Pat McKindles loved basketball while growing up, but he found himself in an unusual situation heading into the summer of 1983.
A college student at the time, McKindles wanted to play basketball when the school year ended, but he could not find the right fit. So he and friends formed a team that played in the Howard County Recreation and Parks league.
The idea worked so well that McKindles, 41, of Ellicott City, and his teams have never left.
McKindles has formed recreation teams and coached and played on them. Basketball is his passion -- he is a longtime University of Maryland season ticket holder -- and he likes putting together all-star-type teams that let him enjoy the game.
This winter, McKindles has a team in the Howard County Recreation and Parks Sunday Men's League. He plays occasionally as a guard, but he spends most of his time coaching and running the team.
The team, Knudsen Homes, is sponsored by his brother-in-law's business and has a 5-0 record through last week's games. The team has easily defeated most opponents with its high-powered lineup that often scores more than 100 points.
McKindles loves basketball so much that occasionally he will have teams competing in leagues all year. He keeps the same group of players, and most of his teams play in Howard County recreation programs, but they have also gone to Baltimore County, Baltimore City and Georgetown.
"I just can't get away from it," McKindles said with a laugh. "I absolutely love it."
The whole thing started after his freshman year at then-Catonsville Community College. McKindles and friends were interested in playing in a summer league that year. They called around and found one in Ellicott City. McKindles has kept alive his love for the sport in the 23 years since.
McKindles attended Centennial High School, but knee problems kept him from playing there. His knee improved after that, and he was able to play at the community college for two years. He became a starter as a sophomore.
He continued forming teams that played throughout the area, most often in Howard County. McKindles slowly began building a number of contacts in the basketball community. That allowed him to watch the chemistry that teams develop and how it translates to the basketball court.
"I just love the competition and also seeing a team work together and function well," McKindles said. "It takes work, and doesn't happen by itself."
McKindles puts together a team that goes to a state tournament in Ocean City each April. That competition draws teams from New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania, Maryland and Virginia, and McKindles' squads have won it three times.
"I just enjoy the concept of teamwork and camaraderie among the guys," McKindles said. "I've developed a lot of good friendships over the years."
One of those relationships has been with former Maryland star Derrick Lewis. The 6-foot-7 forward/center played in France for 16 years and has retired. McKindles met Lewis about 15 years ago, and Lewis joined one McKindles' teams that summer -- and he hasn't left. Lewis turns 40 this August and appreciates the opportunity to continue to play basketball, though it is just for fun.
"Without him, I don't know where some of those guys would be playing," Lewis said. "He just loves basketball, and doesn't get anything [financially] out of it."
The team McKindles fielded for this year's Sunday men's league in Howard County is another all-star group. In addition to Lewis, McKindles got a number of men on the roster who played college and professional basketball. They include Byron Mouton (a member of Maryland's national championship team), Kurk Lee (Towson/New Jersey Nets) and Mike Reese (Loyola).
The players on the team vary from week to week, but everyone is listed on the roster. McKindles said running the team takes just a few hours each week and running his own sporting goods company for the past three years has made it easier for him to indulge his basketball interests.
Paul Heineman has a team (Cobra Kai) that is playing against a McKindles group for the first time. McKindles' team --Knudsen Homes -- has been blasting everyone this season, and Heineman's squad got a good look at them last week.
Knudsen Homes turned the game into a track meet, but Cobra Kai worked hard and suffered a respectable 96-83 loss. Heineman was pleased with his team's work and was impressed with what he saw in his initial meeting with the McKindles team.
"We played our best game against them, and they've been spanking everybody," Heineman said. "Just about everybody on their team can shoot the three. They're stacked, and they don't have a weakness."
Anthony Curry runs rec teams that have played McKindles' squad for a few years. He agreed with Heineman about the talent and the type of game they play.
"They just play hard all the time," Curry said.