There was a time when no one wanted Anthony Mason.
Mason, the heart and soul of Pat Riley’s top Knicks, had bounced around teams in Turkey, Venezuela and Tulsa, Oklahoma when he landed on United States Basketball’s Long Island Surf. League in 1991.
“You could have had Anthony Mason for a nickel back then,” said Don Cronson, the longtime agent for the former Knicks player who died in 2015. “Nobody cared.”
No one, Cronson added, except Surf general manager Ed Krinsky. Krinsky invited Knicks scout Fuzzy Levane to the gym in Old Westbury and watch Mason play. Krinsky then convinced Levane to invite Mason to the camp the Knicks team was hosting in Westchester, and the rest is history.
“Ed found out about Anthony,” Cronson said.
While Mason may be the most famous player Krinsky has helped over the years, he is far from the only person whose life has been touched by the backstage basketball legend of Bethpage.
Krinsky, who died on October 28 at the age of 88 from a brief illness, influenced the careers of countless players, coaches and others he met during his years of training, from teaching and managing basketball teams on Long Island.
“He’s helped a lot of baseball players,” said former Nets and St. John’s star Joe DePre, who played for Krinsky at Westbury High School. “He loved basketball. But he also loved people. He was a really great person and a great coach.”
Born in Brooklyn on February 22, 1933, Krinsky attended James Madison High School at the same time as Ruth Bader Ginsburg was a student and several years earlier Bernie Sanders was a track star there. Krinsky went on to play basketball and baseball at Harvard. After a stint in the military, Krinsky returned to Harvard for a master’s degree before moving to Long Island in 1957 to teach history at Westbury High School.
Krinsky, who later became a guidance counselor, took over as coach of the Westbury varsity basketball team in 1959. Over the next 20 years, he would set a record of 274 to 126, will win a Nassau County Championship and send countless players to the next level. .
Dennis DuVal, an All-American goaltender in Syracuse who played for the Atlanta Hawks and Washington Bullets, remembered Krinsky as a great coach who genuinely cared about his players.
“He didn’t cut any of his teams,” said DuVal, who was the star of the Westbury team in 1969-70 with a 17-2 record. “He also brought all of his players home after practice because there weren’t any late buses. That was before there were seat belts, and he was putting us all in one. car and her two daughters would be with us. “
Krinsky’s daughters Donna Romano of Dix Hills and June Krinsky-Rudder of Boston have said that basketball is just part of their family life and fondly remember a vacation at Kutscher’s Hotel and Country Club near Monticello where their father would coach All-Star teams.
“All of our family vacations were basketball vacations except two,” Krinsky-Rudder said. “He would train somewhere and it was our vacation. I liked it that way. It was more interesting than a tourist vacation.”
Basketball coaches nationwide have trusted Krinsky to assess talent.
Herb Brown, the former Detroit Pistons head coach and brother of Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, first met Krinsky when Brown was the CW Post coach and Krinsky was at Westbury.
“He was arguably one of the best if not the best high school coach on Long Island when he was at Westbury,” said Brown. “He was an innovator in basketball. I wrote three books on basketball and he helped me with all three. We’ve been exchanging ideas my whole life as a basketball coach. “
Brown hired Krinsky to work as an advanced scout, primarily at Madison Square Garden, when Brown was with the Pistons in 1976 and 1977, and Krinsky would also later screen for the Houston Rockets.
Long before NBA teams regularly recruited international players, Krinsky began making contact with basketball overseas. In 1977, he coached the United States team at the Maccabih Games in Israel and later became a consultant for the Maccabi team in Tel Aviv.
Krinsky was invited to coach the 1980 Egyptian Olympic team. The selection of an American Jew to coach Egyptian players sparked all kinds of media coverage on Krinsky, including an appearance on “The Today Show”. Although Egypt joined the United States in boycotting the 1980 Olympics, Krinsky instead spent the summer hosting basketball camps throughout Egypt.
In 1991, Krinsky became the general manager of USBL’s Long Island Surf. The USBL was a spring league and served as a development league for players hoping to hang on to an NBA team or, more generally, secure a contract overseas.
Some notable surf players who have played in the NBA include Mason, Lloyd Daniels, and Michael Curry. The 1991 squad included both Mason and a goalie named Kenny Atkinson, who would one day become the coach of the Nets.
Walter Szczerbiak, a former ABA player who also played abroad, was a recruiter for the Spanish League and immediately recognized Mason as a rare talent. He arranged a meeting between one of his teams and Mason in a seafood restaurant on Long Island.
“We were talking about a contract. Anthony spent the entire meeting reading USA Today without paying attention,” Szczerbiak said. “The coach thought he could control it, but after that the general manager said no.”
SUNY Old Westbury basketball coach Bernard Tomlin was the coach of this 1991 surf team. The fact that Mason was a little rough around the edges didn’t seem to bother Krinsky. He believed he could play in the NBA.
“Ed was just passionate about sports and people,” Tomlin said of Krinsky. “He always had something for everyone.”
Paul Hewitt, former Georgia Tech basketball coach who is an assistant to the Clippers, said Krinsky had “thrown a life jacket” at me several times during his career. Hewitt, who played at Westbury, said Krinsky dissuaded coach JV from cutting him even though he was no good. And, since he had no college scholarship, Krinsky sent him to a camp on Long Island Lutheran where he was able to get a scholarship to St. John Fisher College.
“For a guy who’s spent most of his life in the background,” Hewitt said, “you can’t imagine the players he has helped. Not just the players. You can’t imagine the people who have helped him. ‘he touched. ”
Albert Ko, his longtime assistant, can. Ko was pursuing a certificate in sports management and marketing at New York University when one of his professors suggested that he contact Krinsky, who had been appointed director of operations for the USBL in 1999.
“Basically he gave me a break because he saw me as someone who needed it,” Ko said. “I didn’t have a network or connections. He figured it was going to be. difficult for me because of my race and physical appearance. I’m a dwarf and I’m Asian. He saw my CV, gave me an interview and hired me right away. I can’t thank him enough .
Gratitude seemed to be a common theme among those who remembered Krinsky from last week. Over the past few weeks, former players, friends and colleagues from all over the world have reached out to Krinsky via phone, FaceTime, email, and text.
“We used to joke that he was ‘Forrest Gump’ because of all the people he had known and met over the years,” June Krinsky-Rudder said. “But in the end, it was more like ‘It’s a wonderful life.’ He really touched a lot of people. “