The clinic that ended all clinics
NEW YORK -- One day last fall, Manhattan College coach Barry Rohrssen was enjoying his usual pastrami on rye sandwich and the company of his mentor, Howard Garfinkel, at the Carnegie Deli, when he asked a waiter for one napkin.
"Mr. Garf, you've already run the best basketball camp in history," said Rohrssen, who first worked at Garfinkel's Five Star Basketball Camp in 1979 as a college counselor. "Why not assemble the best clinic in history?"
Garfinkel, who holds an account at the Deli and has the midtown Manhattan eatery's coffee coursing through his veins, nodded in concurrence.
"Who would you get for that clinic?" Rohrssen continued.
Without hesitation, Garfinkel spilled his list on the napkin: Hubie Brown. Rick Pitino. Billy Donovan. John Calipari. Bob Hurley Sr. He then pushed the napkin back across the table.
"You think you can get them in the same building on the same day?" Rohrssen asked of the group that has three NCAA titles, two NBA coach of the year awards and numerous high school state championships.
"We'll see," Garfinkel said, as he took a bite of his black forest cake.
On Friday, the five coaches Garfinkel believes you meet in drills heaven made their way to Manhattan College's Draddy Gymnasium for "The Clinic to End All Clinics." By Lexus (Brown), Audi (Hurley) and plane (Calipari, Pitino, Donovan) they trekked to teach 250 high school and college coaches what they had gleaned in their time as counselors at Garfinkel's Five Star Basketball Camp.
"Howard's the greatest evaluator of talent in history," said Brown, who first met Garfinkel, 79, when the grizzled New Yorker attended a New Jersey state tournament game as Brown coached Fair Lawn High. "Most pro scouts need three of four looks at a guy to make up their minds. Howie needs one."
Playing Bob Sheppard to his Murderers' Row lineup, Garfinkel introduced each in between drags on his Marlboro Lights and leafing through the New York Post racing pages. Though cut from the same orange-clad cloth, each speaker, who either played, coached or lectured at Five Star, showed his colors on stage in front of a crowd that paid $135 each for the day-long event. Donovan, who Garfinkel calls "Two Guns" and attended Five Star in high school, spoke on the mental makeup of his back-to-back championship teams, choosing to use his 60 minutes without touching a ball.
Pitino, the silver-streaked showman with the whip-like wit, ingratiated himself by saying, "It's not players or coaches who have changed, but the parents." Calipari, ever the salesman, announced to the crowd that he would be releasing instructional tapes on the Dribble Drive Motion Offense. "It used to be where you would do 20 clinics a year," said Pitino, who as a camper at Five Star felt Garfinkel's wrath for his prankish behavior. "Now you do maybe two. You miss the old talks with Garf where you use salt and pepper shakers to talk strategy and who what you've been working on."
From a folded stack of index cards that hold notes on every coach he has ever introduced to a crowd the last 42 years, Garfinkel simply announced Brown as "the greatest clinician alive, dead or yet to be born". Dismissive of the hyperbole, Brown, 75, constantly exhorted his human salt shakers, the eight Baruch College stand-in players, to "Keep moving! Let's go!"
With his silver tongue planted firmly in his right cheek, Brown used self-flagellation, discreetly disguised as self-deprecation, to break the ice with his coaching brethren. In order, he listed the five things he does not want the coaches in attendance to do: have an ulcer, slip into a depression that requires medical attention, divorce, drugs and alcohol. "You can get divorced for other reasons," Brown said. "Just don't allow the job to be the divider."
A study in septuagenarian motion, Brown, a two-time NBA coach of the year who has performed in front of coaches in FIBA nations and small towns, used the lectern as a decoy. Ably crossing over from his high school days taking 12 Jewish kids from Fair Lawn into the racial imbroglios of Jersey City or his time at Duke under Chuck Daly, who he met through Five Star, Brown stole the show in his hour and 53 minute monologue. "Hubie's your guy, Garf," Calipari said. "The rest of us are just friends."
Looking on at his coaching stars collected under one roof, Garfinkel heard each close with the same theme: he opened doors for them when others were less willing. Chief among them showing his gratitude was Rohrssen, who is preparing for his third season as the Jaspers head coach. Asked why he was not given an hour on stage, Rohrssen, who keeps the napkin lineup in his office and holds a 25-36 record as a head coach, smiled, "I need a few more wins to get in this league."