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The City Journals

Former NBA coach hosts skills camp for kids

Jun 10, 2019 02:13PM ● By Catherine Garrett

Former NBA coach Barry Hecker worked with NBA player Rudy Gay during his 21 years in the NBA. (Photo courtesy Barry Hecker)

By Catherine Garrett | [email protected]

It’s not often an NBA coach comes to town. And yet it just so happens that Utah is lucky enough to be the home of former NBA assistant coach Barry Hecker who has been teaching basketball for more than 40 years. 

The veteran coach, who lives in Murray, became used to life on the road after a 21-year NBA coaching career with stints for the Cleveland Cavaliers, Los Angeles Clippers and the Memphis Grizzlies. Following his retirement in 2013, his travels haven’t slowed down. This past year, he has conducted clinics in Finland, Senegal and Canada along with various states around the country while also working with high school and college players on an individual basis, including some in Utah.

This summer, he is back home for a four-day Shooting and Offensive Skills camp June 17 through 20 at the Gene Fullmer Recreation Center, located at 8015 S. 2200 West, in West Jordan for boys and girls in grades third through ninth. 

“These camps are all about the basic fundamentals of basketball,” Hecker said. “We focus on quality fundamental instruction, we work hard with a lot of discipline and structure and we have a lot of fun. When these kids walk out of there, they know they’ve been taught and improved.”

The camp is scheduled for June 17, 18, 19 and 20 from 1:30-3:30 p.m. The cost is $80, which includes a T-shirt. Registration is open online at www.slco.org/gene-fullmer/ or at Gene Fullmer Rec through the first day of the camp. The first 40 kids registered will receive a free basketball. Contact Jason Kehr at [email protected] or (385) 468-1951 for more information.

The camp is being sponsored by Ken Garff Automotive Group, Chick-fil-A and Standard Optical.

The long-time NBA coach started playing basketball in the seventh grade and it wasn’t long after being involved in the sport that a junior high P.E. teacher instilled in him a desire to coach the game. A trip with his dad to a Celtics game as a 12-year-old solidified that dream. He has coached basketball at every level, but his first coaching experience was running the John Henson Junior High track team in Oxon Hill, Maryland. 

“I didn’t know anything about track, but I decided if I was going to coach it, I was going to win so I found out everything I could and we won the championships three years in a row,” he said. He then coached the junior varsity basketball team at Oxon Hill High School and led them to an undefeated 20-0 season.

Following several other coaching stints, he landed a job at Salt Lake Community College in 1976 where he met Harry Weltman, the general manager of the now-defunct American Basketball Association’s St. Louis Spirits. Weltman was later hired as the GM for the NBA’s Cleveland Cavaliers and took Hecker from a West High School coaching job in 1984 to the NBA as the player personnel director for the Cavs.

Hecker held the same position with the Los Angeles Clippers two years later and was promoted to assistant coach in 1994, where he had two separate stints in the coaching and player development ranks. He was an assistant coach at Memphis through 2013 when he retired from coaching. 

“I love basketball because when it is played the right way it’s beautiful to watch – when all five players are playing their roles, sharing the ball and having each other’s back,” Hecker said. “It’s a game where five lesser talented players can beat five more talented players.”

Hecker said the values he has learned from basketball are invaluable and it thrills him to share those principles of hard work, teamwork, unselfishness and persistence, along with the physical skills of the game itself, with others. 

“I don’t care who I coach or when I coach,” Hecker said. “I simply enjoy teaching the game. It’s great to see a smile on someone’s face as they experience success. If you help somebody, you’ll be somebody.”

Hecker has conducted clinics for more than 40 years and particularly enjoys working with youth. 

“If you teach skills, that leads to confidence and that confidence can allow anyone to do anything they want,” he said. “I have more fun with young kids than with the pros. In the NBA, you have guys who are making millions. These kids are making nothing and they’ll listen to you.”