McNamara back in U.S. after sour Greece experience
Posted: Tuesday January 23, 2007 4:17PM; Updated: Tuesday January 23, 2007 6:29PM
Gerry McNamara has struggled with his long-range shooting since joining Bakersfield.
Garrett Ellwood/NBAE via Getty Images
Gerry McNamara and Bakersfield are scheduled to appear three times on NBA TV in February.
Nobody likes transcontinental flights. They are long and cramped and generally aren't a five-star dining experience. They are even worse when the place you are leaving wasn't exactly the experience you had hoped for. Just ask Gerry McNamara.
Following a stellar four-year career at Syracuse, where he started all 134 games, won the national championship in 2003 and led the team in scoring (16.4 points) his senior season, McNamara had high hopes for a successful pro career. But shortly after his college season ended in March, McNamara suffered a serious groin injury that limited his play and slowed him at the NBA pre-draft camps.
"I'm not making any excuses," McNamara said in a telephone interview, "but it slowed me down. I wasn't able to do a lot of work and when I did play, I wasn't at the top of my game."
After the NBA passed him over -- McNamara said it was frustrating watching guys "you've never heard of" get picked in the second round of the draft -- McNamara signed with powerful Greek club Olympiacos BC, which was voted by FIBA as Europe's best team in the 1990s after winning five A-1 championships and one Euroleague title in the decade.
The European game is traditionally more similar to American college basketball, with an up-tempo style of play. And for McNamara, it was more than an opportunity to play. It was a chance to gain a measure of financial security for his family, which included his new fiancee, Katie. Olympiacos signed him to a $200,000 contract.
"It looked like a great situation," said McNamara, who was one of five American players on the Olympiacos roster. "They pursued me all summer, even when I was hurt."
The courtship, however, turned sour shortly after McNamara's arrival. After years of serving as Jim Boeheim's coach on the floor at Syracuse, McNamara never got on the same page with Olympiacos head coach Pini Gershon. The result: The Big East's all-time leader for three-pointers made suited up for just one game, playing a grand total of 30 seconds.
"For whatever reason, I just wasn't getting the playing time," McNamara said. "The coach had his idea of what he wanted his team to be and I wasn't part of it. [But] when I signed we discussed me playing, not sitting there in street clothes."
McNamara's agent, Bill Neff, quickly negotiated the guard's release.
"I could have lived with the situation if I had the opportunity to play and I failed," said McNamara, who added that he didn't have any conversations with Gershon or the Olympiacos front office about his lack of playing time. "The way I figure it, if I was going to sit on a bench, I wouldn't have gone halfway around the world to do it. I would never have gone there knowing that it would have turned out the way it did."