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Card Chronicle Catches Up With: Terry Howard

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The ‘70s sharpshooter is the latest guest in the Return to the Flock series.

Wake Forest v Louisville Photo by Joe Robbins/Getty Images

Let’s make a comparison. First, I’d like for you to imagine the small benchwarmer point guard, Ollie, from the renowned 1986 film Hoosiers. If you haven’t seen the movie then skip this paragraph or, better yet, use some of your quarantine time to watch it.

Now, I want you to think back to the scene of the movie where Ollie is forced to play because of foul trouble and draws a shooting foul with only seconds left in one the biggest games in school history – trailing by one point and the chance to play in the Indiana State Championship. IMAGINE THE PRESSURE. (Spoiler Alert: he makes both FTs and under handed at that)

Now, imagine being a former local high school standout and future professional now playing for his alma mater in the Final Four. In other words, a real person. I want you to imagine being one of the best free throw shooters on your team and in the nation and going to the free throw line with your team up by one point in overtime and the free-throw line awaiting you. Imagine having the opportunity to put your team in a position to end Coach John Wooden’s career with a loss and then have the chance to play and beat Kentucky for the school’s first National Championship?

Can you imagine THAT level of pressure? I can’t. Yet, that’s exactly what former Cardinal Terry Howard faced in 1975. But the real story in this interview is one highlighting a man that didn’t feel the pressure and has done and continues to do some amazing things in the game of basketball and life.

I was close to entering the world around the time Terry Howard shot that infamous free throw. But growing up as a huge UofL fan and an admitted sports history nerd, I wanted to find out for myself what all the talk was about. Who is Terry Howard the player, the person?

I’m glad I had the opportunity to find out because I learned the truth: a free throw, while important in that moment, doesn’t even begin to define a man who has more personal accomplishments than I can count and has done so much for not only Louisville Basketball but that game in general.

Please join me for Issue 5 of the Return To The Flock series – Terry Howard.


Tell the readers a little bit about your background. Where did you grow up and what were your high school playing days like?

TH: I grew up in Pleasure Ridge Park playing basketball, baseball and football and moved to the east end in the 7th grade and attended Westport Junior High School, then called Westport High School. My high school days were great with good teammates and good coaches, Coach Richard Schmidt and Coach Bill Olsen.

One of my best games was against Shawnee High School, a nationally rank team with 7’1 Tom Payne. As a Junior, I scored 38 points against Shawnee’s #1 team and went 22 for 24 at the free throw line - we were victorious. The City of Louisville and Jefferson County had several good players and coaches and games were very competitive. I was an All-District, All-Region, KY All-State and KY All-Star. I had 100+ Scholarship offers. I narrowed my selection down to Louisville, Kentucky, Alabama, Maryland, North Carolina and Kansas. I selected the University of Louisville Cardinals.

(Editor’s note: many readers may be aware, regardless Bill Olsen would go to be the Athletic Director at UofL; Tom Payne would sign and play basketball at the University of KY becoming the first African-American to do so)

Did you grow up a Louisville fan?

TH: I grew up a Louisville and Kentucky fan. I learned a lot from Wes Unseld, Butch Beard, Jim Price and Henry Bacon, all with Louisville and Louie Dampier, Mike Casey, Mike Pratt and Dan Issel, all from Kentucky.

So if my math and historical investigating is accurate, your first season at UofL was the 1972-73 campaign. You played with a couple of studs like Junior Bridgman & Allen Murphy. What was that team like and was it a good experience for you?

TH: Our 1972-1973 season was filled with Sophomores. We played well because we played unselfish, smart and together as a team. We all knew our roles.

We were invited to play in the very competitive Hawaiian Basketball Classic and played with great competition. As Sophomores, we had a good tournament losing by 3 points in the Finals to a senior loaded team, #1 North Carolina. I, a Sophomore, was voted on the All-Tournament Team, then announced as the MVP of the tournament. The MVP is never selected from the losing team. But I did have a very good tournament night after night. Coach Dean Smith of North Carolina, who recruited me hard and was a friend, ran on to the court screaming that the MVP should come from his winning team (like George Karl or Bobby Jones) and I told him that I didn’t have a vote.

