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."
But among college coaches who aren't part of Garfinkel's inner circle, there is a belief that those on the inside have an advantage in getting to blue-chip players. Which is why a group of ACC coaches, led by Krzyzewski and North Carolina's Dean Smith, forced the issue into the open at this year's ACC spring meetings.
Wainwright says he was told by ACC commissioner Gene Corrigan and Wake Forest president Thomas Hearn to choose between Five-Star and his job with the Demon Deacons. He chose the latter, but Garfinkel said that he plans to leave a percentage of the camp to Wainwright in his will and is looking into the possibility of starting a three-day "self-improvement" camp in Indianapolis next summer with his former protege.
"This is my family," said Garfinkel, a bachelor. "I fought to keep my family together."
Though Southern Cal coach George Raveling never was part of the immediate family, he was something of a distant cousin, speaking at Five-Star a number of times (25, according to Garfinkel) over the years. Now, Raveling is spearheading the movement for an NCAA-sanctioned regional setup.
As the most vocal member of a 24-man committee of coaches, Raveling says that summer camps and summer leagues have become a breeding ground for those wanting to hang on to a rising basketball star. Raveling says that the influence of summer-league coaches is to the point where they, not high school coaches, sit in on many of the home visits by college coaches.
"College coaches just feel that summer basketball is the most unregulated area right now, and more recruiting violations are born out of it," said Raveling. "Coaches are desperate to show the presidents and the public that they're for academic and athletic integrity."
Rick Evrard, director of legislative services for the NCAA, said there is unnecessary pressure on the top players to show up at certain camps or play for certain summer-league teams.
Asked whether the NCAA expects legal action to be taken by summer-camp directors should the proposal be passed at the next national convention, in Anaheim, Calif., in January, Evrard said, "Suits are always possible, but the merits of this type of setup are pretty strong."
Garfinkel said he encourages the regional setup for two reasons: He believes it won't work, and that it might help drive the competition out of business.
"It'll take care of the meat markets and fly-by-night frauds," he said. "We'll be bigger than ever."
But, for the time being, Garf waits. And simmers.
Five-Star: Established 1966, owned and operated by Howard Garfinkel; 7 1-week sessions in 3 locations, $330 a week. No scholarships available, but some players are allowed to work part time at camp in exchange for 1 week's tuition.
Nike/ABCD: Established 1982, owned by Nike Inc., operated by Sonny Vaccaro and Frank Dubois; 1-week session in Indianapolis. About 120 players come by invitation only, with all expenses paid by Nike. Mornings are spent in classroom and with counselors (usually former Nike camp players currently in college) in early afternoon. Games are in the afternoon and evening.
B/C All-Stars: Established 1976, owned and operated by Bill Cronauer and Bill Bowton; 4 locations over a 6-week period: Huntsville, Texas; Rensselaer, Ind.; Tifton, Ga.; Gettysburg, Pa. $300 a week. Information on scholarships not available.
All-American Camp: Established 1990, owned and operated by Dave Krider, 2 4-day sessions in Cincinnati. Charges $275 a week for players, $15 entrance fee for coaches. Information on scholarships not available.