I went o basketball camp a lot as a kid. One of those camps is called NBC camps, which I assume stands for Northwest Basketball Camps, uhm, camps.
NBC camps was started by Fred Crowell in 1972. If memory serves me correctly from his introduction when he would speak to us campers, he played college basketball and then became an assist coach after graduating and then like a year later was promoted to head coach at the tender age of 24. This was at University of Alaska Fairbanks or something like that. After coach for a while he settled in north east Washington and started NBC camps. By the time I went to camp he had been the president /founder and director for 25 years and that was 25 years ago. I only had one conversation with the man. He shook my hand, firm grip single pump, and asked me if I was ready for the upcoming season. He acted like he knew of me or was familiar with me, but that may just be the way important President/ Director/CEO types talk to everyone.
He was was also notorious for doing this sketch were he was like a homeless crazy person on the street trying to sell pencils. All he could say was “Pencils” in a moderately handicapped voice. Yeah that kind of thing probably would n’t fly as PC in today’s post Tropic Thunder world. But to this day my brother and still find ourselves absent-mindedly mumbling “Pencils” to ourselves and and shake our heads at “Freaky Freddy.” A an old man does a sketch in front of a bunch of campers 25 years ago and it is stil worming around in their brains all this time later, that is pretty influential.
But what gets Fred Crowell on this countdown is when you realize that he started an organization, a business that served and influenced generations of kids in the inland Northwest. He created a culture that helped make Spokane the Basketball Mecca of slow white dudes under 6’9”. Gonzaga’s rise to national prominence is mostly the credit of Dan Monson and then Mark Few, but it’s also owes a debt to Freddy Crowell. I think it is accurate to say that without Freddy Crowell, Hoopfest would not be the worlds largest street-ball tournament.
The man created a basketball empire, that continues to fuel the dreams of kids from around the world. Literally. NBC does camps with internationally.
This man’s life has been devoted to the game of basketball. He is my idle. And I knew it since 8th grade. In 1995 I went to NBC camps as noted in my post on #37. I had a rough camp as a player on the court. But even so, I remember sitting in the gym watching the “All-Star” practicing for the all star game, and even though I was jealous and discouraged, I distinctly remember thinking to my self that despite how lousy of a player I might be, the atmosphere of a basketball game is what makes me feel alive. From the smell of the basketball leather, to the symphony of balls bouncing and sneakers sweating on the hardwood, I loved the game of basketball and I just wanted to be a part of it. To get up each day and to head to the gym as my office. To have my primary goals and objective each day to be improving the performance of basketball players was my dream come true I learned that in 1995. About 6 months before I started Thinks I’ve Thunk. And I learned it all thanks to Freddy Crowell.
Unfortunately, I didn’t remember it, or at least I was too stubborn and heartbroken at not being a player that I tried to divorce myself from the game and passed up the opportunities that would have let me live that dream. But that is another story for another post in few more weeks.
To this day if you ask me a question along the lines of “If you could do anything and money is no object, what would it be?” The answer for me, hands down, is to own a basketball team. My dream job would be NBA commissioner.
Basketball is what makes me feel alive. And as I approach my 40th birthday having not stepped foot on a court on almost 3 years, I wonder WWFCD?
What would Freddy Crowell do?