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Published: 3/23/2009

Woodward basketball star excelled for BGSU

Komives Komives
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Howard "Butch" Komives, a Toledo high school star who became one of the greatest basketball players in Bowling Green State University history, died Sunday in University of Toledo Medical Center, the former Medical College of Ohio. He was 67.

Mr. Komives, who grew up in East Toledo and attended Woodward High School, played 10 years in the NBA after his BGSU career.

In 1963-64 when he was a senior at BGSU, Mr. Komives set the single-season Mid-American Conference scoring record and led the nation in scoring, averaging nearly 37 points a game. The MAC record stands, and undoubtedly would have been even higher if the 3-point shot had existed in that era.

The 6-foot-1 guard led the Falcons to a 40-12 record in 1961-62 and 1962-63, two MAC championships, and two NCAA tournament appearances. He was a member of the BGSU squad that upset eventual national champion Loyola of Chicago in 1963.

Mr. Komives was taken to the hospital on Thursday afternoon after he was found unconscious in his West Toledo home, said his son, Shane Komives.

Shane Komives said his father underwent surgery after arriving at the hospital and never regained consciousness. He had battled health problems for more than a decade.

"He was a great guy and a tough competitor," said Nate Thurmond, a former NBA great and Mr. Komives' teammate at BGSU. "He was the kind of guy who would do anything for a friend."

Mr. Thurmond, who lives in San Francisco, said Mr. Komives was a rare player because he possessed both offensive and defensive skills.

"He was a great shooter. He played both ends of the court," he said. "A guy who scores a lot of points many times was never thought of being able to play the other end. But he played both ends. You don't see a lot of that."

Mr. Komives graduated in 1960 from Woodward, where he averaged 23 points a game his senior year.

It was at Woodward that Bob Nichols, then head coach at Central Catholic High School, first saw the young sharpshooter.

"He was a tough competitor," said Mr. Nichols, a longtime University of Toledo basketball coach and an assistant coach at BGSU during Mr. Komives' senior year there.

"He had tunnel vision on being the best basketball player he could be. There is a lot of skill in the world today. But he had the passion to work to become the best he could be. A lot of times players have the skill, but they don't have the passion for the game like he did," Mr. Nichols said.

Mr. Komives had intended to attend the University of Cincinnati, but switched to BGSU after a coaching change at Cincinnati.

When he graduated from BGSU in 1964, Mr. Komives had set five MAC and 24 school scoring records, and his senior year scoring average was the fourth-highest ever for a collegian at the time.

He was named a third-team All-American by the Associated Press and United Press International.

Tom Baker, a BGSU teammate of Mr. Komives, said he believed Mr. Komives would have averaged at least 45 points per game if there had been a 3-point shot, and admired his former teammate for putting in extra hours of practice.

"He truly was one of the hardest-working athletes who I have ever seen. The guy worked both day and night," he said. "I can remember the guy practicing at midnight in Memorial Fieldhouse."

After college, Mr. Komives went to the NBA, playing four seasons for the New York Knicks, four seasons with the Detroit Pistons, and one each with the Buffalo Braves and Kansas City-Omaha Kings.

After his last season in 1974, Mr. Komives and a partner from Toledo purchased the franchise rights to Wendy's restaurants in Colorado.

Shane Komives said his father sold the franchises in Boulder, Greeley, Fort Collins, and Longmont in the early 1980s.

Mr. Komives returned to Toledo, owning and managing restaurants and bars, including the former Butch Komives Inn, at South Detroit and Glendale Avenue.

For a brief time, Mr. Komives was coach of the Lima-based Ohio Mixers of the now-defunct Continental Basketball Association. He had also been a salesman for AFLAC insurance.

He was inducted into the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame in Columbus in 2007.

Mr. Thurmond said he made it to the induction ceremony for Mr. Komives, just as Mr. Komives had been present for Mr. Thurmond's induction a year earlier.

"He was the same old Butch," said Mr. Thurmond. "He was doing good when I saw him at mine and when I saw him at his."

Surviving are his wife, Marcia Komives; son, Shane Komives; stepsons, Christopher and David Cook; sister, Elizabeth Meinert; half-sister, Julie Woods, and grandsons, Keller and Quinn Komives.

Services will be Thursday. The time of the service is pending. Visitation will be after 2 p.m. Wednesday in the Eggleston-Meinert-Pavley Funeral Home, Oregon chapel.



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