WORCESTER For the last two weeks, personable M.L. Carr of the Celtics has been conducting a summer basketball school for youngsters 10 to 18 at Assumption College.
Final classes will be held today, and it appears Carr's first venture as a basketball instructor has been quite productive.
This was a different kind of experience for Carr. He was trying his hand for the first time at running a basketball school. And he geniunely appeared to enjoy himself. The veteran pro guard undertook his latest challenge with the same enthusiasm and seriousness that distinguished him as a key operator during the Celtics' drive to an NBA championship last season.
His was not a cameo appearance. Nor was his presence confined to just greeting the kids and their parents on opening day, and then reappearing on the final day long enough to pass out trophies.
Carr chose, instead, to stay with the kids all the way, and he demonstrated his sincerity by living with them on campus. A week ago, he supervised while 62 young ladies were being instructed. This past week he's been giving 105 young men the same attention.
If hard work and dedication are essential to running a basketball camp, M.L. Carr will be in the business a long time.
On a daily basis from 8:30 a.m. until lights out at 10:45 p.m., Carr always made himself available to his young charges. He and his energetic clinic staff of 16, including BU's Debbie Miller (a member of the US Women's Olympic team) and Oklahoma's Sue DeKalb, kept the place humming. They maintained a daily schedule of lectures, drills, practices and games. And Carr frequently took such opportunities to take youngsters aside for individual instruction.
"I suppose I could have chosen to go on a promotional tour, and make from $800 to $1000 a crack rather than run this school," Carr agreed, "but I'm doing this because I want to give something back to the kids. I still appreciate what basketball has done for me. I'm just hoping to break even financially with this school.
"Each youngster who comes here pays $185 for a week's room and board, which I feel is very reasonable by today's standards," the Celtic star added. "I'm also planning to make the rounds of businesses before I begin school next summer, in hopes that I can get them to agree to underwrite the cost of sending some underprivileged kids here. I'll also do my part by putting on clinics to raise some of the money."
As Carr scanned the sea of young faces, he couldn't help but be aware of his impact on them. They grasped his every word.
Little wonder that Carr still fondly recalls what it meant to him as a young man when he, too, attended a basketball camp. He particularly recalls one at Campbell College in Buies Creek, N.C., where Pistol Pete Maravich of LSU was the main attraction.
"Pete pulled me and another guy aside and worked with us for a couple of hours," recalls Carr. "I've never forgotten it. And Pete told me he remembers the occasion, too.
"Wouldn't you know that as fate would have it years later, Pete and I would become Celtic teammates for a brief time," he noted.
Carr said so much stress is placed on the kids to win that he and his staff avoid mentioning it during their stay at his school. "We tried, instead, to emphasize pride and enthusiasm along with teaching the fundamentals," he said.
Paula Reisner, a 12-year-old from Lancaster, is a typical basketball student. She stands 4-foot-11 and weighs 70 pounds. She proudly displayed her M.L. Carr autographs, which were inked on both of her gym sneakers.
"I came here because I want to play on my school basketball team next winter, and M.L. Carr is one of my favorite Celtic players," Resiner said. "I waved to M.L. at a Celtics' game last season, and he waved back."
Sitting beside Reisner during a break was Theresa Land, 15, of Braintree, who attends Notre Dame Academy in Hingham.
"I don't think I'll ever be good enough to make a team," Land modestly declared, "but I like basketball, and that's why I'm here."
For Carr, the thrill of having played on his first NBA championship team "was my greatest emotional experience."
Nevertheless, this premier tall guard - he's 6-6 - is well aware that his name was often mentioned when Celtic trade rumors cropped up last season.
"A couple of years ago, I would have lost a lot of sleep after reading such trade stories," he added, "but now that I'm a secure person, it doesn't bother me anymore. I accept the fact. It goes with my financial situation."
Carr doesn't possess visions of the Celtics cakewalking to another NBA championship.
"The toughest job for our club lies ahead," he said. "Last season we were the hunter; next season we will be the hunted. But I think we can do it. Everybody is signed and feels secure. Insecurity does not breed productivity."
Carr credits general manager Red Auerbach for pulling off one of the smartest manuevers ever perpetrated in the NBA when the the Celtics acquired him through free agency when he declined to re-sign with the Detroit Pistons.
Sound conceited? Not when Carr explains it.
"The Pistons all along insisted that they wanted the Celtics to give up Bob McAdoo as compensation for me," Carr said. "But Auerbach refused to, and kept pretending that he wanted to keep McAdoo.
"So the matter goes to Comr. O'Brien for arbitration. And we all know what happened. The Celtics not only wind up getting me, but two first-round draft choices as well. And with those draft choices, they also wound up getting Robert Parish and Kevin McHale.
"That Red Auerbach is some genius, isn't he?"