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Summer Camp for Ballers: CHD sits down with Coach Johnny Newman

The-BALL (or Basketball Alumni Legends League) is a brand-new East Coast summer league for former college basketball stars. Fans who show up to the games get to see famous alumni from local colleges in more intimate arenas. Many of the American players spend the regular season in the D-League or overseas, but this provides them with an additional source of income during the off-season and a chance to get seen by scouts in person or on a local TV network. It is also the most innovative league in the history of the sport, featuring rules such as a 4-point shot, a 5-second backcourt violation, 2-point free throws, etc. Jon Teitel got to sit down with a number of players/coaches after each game and take a walk down memory lane. Former Richmond star Johnny Newman coached the DC Dobermans and talked about beating Charles Barkley in college and losing to Michael Jordan in the pros.

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In 1984 you were named conference POY at Richmond. What did it mean to you to win such an outstanding individual honor? It meant a lot: I wanted to be known as one of the best players in school history, and winning this award was a great step towards doing that.

Take me through the 1984 NCAA tourney:
You scored a game-high 26 points in a one point upset of Auburn.  How great was Charles Barkley back then (23 points/17 rebounds)? He was definitely unstoppable: despite having a wide body he was a lot more athletic than he looked.

You scored 20 points in an eight-point loss to Indiana: what was it like to play against a Bobby Knight-coached team in March? Knight had his team ready to play, and they had a lot of size (including 7-footer Uwe Blab). The Hoosiers have always played at a high level (and still do today), but we still could have won the game.

In the 1985 NIT you scored a game-high 35 points and Kelvin Johnson grabbed your missed shot and made a baseline jumper with three seconds left in a two-point win over Fordham.  How big a factor is home-court advantage in the NIT (compared to the neutral sites of the NCAA tourney)? It is always good to play at home: we were a decent road team but played very well on the road.

In the 1986 NCAA tourney you scored 25 points in a one-point loss to St. Joseph’s.  How did you lose after winning your previous 19 games that season when you had a lead at halftime? We used a different lineup than normal because we were missing one of our best players due to injury, so our chemistry was just not the same.

You remain the all-time leading scorer in school history.  Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were, and do you think that anyone will ever break your record? It is hard to believe that I still have the record more than 25 years after my last college game. I have always been a scorer: in high school I worked hard to get better each year, which is a lesson I still try to teach to young players. If there had been a three point line back then I feel that I could have scored 3200+ points, easily! I think it will be a while until someone breaks the record.

In the summer of 1986 you were drafted 29th overall by Cleveland (two spots behind Dennis Rodman).  Did you see that as a validation of your college career, or the realization of a lifelong dream of reaching the NBA, or other? It was definitely a lifelong dream coming from the small town of Danville, VA. I never got to see a lot of pro players in person and I was 1 of the 1st people from my area to get drafted. It was also a validation of all the time I put in while developing my game.

In the 1989 Eastern Conference Semifinals you scored 17 points for the Knicks in a two-point loss to the Bulls in the decisive Game 6.  What was going through your mind when Michael Jordan stepped to the line for a pair of FTs with four seconds left in a tie game? It was a battle for most of the game, but Jordan was pretty consistent down the stretch.

In the 1993 Eastern Conference first round you beat the Celtics in the decisive Game four after Alonzo Mourning made the series-winning jumper with 0.4 seconds left.  Could you have ever imagined after seeing Celtics forward Reggie Lewis collapse on the court during Game One that he would be dead only a few months later? No. I was right there next to Reggie when he collapsed. You know when guys are tired and when guys are hurt, and I immediately knew that something was wrong. I turned to the bench and told the trainer that he was really hurt.

Your 1159 career games remains in the top-50 all-time: what is your secret for longevity? I took good care of myself, never did drugs or alcohol, and never stayed out late until the wee hours of the morning. I also worked very hard in the off-season.

In 1997 you appeared in the film Shadow Conspiracy with Charlie Sheen and Linda Hamilton: how crazy was Sheen back in the day after the cameras stopped rolling?! We had a good time! I met him at the Richmond YMCA and it turned out that I knew a guy who was in Major League with him. We played some ball and he invited me to do a scene in a new movie that he was going to be in. He said that he would have someone call me, which I thought was a lie, but they ended up calling me and I went up to Baltimore to shoot a scene.

JonTeitel