VIDEO: Death of a legend.
HANG TIME NEW JERSEY — Basketball lost a legend on Saturday when Howard Garfinkel, who influenced countless players and coaches, died at the age of 86.
Garfinkel was the co-founder of the Five-Star Basketball Camp, which, prior to AAU summer tournaments, was the best place to find the countries most talented high schoolers. Michael Jordan and Patrick Ewing were among those who played outside at Garfinkel’s camp in the 70s and 80s.
His Rolodex spanned the nation’s hardwood courts as he assisted Pitino, John Calipari, Billy Donovan and countless others in establishing themselves as ascendant coaches in the college ranks. He was also a pioneering power broker, having founded High School Basketball Illustrated as a scout in 1955 before selling it to friend Tom Konchalski in 1984. Garfinkel, also known as “Howie,” carried a working bag with him to games as an octogenarian. Friends afforded him rides to and from gyms across the boroughs.
Garfinkel’s all-time camper list included: Jordan, Moses Malone, Vince Carter, Alonzo Mourning, Reggie Williams, Jeff Ruland, Elton Brand, Ron Artest, Stephon Marbury, James Blackmon, Mike O’Koren and Lloyd Daniels. Isiah Thomas, Grant Hill and Pearl Washington also donned the traditional orange T-shirts that campers received. At each week’s end, the top teens squared off in the Orange-White Classic. If players could not afford the weekly fee, they bussed tables on site. Jordan was one such visitor before committing to the University of North Carolina. He considered the camp in Honesdale, Pa., to be the site of a turning point in his development. In games of shirts and skins, Garfinkel was one of the few with recall of the names.
He was always involved from a young age into the New York City basketball scene. In the mid-’60s, he started a basketball scouting service, HSBI, which was way ahead of its time. It rated players by the star-system – one-star, two-star, three-star, four-star, five-star, obviously the five-star player being THE GUY. Really hard to get a five-star, but the Patrick Ewings, the Michael Jordans, the Isiah Thomas-level players were.
Around that time, he started a basketball camp named the Five-Star Basketball Camp with Will Klein. Will handled the business side, and Garf was the face of the camp. There was no AAU to speak of. There were no talent camps back then. There was Five-Star. The amazing thing was he never wanted the camp to be just an evaluation of basketball players. He wanted it to be a teaching camp where players would leave with more knowledge about the game and have a better feel for the game so they would benefit by the experience.
He always wanted the best players, and that’s where they did go, and he wanted them competing against each other. Players, like myself, from small towns who weren’t seen and people didn’t know, also benefited by receiving exposure and scholarships because of the Five-Star Basketball Camp. So it not only helped the five-star player, every player was able to show their skills and improve their game in a six-day period.