Back in the 1980′s when I was a teenager trying to find my way on and off the court, I would spend a lot of time playing pick-up basketball at East 5th street park in Brooklyn, New York. (home of Black Jack Ryan).
In the summer of ’81 I noticed an older gentleman at the park; he would show up on a regular basis, Monday through Friday at or around 6 pm.
Sitting on a wooden bench off to the side of the court, this man who looked to be in his late 50′s, would watch us play for two hours. He soon became a regular but not once did he ever say anything to anyone; he sat alone, arms folded observing us. He sensed when we were playing the last game of the night; guys were tired, running out of gas, and some guys not getting back on defense. Right before “point game” he would get up and walk out of the park.
One night after my team lost a game I walked over to him and struck up a conversation.
He asked me a few questions about where I played my high school basketball.
After that first encounter with Larry Pearlstein, we talked more and more. (I later found out he knew Red Holzman, Hubie Brown, Rick Pitino and an owner of the New Jersey Nets).
Larry’s nickname was ‘Scout’. I found out from Howard Garfinkle of 5-Star Basketball Camp they called him Scout because he was a bird-dog. I also found out Scout was involved in a point shaving scandal back in 1945.
This past Friday night while browsing through a basketball history book I was shocked to see his name pop up in a story involving point shaving. So I did what you do when you want to find out about someone; you Google them.
A few articles came up about his involvement in the scandal and a few articles on his friendship with Pitino.
Turns out that New York City police were keeping tabs on a guy named Henry Rosen, a garment thief. Pearlstein and a friend entered Rosen’s house and were confronted by the police; they thought the young men were ripping the place off. Turns out both guys were given $1,000 to split amongst 3 other players.
The Brooklyn College basketball players were supposed to shave points in an upcoming game against the University of Akron. But before the fix was in, the game was cancelled; the players admitted to taking money and were kicked out of school. But charges were never brought up on the players.
It was later revealed that Scout was never registered as a student in school but he managed to be a member of the basketball team!
Scout was kind enough to take me to a few New Jersey Nets games over at the Meadowlands. He always scored tickets, we had great seats. One game that sticks out in my mind is watching the Boston Celtics come to town; that night there was more Celtic fans in the stands than Nets fans.
Of all the time I spent with Scout, not once did he ever mention that he played basketball as a youngster.
One cold Friday night in February, a group of us went to Bishop Loughlin High School (home of Mark Jackson) to watch the Lions boys varsity basketball team. Loughlin had an intimidating shot-blocker in Andre Riddick. The 6’9″ string-bean reminded many people of Bill Russell in the way he rejected shots. Pitino was the head coach at Kentucky at the time and Riddick had committed to the Wildcats. During this particular game Riddick was struggling at both ends of the floor. Midway through the 3rd quarter my friend Jimmy asked Scout:
“Was Rick Pitino drinking when he signed Riddick?”
“I got news for ya, Rick doesn’t drink,” answered Scout.
Without hesitating and looking out on the court, Jimmy replied:
“Well, maybe he better start.”
I haven’t seen Scout in many years; I hear he is still living; he’s 87 years young.