BY MICHAEL KELLY
CLIFTON PARK — Howard Garfinkel is not as well known as the crowd he keeps, but the basketball luminaries he hangs with consider him to be one of the most influential people in the sport.
He’s tight with them, too, as all of them call him by his nickname — well, except Mike Krzyzewski, the Duke University men’s basketball coaching icon, who keeps things a little more formal.
“He calls me Howard, but everyone else calls me Garf,” said Garfinkel, who watched the Blue Devils win their latest NCAA championship from behind their bench earlier this year.
For decades, Garfinkel, 85, has been instrumental in improving the quality of basketball in the United States. A New York City native, Garfinkel ran Five Star Basketball Camp for years, an organization players such as LeBron James and Michael Jordan cycled through as prep players on their way to becoming household names.
“Garf, he’s like the godfather of basketball in the United States,” said Rene LeRoux, who is the executive director for the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame.
In recent years, LeRoux — who lives in Clifton Park — has partnered with Garfinkel to bring his coaching clinic to the Capital Region. Last year, the Howard Garfinkel Coaching Clinic was conducted at the College of Saint Rose, while this year’s version will take place Sept. 19 at Shenendehowa High School.
A year ago, big-name coaches such as Syracuse University’s Jim Boeheim, the University of Kentucky’s John Calipari, and the Oklahoma City Thunder’s Billy Donovan were among the presenters at the clinic.
This year, the five guys scheduled for the clinic are no slouches, either. Former Siena College head coach Mitch Buonaguro will start the clinic off, while former University of Connecticut head coach Jim Calhoun, Villanova University head coach Jay Wright, former Chicago Bulls head coach Tom Thibodeau and University of Arizona head coach Sean Miller will follow.
“We’re going to have all of them in one place, and it’s not a recruiting visit for these guys. They’re doing it for the love of the game and for Garf, so it’s fun for them,” said LeRoux, who said a few other well-known coaches could be added to the card before September’s clinic.
Cost of the coaching clinic is $125 for an individual coach, while discounts are available when multiple coaches sign up together at garfclinic.com. The clinic will begin at 9 a.m. and run until 5 p.m.
Garfinkel was inducted in 2013 to the Upstate New York Basketball Hall of Fame and 2014 saw him gain admission into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. His association with Five Star Basketball Camp ended in 2008, but his coaching clinic — approaching its ninth year — is still going strong and expects to draw more than 200 people for this year’s version.
“I still love the camaraderie with the coaches,” Garfinkel said. “I love watching great coaches teach.”
Garfinkel —who turns 86 in August — said his ninth clinic will not be his last.
“I’m already scheming for next year,” he said.
Over the years, the coaching clinic has consistently changed locations. That could change and turn it into a Capital Region mainstay.
“If all goes well, we want to bring it back to Shen,” LeRoux said.