Looking to increase the growth of his High Rise Elite AAU program, Bobby Spezzano discovered he had an untapped local resource.
One that stands 6-9 and has 10 years of NBA experience on his resume: former Big East Player of the Year Pat Garrity.
“I met him once last year and I was introduced to Pat in late January because he lives in New Canaan,” Spezzano said. “I asked him if he was interested in coaching and gave him my number.”
Fortunately for Spezzano and his 10th grade team, Garrity reached out and has served as an assistant coach for High Rise, which two weekends ago finished as the runner up at the Hoop Group Pittsburgh Jam Fest.
“I’m slowly getting back into it,” said Garrity, who outside of coaching his son’s youth team had been inactive in basketball since retiring from the NBA in 2008. “This is my first experience with older kids. Bobby and I got together and he told me what he was trying to do, and I clicked with him right away. I really enjoy it.”
Garrity had a distinguished college career at Notre Dame, earning conference player of the year honors in 1997. A first round pick of the Milwaukee Bucks, his rights were traded to the Suns. He played in Phoenix for two seasons before spending the next eight years with Orlando. He averaged 7.3 points and 2.6 rebounds.
After retiring Garrity went back to business school. He moved to New Canaan nearly three years ago and currently works for Bridgewater Associates, the investment company in Westport.
Asked if he ever considered coaching, Garrity said, “When I played I never did. Even finishing up six years ago, I never did. Now that it has been six years out of the game I found I missed it more and more.”
Spezzano, High Rise’s co-director and founder, said Garrity is in charge of the offense for a team that includes Brien McMahon’s Jahmerikah Green-Younger and Kyle Davis, and Omar Telfer of St. Joseph.
“They didn’t really understand it at the beginning; these kids didn’t know who Pat Garrity was,” Spezzano said. “He’s been working with the kids twice a week, and the more time they have been around him, the more they’ve learned. His knowledge has really helped them out. He’s very good at the little things. He makes references to NBA players still in the league. He brings that aspect to the kids which I never could.”
Garrity has been somewhat surprised to discover his enjoyment of the game as a coach shifted from his playing days.
“It has been really good,” Garrity said. “The interesting thing as a player is practice is one of those things you have to do but you focus on wanting to play games. Now I find myself wanting to practice more. I really like spending time with them. Nothing replaces getting out there and competing. Coaching comes the closest to it.”
Garrity said his background did not give him instant credibility with the players.
“I don’t think any of them remember me at all,” he said with a chuckle. “No matter where you come from, players know coaches who know the game.”
Spezzano said Garrity has committed to serve with High Rise until the end of the season in July.
“I have to figure all that stuff out with what I am doing professionally,” Garrity said. “I’m having a blast with it right now. It shows the respect youth coaches deserve for giving so much of their time. Coaching is now in the back of my mind but I still haven’t thought where that path might lead.”