Monday, March 23, 2009

Butch Komives

For those of us who graduated in 1960 Butch Komives was a name we all knew and respected.  What a player.   I thought you out of towners would enjoy this article that appears in the Blade today.



Komives was Woodward, BGSU basketball legend

BGSU's Butch Komives led the nation in scoring as a senior in the 1963-64 season by averaging 36.7 points per game. The previous year he scored 32 and with Nate Thurmond helped the Falcons rout Loyola of Chicago, then rated No. 2 in the country and the eventual NCAA champion, 92-75.

Anderson Arena has always been "The House That Roars," but old-timers will tell you that the noise was secondary to the humidity on those long-ago winter nights when they'd jack up the thermostat and the fire marshal would look the other way and nearly 6,000 fans would squeeze into Bowling Green's basketball arena.

The night of Feb. 16, 1963, must have been all of that and more. The attendance at what was then called Memorial Hall was announced at 5,734 and at least twice that many would later claim to have been there. Undefeated Loyola of Chicago visited BG and the Ramblers, then ranked No. 2 in the nation, were just a few weeks away from an NCAA national championship.

But BG coach Harold Anderson had 6-foot-11, 235-pound center Nate Thurmond, who averaged 17 points and 17 rebounds, and Loyola's game plan was pretty simple. Throw as many bodies at big Nate as possible, make it impossible for him to shoot, and force somebody else to do the scoring.

It's hard to imagine Loyola coach George Ireland didn't realize who that somebody else would be. Howard "Butch" Komives scored 23 points in the first half, 32 on the night, and BG dismantled the visitors 92-75.

"We didn't play especially bad, but they were very hot and they had a good team," Loyola guard John Egan once said. "There was no fluke about it. They had Thurmond and Komives."

And that said it all.

Komives, who died yesterday at age 67, was half of one of the greatest duos in college basketball history and, a year later (1963-64) after Thurmond had moved on to the NBA, Komives led the nation in scoring with a 36.7-point average.

Before that, Komives starred at Woodward High School and I can tell you I saw him play although I'd be lying if I claimed to remember it. My father loved basketball and had been a pretty good small-college player. So when word of Komives' feats spread around town in the late '50s, my old man drove across town to check it out and took his young son with him. And it wasn't just one trip.

Like I said, I don't remember it. But I remember what my dad said many times. He had seen the legendary Bevo Francis play. He'd watched Jerry Lucas at Middletown. The best pure shooter he'd ever seen? Butch Komives, he said, hands down. Period. End of discussion.

Komives broke onto the scene with a 42-point game as a sophomore at Woodward and averaged 23 points as a senior before heading for BGSU, where he scored 1,834 career points and authored a career average of 25.8 points per game that is still the school record.  Butch scored 50 points one night against Niagara and had 34 in an NCAA tournament game against Notre Dame. He set what was then a national college record with 50 straight made free throws and, after finally missing one, made the next 24 he tried.

We could go on and on. And just imagine what the numbers would have been had he played four years - freshmen weren't eligible back then, kids - and had there been a 3-point arc painted on the court which, of course, there was not.

Komives was the 13th overall pick in the 1964 NBA draft by the New York Knicks and was named to the league's all-rookie team in 1964-65. He put up his best pro numbers in '66-67 when he averaged 15.7 points and 6.2 assists.

Butch played for a decade with the Knicks, Detroit Pistons, Buffalo Braves and Kansas City-Omaha Kings and his teammates included a veritable who's-who of pro basketball - Willis Reed, Walt Bellamy, Cazzie Russell, Tom Gola, Dick Barnett, Phil Jackson, Bill Bradley, Dave Bing, Bob Lanier, Bob McAdoo and Tiny Archibald, among others.

There is so much to be said of Komives' career and so many to say it. But Butch was never much of a source on Butch.  "I don't talk about myself," he said a few years back in an interview with The Blade. "That's not my style. I had fun when I played, but once the lights went out that was it."

Indeed, life dimmed considerably after the lights went out. Butch dealt with some demons and had a terrible run of health issues and physical problems. He needed a kidney transplant - his son, Shane, who followed in his footsteps as a BGSU basketball player, was the donor - almost four years ago.  He hobbled on bad knees for years and eventually needed a walker.

Retired Blade editor Tom Walton wrote a column last year chastising BGSU for never having retired Komives' number and, indeed, there is something missing next to the big No. 42 that hangs on the wall of Anderson Arena in honor of Thurmond. He was half of the story, but only half.

They'll get around to retiring No. 30, I'm sure, but it's too late for Butch. I don't know what it will say on that banner nor do I know what will be etched on Komives' tombstone. But the word "legend" belongs on both.

Contact Blade sports columnist Dave Hackenberg at:

or 419-724-6398.

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