What was it like playing for Denny Crum who was only in his second season as the head coach at UofL?

TH: Coach Crum was a young coach and we were a young team. Most of the time that would be a difficult situation, but with great leadership from the coaches and the players, we overachieved.

Coach Crum is one of my favorite coaches and people of all time. One story that I tell often is when I started as a Sophomore and I shot a long shot right in front of him as he was standing up coaching with his rolled- up program. The 25-footer I shot was an air ball. He called out my name and motioned me over to him. I knew I was coming out and was ready to be blasted. He put his arm around me and said, “the next time you shoot the ball please hit the rim so we can get the rebound and put the ball in the basket.” I said, yes sir, I think I can do that.

They say you play and act like your coach and we did just that. Coach always said to never get too up and never got too down – stay even, calm and cool. He preached, run the offense and take good shots. Shot selection was very important to us. He also didn’t want us to worry about the other team, but to let them worry about us. Do what you do correctly and compete on every possession.

Coach Crum never threw his sport coat, never used foul language, never screamed at you and always treated you like an adult. He never punished you with sprints or suicides, etc. I asked him once, why no running? He said because if you give 100% in practice, you will be in shape and if you don’t give 100%, you will not be in shape and you will be sitting on the bench by me. It was up to you. You always knew that you had an opportunity to win.

At the end of games, whether up or down, we knew we would win. Coach was at his best at the end of games. When he called a timeout, we never sat down. The huddle was always positive and calm. We always stood in the huddles and listened to Coach. He would tell us exactly what to do – what play and what option(s). Then he would say, run this correctly and you will have an opportunity to win and if you don’t run it, you will probably lose. We practiced these game situations every day.

(Editor’s note: I didn’t think it was possible for me to like Denny Crum any more than I already did – I was wrong.)

During your time at UofL who were some of the most talented opposing players you still think of today?

TH: During my time at U of L, I played against several talented players such as George Karl (NC), Larry Finch (Memphis), John Lucas, (Maryland), Dexter Reed (Memphis), Tommy Henderson (Hawaii) plus several other players. Coach Crum’s mindset and ours was to play the best competition that is available during the pre-conference season to be better prepared for the conference and the NIT or the NCAA in March. I was fortunate to play against the best, with the best and for the best.

Obviously, it would be just short of a decade before Louisville and the University of Kentucky would play head to head in the Dream Game. But during your playing days was there any type of rivalry between the two programs or fan bases that you recall?

TH: We knew the UK players and they knew the UL players, but there was not a rivalry between the players. There was a love/hate relationship with the fans, but not the players. I am sure they thought they were better than us and we thought we were better than them. I am sure that Coach Rupp and Coach Hall thought that they had nothing to gain and everything to lose at that point in history. It was just too risky for them. Both UL and UK had and have excellent College Basketball Programs that represent their fans, their communities and the State of Kentucky very well.

So, speaking of UofL and UK playing, that almost happened in 1975 but UCLA defeated your team in the Final Four (in OT) for a chance to play for a national championship. I want to be sensitive here, but I would like to get your thoughts on your missed free throw with 20 seconds remaining with a one-point lead (UCLA would score w/2 seconds remaining & ultimately win by one point).

TH: We began the 1974-1975 Season as the #1 ranked team in the country. We did not have the best players and we had a young coach, but we did have the best team as the Sports Writers and Polls would dictate. The 1974-1975 UL Team was one of the best teams in UL’s history, and I believe we were the best UL team from top to bottom. Every player was able to step on the floor and add to our success.

UL and UK beat several great teams to get to the 1975 NCAA Final Four. We did not look ahead because we were playing a very good UCLA team, but yes, we truly wanted to play UK because we were denied that opportunity for years and years. Our game with UCLA was a game of two great teams. It was like looking in the mirror – both running the same offense and defense, same press, both disciplined and both with a high Basketball IQ.

