ve done,” O’Neal said, walking by and offering a handshake.
“You look great,” said former Louisville Coach Denny Crum, on hand to watch his former star, Griffith, honored.
And on it went. Basketball coaches, players and administrators stopped by to offer their congratulations to the man who had a hand in the way players were developed and scouted and who helped shape the early coaching career paths of Rick Pitino and John Calipari.
Garfinkel, 85, founded Five Star Basketball Camp in Honesdale, Pa., and ran it from 1966 until 2008.
Shaq didn’t attend, but seemingly every other hoops star did.
Michael Jordan, LeBron James, Isiah Thomas, Kevin Durant and Carmelo Anthony were just a few of the campers.
Over the years, summer basketball camps became an industry. Kids gravitated toward gyms throughout the country to hone their skills and be seen by college coaches.
Garfinkel, a lifelong New Yorker, had attended camps as a boy and worked as a counselor at a basketball camp, and got the idea to begin his own camp attracting some of the best coaches in the city. He worked with two others and the idea was to get some of the top rising seniors in New York.
The first year attracted 72 campers and six coaches and was known as the Roy Rubin Basketball School, named for the coach at Long Island University and later the Philadelphia 76ers. Garfinkel thought having Rubin’s name would help sell the camp.
“We split up $380, the first year,” Garfinkel said.
The camp’s first guest lecturer was supposed to be Duke Coach Vic Bubas, but he had a conflict and sent an assistant.
“I was very disappointed Vic couldn’t come,” Garfinkel said. “Until we heard the assistant speak. He was fantastic.”
Chuck Daly, who went on to win two NBA titles coaching the Detroit Pistons and was the head coach of the original Olympic Dream team, became Five Star’s first golden voice.
Among others who developed the camp through the power of lecture and teaching were Hubie Brown and Bob Knight.
Knight developed a system of teaching stations, and players attending Five Star were getting the best instruction available.
The summer of 1980 was particularly memorable. In camp that summer were Jordan, Patrick Ewing, Chris Mullin and Karl Malone.
Chances are, if you starred in college or the NBA from the 1970s on, you attended Five Star.
Early on, he helped New York City kids get basketball scholarships. Later, the camp became the training ground for the greatest minds and talent in the game.
“And it started because we were looking to provide some fun in the sun,” Garfinkel said.
To reach Blair Kerkhoff, call 816-234-4730 or send email to firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow him on Twitter: @BlairKerkhoff.