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Ride Along with John McCarthy, Who Played Hoops with the Harlem Globetrotters

Ride Along with John McCarthy, Who Played Hoops with the Harlem Globetrotters

For those of you eagerly awaiting our profile of Club Industry's Lifetime Achievement Award recipient John McCarthy, it's coming soon. I promise.

In the meantime, I thought I'd tide you over with a little video I did when I met McCarthy in Boston this summer. On our way to lunch in his hometown of Weston, MA, McCarthy talked about his family and fitness and what keeps him busy these days—eight years after retiring as the founding executive director of IHRSA. (You can view the video on our YouTube page.)

The majority of our interview took place at McCarthy's house, and you'll read more from that interview in the profile. One aspect of his life that fascinated me was that he was an outstanding basketball player. The 6-foot-3 McCarthy was drafted by the New York Knicks in the ninth round of the 1958 NBA Draft out of the University of Notre Dame. Not only that, he played on a college all-star team that toured with the Harlem Globetrotters.

"It was a 45-day tour going to all the major cities in the United States," said McCarthy, who will receive his award Oct. 23 at the Club Industry Show in Chicago. "You played almost every night. Sometimes you played an afternoon game in one city and an evening game in another city. It was great fun. It was a wonderful experience. I'd say we went to 35 to 40 cities. I think we might have won two or three times when they had nights when they just couldn't put it in the ocean. Take all the games together, they won 30, we won three."

John McCarthy reminisces about his younger days, which includes a memorable basketball career, at his home in Weston, MA. (Photo by Stuart Goldman.)

Abe Saperstein, who owned the Harlem Globetrotters, also owned the college all-star team. McCarthy got paid $100 a game, netting a cool $3,300. Not bad for a college senior in 1958.

"We thought it was good money," McCarthy said. "Every two or three games, you were brought up to the front of the bus, and they dished out your money in 5 and 10-dollar bills, stuffing it in all of your pockets. It added up to three or four hundred dollars."

McCarthy said his team was never told by Saperstein or anyone else to lose on purpose—like the Washington Generals usually do against the Globetrotters. But the games were not without some hijinks and fun, and McCarthy was in on the act.

"I'll never forget one time we were in a very close game, and you knew what was going on but you kept a straight face," McCarthy said. "All of a sudden, they had one Globetrotter telling two of the referees to look down the other end. I was on the free-throw line, and we were either one point ahead or one point behind. First of all, they tied my shoes together, and I had to pretend that I didn't know what was going on. And then the referee threw me a ball that was weighted. It was great fun. You played serious for three or four minutes, and then it was entertainment for three or four minutes. It was just a wonderful, enjoyable experience."

The spring tour followed a great senior season in which McCarthy averaged 19 points a game and led Notre Dame to a 24-5 record. The Fighting Irish lost to eventual national champion Kentucky in the regional final of the 1958 NCAA Tournament, one game shy of the Final Four.

That led to the Knicks drafting McCarthy. But he never played a game in the NBA.

"I never even went to a camp [with the Knicks]," McCarthy said. "I wrote them and said that I was going in the seminary."

That's right, the seminary. For more on that part of McCarthy's life, you'll have to read the profile, which will be done soon. I promise.

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