Cowens immediate success was startling because when he came to Boston he was known only to those basketball junkies who ate basketball magazines for breakfast, press releases for lunch, and scouting reports for dinner. He had enjoyed little high school fame, being recruited in-state only by the schools of the Ohio Valley Conference. Powerhouse Kentucky ignored him. He selected Florida State (coach Hugh Durham promised him he could start as a sophomore), where he was neither chosen as an All-American nor showcased on national television, thanks to the school's three years on NCAA probation. The pro scouts were hardly unaware of his existence, but outside of Tallahassee, Florida, his name meant nothing to the general public.
I always thought I could play as hard and as well without anybody in the building.
This lack of publicity might have been the source of great irritation
for some people, but it did not bother Dave Cowens. He never played the
game for fame; he played it because he liked it, period. He liked the
speed, the contact - oh how he liked the contact - and the interaction
with teammates. Unlike many athletes, he had never really been a fan.
Press clipppings, awards, and All-This or All-That teams held no
interest for him. Critics didn't bother him, either, because until the
day he retired, he played for no tougher critic than himself.
I never dreamed of being a pro basketball player when I was a kid. Being
a pro player wasn't a dream come true. I wasn't a card collector. I was
always open to suggestion. I was just out there grasping for straws,
wondering what to do. I just migrated toward basketball because I liked