Jon Teitel's "Forgotten Legends" Series: Boston University's Gary Plummer

October 5th, 2011
In his most recent installment in the "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer spent some time with former Boston University player Gary Plummer. During his time at BU, Plummer played under both Rick Pitino and John Kuester and also helped lead the Terriers to their first NCAA appearance in 24 years in 1983. Plummer now runs the N' Your Court AAU program, which has 16 teams, personal instruction and strength & conditioning programs.

Jon Teitel: You spent several summers in the 1980s working at Dean Smith's basketball camp at North Carolina. What was the most important thing you learned from Coach Smith, and did you get to work with any of the national champs like James Worthy and Michael Jordan?

Gary Plummer: John Kuester was my assistant coach at BU, and he encouraged me to go down there because he had played at UNC in the 1970s. Most of Smith's assistants ran the camp and I got to play against Worthy and Jordan when they came back to campus in the summer.

JT: At BU you only played 10 games as a sophomore. What caused that, and how were you able to come back and be such a dominant player?

GP: I thought I could slide by but I became academically ineligible during my second semester. I took summer school the following two summers and ended up making the dean's list twice.

JT: What are your memories of the 1983 conference tournament final at BU (a one-point win over Holy Cross behind freshman/tournament MVP Mike Alexander)?

GP: It was a back-and-forth game; nobody had picked us to win. Both teams played well but I was fortunate enough to have a great coach in Rick Pitino.

JT: Pitino is the only coach in NCAA history to lead three different schools to the Final Four. What made him such a great coach, and could you tell at the time that he was going to become such a legend?

GP: He is like a gym rat from a coach's standpoint. He is a great recruiter, a great motivator, and a player's coach. As long as you played hard for him you would not have any problems, but the second you started dogging it he was all over you. He is your biggest fan on the court but demanded that we work hard. Even at age 28 he had an incredible work ethic. He took losses harder than us sometimes.

JT: What are your memories of the 1983 NCAA Tournament, the school's first NCAA appearance in 24 years (a loss to La Salle)?

GP: It was bittersweet for me because I sprained my knee right before that game and did not get to play. I was glad we got to go but sad that I could not participate. I saw the game while sitting in a nearby restaurant. It was hard to watch.

JT: In 1983 Pitino left and at age 28 and Kuester took over as the youngest head coach in Division I. What was the biggest difference between the two coaches, and was it weird to have a coach who was so close in age to you and your teammates?

GP: Coach Kuester had already been there as an assistant so it was not a huge change. He had played for Dean Smith so his style was different than Pitino's, but both were very knowledgeable. Kuester was a little more laid back while Pitino was more in your face.

JT: In the summer of 1984 you were drafted in the second round by Golden State (one spot ahead of Jerome Kersey). Did you see that as a validation of your college career or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA?

GP: It was more of a dream. I did not play until my sophomore year of high school but once I became a good player I knew that I wanted to be in the NBA. I was surprised because Golden State had never even talked to me during the Portsmouth Invitational or the pre-draft camp. I had spoken to some East Coast teams but it was totally out of the blue when Golden State drafted me. When my agent called me to let me know I asked him, "Where the heck is Golden State!?"

JT: You played two seasons in the NBA. What is your favorite memory of your time in the NBA?

GP: When I finished the rookie/free agent camp and made it onto the team I was just shocked at how good everyone in the NBA was. Dr. J, Kareem, Magic, Bird, etc. You have no idea how high a level they play at until you get there. Dan Issel was my head coach in Denver and I really enjoyed playing for him.

JT: After retiring from the NBA you played several years overseas (Israel, Italy, Spain, Greece, Argentina, France, and Saudi Arabia). What did you learn from these experiences, and how did they compare to the NBA?

GP: There is nothing like playing in the NBA: that is the best basketball around. After I tore my ACL I went to the same surgeon that Bernard King had, as King and I also shared an agent. At first it was hard to adjust to being in another country but eventually I enjoyed playing in Europe. The fans there are just fanatical. They are even crazier than Raiders/Eagles fans!

JT: You currently run the N Your Court AAU program. What makes your program different, and what do you hope to do in the future?

GP: We have 16 club teams, camps, clinics and 1-on-1 skill development. When I first got into coaching I was not sure how good I would be. In high school and youth basketball there is a lot of ego involved with guys, but I just teach without any ego. A lot of coaches do not teach fundamentals, but the basics of basketball have not changed. Basketball is probably the only sport where you do not need any qualifications in order to become a coach. I am trying to mold younger players so that they are fundamentally sound no matter what kind of high school/college program they are put into. I do not even advertise; it is just word-of-mouth. As long as you work hard for me I will have no problem with you. If your main objective is to win a trophy, that will not make you a good coach.

Plummer is also on my list of best pro players in America East history.

Boston University: Gary Plummer (1985)
Hartford: Vin Baker (1994)
Maine: Jeff Cross (1986)