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A Bad Trip
Gary McLain
March 16, 1987
The Downfall of a Champion
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March 16, 1987

A Bad Trip

The Downfall of a Champion

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The game didn't count toward our record, but I was still excited about scoring my first points. The cocaine wasn't a factor. By the time we played, at 7 p.m., I didn't feel it. It had only been a one-and-one.

My goal freshman year was to be on the foul line in the last seconds with a game on the line. But I didn't expect to be in that situation so soon, in my first start, only the 11th game of the regular season. We were playing Boston College in the Palestra. With 21 seconds left, I made two foul shots to give us a 54-51 lead. If I had missed, BC could have had the ball, down by a point. Instead, I iced it. BC scored again, but we won 54-53.

We had the biggest party that night. By hitting the foul shots, I was the Man. When you win a game like that in college, you're the Man. You can talk to any girl you want, do anything you want.

I don't know if that's what the other guys shot for, but I did. My dream, whenever I played, was to be awesome during the game, then have everything at my fingertips after it was over. To go into a bar and have people buy me drinks and line up to talk to me. It's just unrealistic worship. It doesn't happen in real life, life after basketball, but back then, how was I supposed to know anything different? I was taught to play basketball and assumed that these were just some of the fringe benefits, my just rewards. I definitely deserved them that night because I was the Man.

After the BC game a bunch of us went to a bar. At closing time I told everybody, "Party at my room." And back we went.

It was one of the best spur-of-the-moment parties we ever had at Villanova, and all we did was drink. Our room was a mess. Beer cans and champagne bottles were scattered everywhere. But there was no pot, no cocaine. Back then I wasn't thinking about doing that stuff all the time. I could take it or leave it. I smoked my pot and did cocaine at various times with other people. But cocaine was just for fun then, something that other people had and I would do when it was around. But I wasn't buying the stuff. Yet.

Over the summer of 1982, between my freshman and sophomore years, I was picked for a Big East all-star team that would travel to Angola. Lou Carnesecca of St. John's was coach of the team, and we had a crazy mix of players. Red Bruin from Syracuse. Norman Bailey and Vern Giscombe from Connecticut. My Villanova teammate Happy Dobbs. Sir John Collins from Seton Hall. Jeff Allen and Billy Goodwin of St. John's. And Carl Hill of Providence, Steve Beatty of Pitt and Martin Clark of Boston College. We met in New York on July 23, the day before we would leave from Kennedy Airport. After practice we were put up in a big home in Pelham Manor. And we had a party there.

Some of us were getting drunk, and after a while one of the players asked if we wanted to get high. "Yeah," I said. "Let's get some cocaine." We weren't that far from Astoria, Queens, where one of the players knew where to score some.

So a few of us chipped in some of our meal money and took a ride. We bought an eighth of an ounce of cocaine and, back at the house, sat in a room and partied all night. We split up the coke we had left over. Some guys saved theirs. I did mine up.

At this point, whenever I could get my hands on coke, I was doing it. I really started liking it. Sometimes I had to pay for it, sometimes I didn't. Either way, I liked it. But that night was a big turning point for me. Now I knew where to go for drugs in New York. I made my main connections that night, and they treated me like a star. It was one thing to be treated well in school. But I liked being treated like that in the streets, too.

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