The UL/UCLA was one of the greatest games in NCAA history. Going into this game, I was 28-28 from the free throw line. Looking back to my first day of organized basketball in Elementary, Middle, High School and College – I always won the free throw shooting award. As a UL Freshman, I shot 94.4% from the line. And I hope people will remember that I won and helped win a lot of games throughout my long career from the free throw line at the end of games. Free throws in the first half or during the game matters, but nobody remembers them. Most of my free throws came while running the Four Corner offense and wanting to get fouled at the end of games when the outcomes were on the line. I “helped” win a lot of games on every level.

Terry, as you mentioned you had made all 28 of your previous free -throw attempts that season. Clearly, you were a helluva shooter and the guy Coach Crum wanted at the line. Do you think it was the atmosphere or what was at stake that played a role in the missed shot? Or, was it just one of those things where your first miss of the year came at the wrong damn time?

TH: Coach Crum stayed with the same game plan my whole career running the Four Corner at the end of games and it worked every time. Therefore, against UCLA in the 1975 NCAA Final Four Coach Crum did what he always did during my Sophomore, Junior and Senior years, we ran the Four Corner with me handling the ball and either holding it or getting fouled. Coach Crum and my teammates had faith and confidence in me to handle the ball and shoot free throws in pressure situations.

As I was handling the ball I could hear UCLA Coach John Wooden yelling as loud as he could, “don’t foul Howard, don’t foul Howard.” They fouled me just as we wanted.

I walked to the foul line and while the UCLA players were saying “stuff” like teams do, I stepped to the line using my same routine that I used thousands of times and followed through with my free throw release. I have never seen my missed free throw, but I and my teammates, UCLA players all had the same story: the free throw went in, bounced back up, hit the left side of the rim, hit the right side rattled back and forth, then popped out.

No, you do not feel the pressure, you don’t hear any noise from their players or from the crowd. Some people live for the pressure and some want no part of it. I wanted the ball in my hands. I want to take the last second shot or be at the free throw line at the end of games like I did thousands of times. I don’t want to be the guy laying on the couch drinking a beer knowing that he could make the shot, but for some reason he will never have the opportunity and probably never stepped on a court and never shot a basketball. I live for that pressure and opportunity in basketball, business and life.

People forget, we were ahead by 1 when I went to the line. We were winning. Yes, I could have iced the game by hitting the free throws. They still had to rebound the missed free throw. They had to hit a challenged baseline jumper with 2 seconds left …. and they did. We as a team, missed free throws, missed shots, threw the ball away more than once and yes, my first miss of the year came at the wrong time

(Editor’s note: this video shows highlights from the UCLA game. The screen blacks out during Terry’s free throws but there is still a lot of content to view)

Does missing the free throw bother you to this day? How, if at all, has it affected your life?

TH: Since 1975, I have paid the price and I accepted it. I can handle the abuse, the articles nationwide, what sports writers print, what people walk up and say, radio talk, TV talk, etc. I received letters and articles from Atlanta, Los Angeles, everywhere during the Final Four annually (usually negative). I still hear about it on a daily basis.

I can handle it because I have to, but I truly wish that my wife, 5 children, 8 grandchildren, parents, my 2 brothers and my entire family and friends did not have to put up with this for 45 years. And I realize that the people that attack me and talk have never been on a basketball court in any situation and likely never played sports but yet are the ones that have a lot to say. But, if it makes them feel better, so be it.

Following a very successful career at UofL, what did you do after college? Did you continue playing anywhere?

TH: I was fortunate to play at the University of Louisville. Then was selected to play in the College KY All-Stars vs the College TN All-Stars in Nashville, TN. My coach was UK Coach Joe B. Hall and we were victorious. Then I played in the NBA Philadelphia 76er’s Rookie Camp and the NBA New Orleans Jazz Rookie Camp with my hero, Pistol Pete Maravich. I also played Overseas in South America.

Are there any former teammates of yours that you keep in contact with?

TH: I do keep up with my Westport High School and University of Louisville teammates and it is fun to see each other at our Reunions. Our latest Reunion was our 45th Anniversary at the YUM Center. I stay in contact with Coach Crum, Coach Olsen, Coach Jones, Junior Bridgeman, Billy Harmon and rest of the team.

I know that years later in the ‘90s, one of your sons, Todd, suited up and played at UofL. Tell me a little more about the rest of your family.

