Don Carlos

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Don Carlos

Postby rlee » Sat May 22, 2010 2:55 pm

Carlos' trip to Hall hardly a solo effort

By Michael Arace
Columbus Dispatch

Tonight, the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame and Museum celebrates the state's rich history of the beautiful team game with its fifth annual induction ceremony at the Columbus Convention Center. Among this year's class of inductees is Don Carlos, who will see his basketball life flash before his eyes. He will get misty, guaranteed.

Carlos will think about where he came from, a rural outpost on what is now the East Side. He will think about his father, who died when he was a teenager, and his mother, who had to raise four children with too little money. He will not talk much about these things, but he will think about them.

Carlos' life could have taken any number of turns, most of them unfortunate, if not for the men who put a hand on his shoulder at critical moments, who helped him when he needed it, who somehow knew to step in. They were coaches who kept Carlos in the game.

"This is so humbling, going into this hall of fame," Carlos said yesterday. "To be linked with all the great people that are in there - (former NBA player and coach) Lenny Wilkens is in this class - it's just unbelievable. What I know is you just don't do these things alone. It's very important to me to let the teams and all the coaches know we share this."

Carlos, 66, runs a financial services company in Westerville. In a way, he is being immortalized, and it is giving him pause to reflect on a good life that is still going strong - and to wonder how it all came together. He remains touched by all those hands.

He said, "You could look at my boyhood circumstances as some kind of impediment, but I see it now as a learning experience. There were lessons I could not have learned any other way."

He also said, "You know that movie The Blind Side? It really hit home. That's what you feel like - you just don't know why someone cares that much about you."

Carlos was first touched by William Gleich, the coach who persuaded him to play basketball at Christ the King school on Livingston Avenue. The year was 1957. The school didn't have a gym, so even practice required a modicum of travel, which is why Carlos never even thought about playing basketball.

"He had a situation that required us to help him out, transportation-wise," Gleich, 81, said yesterday. "So we did, my wife and I. He was something special. He helped start that program. He was part of the foundation."

John Steele, the coach at Whitehall High, was there when the Carlos home was lost in a flood. Steele made sure Carlos continued with basketball, even after Carlos had to transfer to the Columbus school district. Bob Courtney, the coach at Eastmoor High, might have supplied a pair of high-top "Connies" to keep Carlos playing through his senior year.

Fred Taylor, the Ohio State coaching legend, didn't have a scholarship available for Carlos in 1963, when the Buckeyes were in their heyday with Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and company. But one of Taylor's assistants, former North High coach Frank Truitt, called a friend at Otterbein and found a place there for Carlos.

Carlos didn't know Truitt. He didn't know why Truitt was helping him. Maybe, Ohio State wanted to stash Carlos until a scholarship became available. Maybe, it was a purely compassionate gesture. Maybe, it was both. In any case, Otterbein coach Curt Torg wound up with Carlos, who became a foundation of Torg's program.

"Don had some help at the high school level," Torg, 75, said yesterday. "He was supported. It drew him away from the less-beautiful aspects of his life. He grew up the hard way and emerged as a real citizen.

"He was probably the best Division III player I've ever seen outside of John Rinka."

Rinka, who played at Kenyon from 1966 to '70, was a diminutive, dead-eyed shooter who led the nation in scoring. He went into the state hall of fame with the inaugural class of 2006.

Carlos was a 6-foot-5 guard/forward who played center at Otterbein. His career averages for points (27.3) and rebounds (15.2) still rank No. 1 in school history. He was the first Ohio Athletic Conference player to score 2,500 points, and he remains among the top three scorers and rebounders in conference history.

Carlos was drafted by the Lakers and also had a tryout with the Celtics. He had the total game - save for ball-handling skills, which was a detriment because he would be a swingman if he played in the NBA. He spent one season with the ABA Houston Mavericks (averaged 11.2 points in 1968-69), plied his hand in the old Eastern League and then went on with his life - which was gently nudged in the right direction when he was young, flowered at Otterbein ("the place that made me," he said) - and, ultimately, put him at the head table for tonight's ceremony.

He will get misty, guaranteed.
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