CORAOPOLIS, Pa. -- The setting is idyllic: 350 or so teen-age boys refining their basketball skills on the suburban branch campus of Robert Morris College. The trees sway gently in the summer breeze. The balls thump on the sun-baked asphalt courts. And the Garf simmers.
"I don't want to do any more interviews about this," says Howard Garfinkel, who hasn't been called by his first name or fully by his last for most of his 61 years.
Garf, as he is known, is unhappy with the publicity that has been generated by this latest flap, which might put him out of business. In this case, the business is a highly profitable, year-old venture called Five-Star Basketball Camp. It is not only Garfinkel's livelihood; it's also his life.
But the issue of summer basketball camps, which has raged ever since the NCAA voted last January to ban college coaches from working at them, will come to a head when the NCAA Council meets Monday. It will discuss a proposal that could set up a group of NCAA-sanctioned, regional summer basketball camps for the country's most talented high school underclassmen.
"It's a horrible idea," says Garfinkel, chain-smoking and sipping a cup of black coffee. "They don't know how to run camps. They're going to be bad camps. They're going to be ripping the kids off. They're going to charge $75. They could charge 75 cents and they would be ripping the kids off."
Five-Star, which charges $330 a week, runs seven sessions with an average of 350 players of wide-ranging talents, in three locations (Radford, Va., Honesdale, and here, outside Pittsburgh), is one of a number of summer camps to find itself under the NCAA's ever-widening scrutiny.
Aside from Five-Star, among the more prominent camps that could be affected by the NCAA's regional format would be the Nike/ABCD camp, which moved from Princeton, N.J., to Indianapolis this year; Bill Cronauer's B/C All-Star camps in Georgia, Indiana, Texas and Gettysburg; and Dave Krider's All-American camp in Cincinnati.
It was Krider who started the controversy last summer by charging college coaches $200 just to walk in the door. When Georgia Tech's Bobby Cremins led an exodus of 20 coaches, Garfinkel's problems began. The National Association of Basketball Coaches got involved, and its members encouraged athletic directors and college presidents to put in the ban. It went into effect July 1.
"The presidents and athletic directors are ignorant," says Garfinkel. "And the coaches are totally jealous. It's all jealousy."
Shortly after the rule was voted in, Garfinkel came up with a brainstorm. This was, after all, the man who had turned Five-Star from a sleepy summer getaway in the Poconos into a national institution. Because camps on college campuses were still within the rules, why not sell controlling interest in Five-Star to one of his college coaches?
Garfinkel offered it first to Wake Forest assistant Jerry Wainwright, who had come to Five-Star as a high school coach 17 years ago, and after Wainwright was forced to turn it down by school and league officials, to Texas assistant Jamie Ciampaglio. Ciampaglio also was asked by Texas officials to turn down the offer.
"Everyone said I was trying to circumvent the rules," says Wainwright, 46. "I was trying to comply with the rules. I was a small player in a big game. When I was coming here all those years as a high school coach and losing money, nobody cared who Jerry Wainwright was."
A lot of people have cared for a long time who Garfinkel was. Legendary North Carolina State coach Everett Case cared, as did former Duke coach Vic Bubas, when they used Garfinkel to scout the New York area for them from the mid-1950s through the mid-'60s. Then there were the coaches who subscribed to Garfinkel's HSBI Report, which, for 20 years, touted high school players under a five-star system. And there were those whose coaching careers took off after they worked at Garfinkel's camp.
Among the more prominent coaches who have come through Five-Star are Detroit Pistons and U.S. Olympic coach Chuck Daly, former New York Knicks coach Hubie Brown and Kentucky coach Rick Pitino, who started there as a camper before, as Garfinkel says proudly, "I got him his first coaching job as a grad assistant at Hawaii."
Among players, the camp has built a reputation for teaching fundamentals and showcasing talent.
"It's the best teaching camp in the country," says former camper and Duke star Tommy Amaker, now an assistant under Blue Devils coach Mike Krzyzewski. "It's not just playing all day so college coaches can see you. Mr. Garfinkel really cares about the kids."
Donta Bright of Baltimore's Dunbar High, who attended Five-Star this summer with teammates Michael Lloyd and Keith Booth, said: "I've been to a lot of camps, but this one is the best because of the way the coaches work with you. This is the camp that put me on the map."