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Published: Sunday, 6/5/2005

Komives twice led BG to NCAA

In Their Words is a weekly feature appearing Sundays in The Blade's sports section. Blade sports columnist John Harris talked with Howard "Butch" Komives, a Woodward High School graduate who is one of the outstanding basketball talents in the history of northwest Ohio.

Komives got his start at Woodward, but he really made a name for himself at Bowling Green State University, and later in the NBA, where he played for 10 seasons.

Heavily recruited out of high school, Komives was all set to attend the University of Cincinnati until a coaching change landed him at Bowling Green.

A tough-minded 6-1 scoring machine who could shoot from deep outside and was fearless driving to the basket, Ko-mives finished in 1964 as Bowling Green's all-time leading scorer with 1,834 points.

That total came in three years of playing time (freshmen were not eligible) and the mark stood until Anthony Stacey broke it in 2000 after playing four seasons and five games of a fifth season (he was injured his junior season and awarded another year).

Komives also is the school's career leader in points in a season (844), season scoring average (36.7) and career scoring average (25.8). The 36.7 points per game came in his senior season when he led the nation in scoring.

Playing for legendary coach Harold Anderson, Komives teamed with Nate Thurmond to lead the Falcons to a pair of Mid-American Conference titles and two trips to the NCAA tournament.

Selected by New York in the second round of the 1964 draft, Komives joined the Knicks in their early stages of becoming a championship team. Unfortunately, he wasn't around for the celebration. Midway into his fifth season, Komives was traded to the Detroit Pistons. The following season, New York won its first NBA title.

Komives joined Dave Bing and Jimmy Walker in Detroit to form one of the league's most potent backcourts, but nothing lasts forever in the NBA. A few years later, Komives was traded to the Buffalo Braves.

One season in Buffalo led to a partial season with the Kansas City/Omaha Kings under coach Bob Cousy, leading Komives to the conclusion that it was time for him to move on.

He retired following the 1973-74 season, tallying 7,550 career points in 742 NBA games.

Dabbling briefly as a minor league basketball coach, Ko-

mives made a quick transition into the business world when he became a restaurant entrepreneur and purchased four Wendy's franchises in Colorado.

Upon selling the franchises a few years later, Komives, who has been a licensed insurance agent since 1967, has concentrated his efforts on selling supplemental health insurance.

Komives resides in the Toledo area. His son, Shane, who also played basketball at Bowling Green, is a basketball coach at St. John's Jesuit.

"I knew I was going to college to play basketball, but it was a hard decision. I eliminated Ohio State. And then I was going to Cincinnati. Oscar Robertson had just left there. George Smith was the coach. He was the one who recruited me. Sometime in May or June (of 1960), Smith resigned and moved up to athletic director and Ed Jucker became the coach. I didn't know anything about Ed Jucker. I never met him. He was the assistant. George spoke at my high school banquet. I decided to go to Cincinnati because of George. But when he stepped down, I started thinking if he's not going to be there, what's going to happen to me? Then I started thinking that Bowling Green looks better and better. I called up Cincinnati and told Jucker I'm not coming there, I'm going to Bowling Green.

"I didn't even know Nate [Thurmond] was there. When I met Nate, he was only 6-7. When I joined him - when he was a sophomore - Nate was 6-10 1/2. I had a great time at Bowling Green. Nate and I, we'll talk about once a year on the phone. Sometimes, when he comes to Bowling Green, I go down to see him.

"The Knicks drafted me in the second round. They drafted Willis Reed in the first round. My rookie year, we had Willis, "Bad News'' Barnes, Johnny Green and Johnny Egan. Later, we added Walt Frazier, Bill Bradley, Dick Barnett and Phil Jackson. Phil came off the bench. He had a hook shot and he was good with it. And he was so tall. He had elbows. And he was real lanky. When he hit you with those elbows, he really hurt you.

"They play a different game now. We could put our elbows on you. We would steer you around if you had the ball. We could just about tackle you.

"We fought in those days. If you were on Willis Reed's team, if there was a fight, Willis was right there with you. I never saw one guy take care of business like Willis did that time we fought the Lakers [during the 1966-67 season]. It happened at the foul line. Willis was lined up next to Rudy LaRusso. The shot was taken, the ball went up, and Rudy had the inside lane on Willis. As he stepped in to box out Willis, he threw an elbow and hit Willis in the chest. Willis warned him not to do it again. The second shot goes up, Rudy does it again, and that was it. Willis knocked Rudy out. Hit him twice. Darrall Imhoff came in. Willis hit him and knocked him down. And then John Block stepped in and tried to help Rudy and Willis unloaded on him and knocked him out. Willis was knocking out everybody that moved in purple and gold. I haven't seen a fight like that since on a basketball court."

"I don't talk about myself. That's not my style. I had fun when I played, but once the lights went out, that was it.

"It took me a year to put together the Wendy's deal. What I did was I saved a lot of money. I saved almost all my money when I played. Then I came home. They opened a Wendy's at Airport Highway and Reynolds Road. That's where I got the idea. Back then, when they first opened that store, they were doing between $38,000 and $44,000 a week. That's when I jumped on it.

"But I had to buy them in Colorado because this territory was all gobbled up. I had them for about four years before I sold them. We built four stores out there. Now they've got about 10. Unbelievable.''

Contact John Harris at: jharris@theblade.com or 419-724-6354.

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