One thing I have learned is that good friends have other good friends. This is a series of stories about “friends of my friends”. The post below is the story for February 25, 2015.
My goal in 2015 is to learn or get re-acquainted with 365 people and doing a daily post on the “the friend of a friend” is helping me get closer to my goal.
In 1992 I was in the midst of my 7th year as Head Basketball Coach at UNC Pembroke when Billy Lee the former Head Coach at Pembroke and at the time the head coach at Campbell University called me. He said that Campbell had just played Winthrop University that previous night and he was talking to Winthrop’s Head Coach and Athletic Director Steve Vacendak who told him he was going to step down at the end of the year. Steve was just going to focus on the Athletic Director portion of his job description. Steve asked Billy who might be a good candidate at Winthrop and Billy told Steve Vacendak about me.
That recommendation from Billy encouraged me to apply and eventually got me hired at Winthrop as the Head Basketball Coach and work under Steve Vacendak the Athletic Director.
For those that don’t know Steve Vacendak was a basketball player at Duke in the 1960’s. He was a guard and played for Vic Bubas and led the Blue Devils to 2 Final Four appearances during his tenure there. He was voted in 1966 as ACC Player of the Year and was part of the ACC All-Tournament Team. I don’t have the explanation but Steve was not voted to the All-ACC team in 1966. Player of the year but not on All-ACC team go figure. Anyone that follows Duke basketball will tell you #33 was Duke’s first Mr. Hustle.
Steve was without a doubt one of the most known figures in college basketball during my time at Winthrop. I could never thank him enough for the opportunity to become a NCAA Division I Head Basketball Coach and for all the wonderful people he introduced me to during my time at Winthrop and Rock Hill. When Steve went to the ACC tournament or the Final Four he was like a rock star. He knew everybody-he knew other coaches, he knew other AD’s, he knew sporting good vendors, and CEO’s of companies. One of those people he knew was Vic Bubas his college coach at the time I met him the commissioner of the Sun Belt Conference.
Steve left Winthrop in the mid 1990’s and worked in business for while including a Damon’s restaurant in Raleigh, NC. It was at that Damon’s restaurant that a customer got Steve involved with NC Beautiful.
Steve currently serves as the Executive Director for N.C. Beautiful, which is a private, non-profit organization dedicated to preserving the natural beauty of North Carolina through environmental education and outreach.
Since 1967, NC Beautiful has played an important role in environmental education for this state and in supporting organizations in their beautification efforts. NC Beautiful has implemented several statewide programs to provide real-world experience in protecting, preserving, and maintaining the quality of our natural resources and the environment. Through the generous support of corporations and individuals, they have:
- Awarded grants of empowerment to K-12 teachers to create hands-on environmental programs in their classrooms across North Carolina.
- Awarded close to 200,000 azalea plants to over 2,500 non-profit organizations statewide.
- Enhanced the natural beauty of hundreds of acres on the grounds of schools, churches, parks, greenways, public rights-of-way, and community and senior centers across the state.
- Awarded graduate and undergraduate scholarships to students in all corners of the state of North Carolina in order to raise environmental responsibility and awareness.
The Friend-STEVE VACENDAK
The Friend of the Friend-VIC BUBAS
How Vic Bubas recruited Steve Vacendak
Vic Bubas was an innovator that revolutionized the way college basketball coaches went about recruiting. He arrived at Duke in 1959 and stayed there a total of ten years. Coach Bubas enjoyed a great career as Duke head coach. He won four ACC regular season championships, four ACC Tourney Championships, and he reached the NCAA Final Four three times. Seven out of ten seasons his teams were ranked in the top ten. Vic Bubas was one of the finest, most effective coaches in Blue Devil history.
He turned college basketball recruiting on its head. He began big time networking–recruiting nationwide. Coaches had never gone after high school juniors but Bubas did. Coaches considered particular states or regions their turf but to Bubas, no region was off-limits. He sent newspaper clippings of Duke wins to young players. He or one of his assistants flew all over the nation meeting players face to face and watching them play. He began picking up players from Pennsylvania, Kentucky, Texas, Illinois, and Indiana. He even brought in center, Mike Lewis, from a podunk town called Missoula, Montana. After courting Mike, Bubas reportedly asked to be alone with his dad. By the end of their talk, Lewis’ father said to Mike, “You need to go play for Coach Bubas.”
Dean Smith, one of the greatest coaches ever, admitted, “Vic taught us how to recruit…for a while all of us were trying to catch up with him.”
Vic Bubas also hired exceptional people to be his assistant coaches. Bucky Waters who succeeded Bubas as Duke, Fred Shabel became head coach at UConn, Tom Carmody became Head Coach at Rhode Island, Hubie Brown went on to coach ABA and NBA teams, and Chuck Daly went on to coach Detroit Pistons in NBA.
Great story about how Steve Vacendak got to become a player at Duke University and his recruiting.