Sussex County History Today: Playoffs, upcoming NBA draft

| 10 Dec 2023 | 05:40

    Let’s continue with the story of a Sussex County basketball legend in Michael Ferrara’s own words:

    1980-81: ECAC playoffs and upcoming NBA draft

    We now go on to play a great Maine team in the ECAC North playoffs that was led by one of my summer basketball camp training partners and friend, Ricky Carlisle (Celtics player/Mavericks coach).

    We played at Maine and we lost by 4 points. In that game, I had 37 and another A+ performance. Once again, we were just out-coached, plain and simple. That happened to us at least five to seven times this past year. My 1981 college season has now come to an end.

    Closing story: I remember immediately having to come home to New Jersey after the Maine game in early March for a few days as the season just ended and my dad and I had to go into New York City to meet with Irwin Weiner and Clyde Frazier, who wanted to represent me.

    Limo shows up at Pleasant Valley Lake in Vernon and me, my dad and Clyde who is in the limo ride to NYC. That was pretty cool, especially for my dad.

    We get to Irwin Weiner’s office and there is a lot going on in this several-hour meeting. Highlight, Irwin Weiner put Red Auerbach on the speaker phone, introduced him to me and my dad, and he proceeded to tell me and my dad he was picking me 23rd in the 1981 college draft (last pick-first round). That was the highlight of the meeting.

    I should have signed with Irwin Weiner right then and there, but we didn’t. The limo takes us back to Pleasant Valley Lake later that day and I am home for one or two more days.

    So of course, the second thing I do after this meeting is I go right to Franklin High School to see Mr. (Frank) Virtue and Mr. (Jim) Platukis. This is a month before the Aloha Classic and two and a half to three months before the 1981 NBA draft.

    Mr. Platukis is now vice principal and known as a no-nonsense type of vice principal, suspending everyone who gets out of line in FHS. He’s the bad cop. So, I got to the school and ran into him in the hall in between classes. He is being very professional, acting Marines-like with me which I remember and noticed, as we slowly walked down the hall toward his office.

    We get in his office, he shuts the door and I fill him in on what’s going on, tell him about the Celtics and we both just start laughing about this past season and what we got going on now in front of us with the draft and everything else.

    I remember everything about that one meeting with him like it was yesterday, just like the LSU, Vermont or Niagara games. I saw that day for the first time how happy he was with his protégé and what I just pulled off. He looked just like my dad looked at me back then, gushing with pride.

    Everyone who was part of this training group with me knows basketball compliments have never been his strong point, so it was a big deal to see that for me. He and my dad may have been the only two besides Mr. Virtue who knew I could get it done.

    Don’t ask me how, but somehow, I was able to stay laser-focused for 10 years. I did everything I was supposed to do and worked on everything I needed to work on. I never forgot any of the lessons I learned on the court at FHS and somehow I pulled this all off.

    But we didn’t know the real drama was just about to begin in Hawaii in late March, starting with Jim Boeheim. Time to get ready for the Greek tragedy with an unfortunate very bad ending.


    Stay tuned to this column for the last installment of Michael’s outstanding career.