TH: My oldest son, Todd, played for Louisville Ballard High School and was fortunate to win the Kentucky State Basketball Championship. Ballard High School was a big part of our life. I coached at Ballard for 9 years and Rhonda and I have 4 sons and 1 daughter. They all played basketball and baseball and our daughter was a Ballard cheerleader.

Todd played for the University of Louisville, which was so very special seeing him play in Freedom Hall and practicing in Crawford Gym for Hall of Fame Coach Denny Crum. Todd remained in basketball as a UL Grad Assistant, coached at IUPUI and is now Coach at Brebeuf Jesuit Preparatory in Indianapolis. I might be a little biased, but Todd might be the best coach in basketball.

Nathan (PharmD) played basketball for Murray State and graduated from UK Pharmacy School. Aaron (Surgical Sales) was a UK basketball manager. Anderson (Healthcare Tech Sales) was a UL basketball manager. Amanda graduated from UK and is the Literacy Coach at Harmony Elementary in Oldham County. Rhonda, my wife, is a Women’s Health Nurse Practitioner with Maternal-Fetal Medicine Specialist at Norton Healthcare.

I’m aware that you run your own Basketball Academy. Can you tell me a little more about it?

TH: Basketball has always been in my life. I have had a great life with a supporting wife, 5 children, 8 grandchildren and the best daughter-in-laws. I was a Real Estate Developer, Fund Raising Director, represented DirecTV, Pepsi, Baden Sports, Reebok, founded a High School Magazine, owned The Basketball Academy, etc. The Basketball Academy was a Sports Facility in which I directed basketball tournaments, AAU basketball, gave individual, small group and team instruction. And I also enjoyed helping our Youth on and off the court. I want to help our Youth to Expect to Win in Academics, Athletics and Life.

I enjoy taking Mission Trips using my basketball knowledge and business experience as a platform to reach our young people throughout the World, which also provides the opportunity to teach discipline, develop competitiveness and character. My last mission trips were to the Dominican Republic, Haiti and Belize, Mexico. I want our young people to Expect to Win in Academics, Athletics and in the game of Life.

I have always had a passion for the Art of Shooting. Shooting is a skill that can be improved daily, monthly and yearly. I have been asked for years: “How do you shoot a basketball”? and “Can I improve my shooting”?

I thought everybody knew how to shoot the ball, but how would they know?

Therefore, I developed The EliteShooter, a Training Basketball for Shooting. A training basketball with graphics showing HAND PLACEMENT and a BALL ROTATION LINE to teach ALL players on EVERY level to shoot the ball STRAIGHT.

Be an ELITE SHOOTER with proper form, balance, square up, correct hand placement, alignment, perfect ball rotation, follow through which will allow you to shoot the ball STRAIGHT. For more information on Me and The EliteShooter,

Please visit my website: www.EliteShooter.org

In addition to your academy, aren’t you helping David Levitch as an assistant coach at North Oldham High School? How has that experience been? Is David easy to coach with?

TH: Yes, I am a Basketball Coach at North Oldham High School with former UL player, Coach David Levitch. I believe it is a good combination because David is new school and I am old school, which is a good mix. Our biggest achievement is beating #1 Male and being the Runner-up in the King of the Bluegrass Basketball Tournament.

We are fortunate to work with good student-athletes on and off the court. As you may know, I was #23 at UL and David was #23 at UL and he still owes me big-time money for wearing my #23, as well as, Michael Jordan, LeBron James, LaBradford Smith, etc --- and I am still waiting for payment plus interest.

What’s your take on Coach Chris Mack and the direction of the UofL program?

TH: I enjoy watching the current University of Louisville Cardinals and I believe that Coach Chris Mack was a great hire and is doing a good job with basketball fundamentals and skills, X’s and O’s, has a good staff and represents the entire Basketball Program with respect and success.

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I’d like to thank Terry Howard for his cooperation in making this interview a reality and for reminding someone like yourself that there are two ways you can handle adversity. One, you can allow it to affect your life in a negative way. Or, you can use it as a way to motivate oneself to do great things in life. It’s obvious to me that Terry did the latter and the UofL fan base is lucky to have him as both a former standout player and loyal fan.

Go Cards!