Harry Garverick has always been an active person. He was always into sports and had a passion for baseball. “I owe it all to my former high school baseball coach, Dick Cannon. Without him I never would have started thinking about a career in baseball, he really lit the fire under my butt about it.” As we sit in his living room Harry looks out the window and fondly recalls those days. It is hard for him to play the sports he loves anymore because he has been severely affected with Multiple Sclerosis. It has left him in a wheel chair and unable to do the things he loves. His battle with MS started in 1997 and it has slowly gotten worse. He now struggles to even hold a basketball in the air for a few seconds. “Sports were my life and true passion, I miss playing them everyday.” I sat down with Harry to talk to him about his pro baseball career and how that led him to coaching basketball. Here is what he had to say.
“Well every young person has the aspirations of being a pro athlete and I had a chance and I just didn’t think at the time that I was ready to do it.“ Harry Garverick was only seventeen when he decided to try out for the Washington Senators. Now at 72 a lot has changed in Harrys life and he talks about the “good old days” and of how things used to be. You see he was not only an excellent baseball player he turned out to be a good basketball player as well. After hurting his elbow and deciding that the life of a pro baseball player was not all it seemed to be he decided to head to college and start his career in another path.
Harry attended Delta State University in Cleveland, Mississippi. It was there that he met his future wife, Faye, and took on a sport that would eventually take him down a great path in his life, basketball. He had played varsity basketball in high school for three years and then chose to quit and pursue the path of becoming a pro athlete. When baseball did not work out for him he was offered a scholarship to play basketball at Delta State and according to Harry, “Coaching just naturally followed.”
Harry coached all over the country. He had head coaching jobs at Liberty Center after that he and his family headed to North Green in Mississippi. After that he headed to South Western Louisiana and then onto Zane Trace in Ohio. He left to head to Louisville Kentucky and then finally back to Ohio in Upper Scioto Valley where he eventually retired. While he loved working with young kids he said the traveling could get a little hard. He did not like being away from his family for long periods of time.
One of Harry’s fondest memories and the moment he claims he was most proud of was when he was coaching at Zane Trace. His team was in the regional finals and state bound. They got beat by 1 point at the buzzer by Monroeville. Even though they lost Harry was still proud of his boys. “That was a real nice highlight to my career, out of all the teams I coached and all the things I accomplished this was my favorite moment.”
He started coaching at the age of 25 and while he was not always the head coach at the schools he coached at he always had a lot to do. At South Western Louisiana he was assistant coach and he also was their recruiter. When asked how he became a recruiter he said “It was part of my duties as assistant basketball coach, I had to go out and recruit. This was my favorite part of my job also because I loved all the young men that I met with. They were all great guys and went far with their careers.”
While Harry is not one to brag he gave me a list of the best recruits he had and their stats. It is very obvious that he is still very proud of his boys and their accomplishments. “ Let’s see, there was Dwight Lamar Guard out of Columbus East. He was number one draft pick for the Los Angeles Lakers in ‘77. He averaged around 3,493 points in his whole college career. He averaged about 31 points a game. Another one was Fred Saunders out of Columbus Mohawk High School he was the number one pick for the Boston Celtics in the ‘70s as well. He only averaged about 9 points per game but man, was he something to watch, absolutely beautiful out on that court. Another one was Marvin Winkler out of Indianapolis and he was the number two draft pick for the Milwaukee Bucks. The last one was Roy Hebron and he was the number one pick for San Diego.”
While Harry loved all of his boys equally his favorite recruit was Robert Parish. He ended up being drafted by the Boston Celtics. He and Harry still keep in very close contact today and are still good friends. Robert Parish played for the Celtics for fourteen years and formed the big three with Larry Bird and Kevin McHale. He played in more games than any other NBA player in the history of basketball. While all of Harry’s boys were successful Parish was his most outstanding player. “He was a great guy and an amazing athlete. When he was out on the court people stared he was truly unstoppable. He is a legend and I am proud to call him my friend.” [Harry pauses for a moment and stares off into space before saying] “I should probably give him a call after this interview, see how he is doing. Why yes I think I’ll do that.”
The best coaching advice Harry ever obtained was this “Just make your athletes work, but make sure they appreciate you. In other words, be a players coach.” A player’s coach he was indeed. He went out of his way for all of his players making sure they were keeping up with their schoolwork and helping them out when needed. Harry had attended college to become a teacher so he was always tutoring his boys or trying to help them out in some way. “I wanted to make sure that my boys saw me as more than Coach Garverick. I wanted them to see me as a friend too; I think as a team it is very important to have that family-like chemistry. It makes for a good team in season and a good family of brothers for the rest of your life.”
“Practice all the time, give it 100% and go hard. Keep your grades up too!” This is the advice Harry would give to any athlete trying to make a career out of their sport. He talks about determination and true love of the game. As he is holding a basketball in his hands he says “It does not matter how good you are or how many three pointers you can shoot or how many players you can pitch out. None of that matters, if you don’t have the love of the game you will never be truly good. It has to come from within you, and it is what makes you shoot those 100 free throws or makes you pitch those 200 balls. It is what makes you good and without heart, determination, and a pure love for the game you will get nowhere. Well, I guess a little practice never hurt anyone either” he says, with a little wink and a chuckle.