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Longtime hoops guru hosts one more clinic

- Associated Press - Thursday, September 29, 2011

NEW YORK (AP) - A lot of nicknames garner instant attention in college basketball. There's Coach K. Magic was in college before the NBA. Don't forget The General, the Vs, Dickie and Jimmy, and Pistol Pete.

There is one the public may not know but the people around college basketball, especially the coaches, know very well: Garf.

"Garf" is Howard M. Garfinkel, an 82-year-old lifelong New Yorker who used to run one of the must-attend summer camps as well as providing what was considered one of the premier high school scouting services.

Since he retired he is running clinics and "The Clinic to End All Clinics V" will be Oct. 7 at Iona College with another impressive list of speakers.

Ask Garfinkel how long he's been around basketball and he'll give you one of his flip answers.

"Forever and never," he said with a laugh.

When he turns serious, his photographic memory reels off names of players who attended his Five-Star camp in Honesdale, Pa., and it doesn't stop.

"Moses Malone, Michael Jordan, Isiah Thomas, Dominique Wilkins, Pearl Washington," he said as if he was reading a roster. A quick breath and he starts with more current names. "Kevin Durant, Elton Brand, Vince Carter, Carmelo Anthony, John Wall, Kyrie Irving, LeBron James."

Garfinkel ran Five-Star from 1966 to 2008. It was a typical summer camp except the campers were some of the best high school players in the country and the counselors were college athletes, top college coaches _ when they were allowed to attend before NCAA rules ended that practice _ and coaches-in-waiting who were just looking for a summer job that let them soak in all that basketball knowledge.

"I had 288 coaches in the high school or college ranks who came through the camp," Garfinkel said, and then came another list. "Dick Vitale, Pete Gillen, Dave Odom, Jerry Wainwright, John Calipari, Rick Pitino, Bob McKillop, Hubie Brown, the Greenberg brothers, Billy Donovan." Another breath then "Vinny Del Negro, Johnny Dawkins, Barry Rohrssen, Steve Alford, Herb Sendek, Tommy Amaker, Mike Fratello, Lawrence Frank, Bob Hurley Sr."

He might have gone on for all 288 but a ringing phone had to be answered.

"Like so many other coaches I would not have had the coaching life and wouldn't have experienced the things I was fortunate enough to experience had it not been for Howard Garfinkel," said Odom, the former Wake Forest and South Carolina coach. "He gave me a chance. I was the first southern coach to ever work through Five-Star and he gave me that opportunity and I could tell my first trip there how special it was and I was determined not to let him down."

Garfinkel started "High School Basketball Illustrated," a scouting service of New York-area players in 1965 and it became a must-read for every college coach in the country over the next 20 years if they were looking for possible recruits in the city known for its hoops talent.

He wasn't just helping players get college scholarships, he was having an effect on the coaching profession as well.

"Without Howard Garfinkel you wouldn't have ever heard of me," Vitale said. "He took me to a diner after I spoke at a clinic and told me I should be coaching in college. I told him nobody wanted me, I was getting all these rejections when I went for a job.

One day he calls me and tells me he got me an interview at Rutgers and that I was of six guys to get an interview. He said he told the AD that if he interviewed me he would hire me. I went only because he opened the door for me. If I didn't get that chance I would still be coaching high school and teaching in an elementary school somewhere. He really went to bat for me. He helped so many people in basketball."

Garfinkel looks nothing like a sports power broker. If you had to guess, the small man with black-rimmed glasses and ever-present black suit appears to be a CPA or chemistry teacher, not someone who has done all he has. The only change in his appearance over the years is he no longer chain-smokes cigarettes. He has never driven a car, relying on rides from friends and "buses, lot of buses."

"Damon Runyan would have loved him," Connecticut coach Jim Calhoun said. "He is one of the most unforgettable characters ever, not just in sports. You won't meet another person like him. He has such a wit and he is one of the more literate guys I have ever met.

"He comes to practice, he's kind of adopted us a little bit. He always took the road less traveled but his impact has been with Garf's stable of coaches. You think of the eastern game as much as anything else. He is a really caring person who judges you all the time. Not many people love the game and the people around the game like he does."

Garfinkel reels off the coaches who will be at his upcoming clinic, Michigan's John Beilein, Notre Dame's Mike Brey, Pittsburgh's Jamie Dixon, Rutgers' Mike Rice and St. John's women's coach Kim Barnes Arico.

And that gets him going on another list.

"The first Clinic to End All Clinics had Hubie Brown, the greatest clinician alive, dead or unborn. John Calipari, Billy Donovan, Bob Hurley Sr. and Rick Pitino," he said, ready to go on and name every speaker he's ever had.

He was asked if there was a favorite list and he rattled off the Five-Star campers who didn't make it in basketball.

"As campers we had Cris Carter, Sam Clancy, Billy Cundiff, Delino Deshields, Jay Fielder, Tony Gonzalez, Scott Rolen, Wayne Chrebet and a kid named Alex Rodriguez," he said with a huge smile. "Not bad, huh?"

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