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Murray Journal

Intrepid, world traveling basketball coach Barry Hecker still calls Murray home

Feb 05, 2019 03:35PM ● By Carl Fauver

NBA coaching veteran and Murray resident Barry Hecker (front row, third from right) continues to share his basketball shooting skills around the world, including this weeklong camp in Finland. (Barry Hecker)

By Carl Fauver | [email protected]

If you look up “old school” in the dictionary, you may just find 45-year basketball coaching legend Barry Hecker’s photograph. And if you ask him what’s wrong with his sport today, be prepared to sit for awhile and take a few notes.

“For starters, we need to teach players today more respect and less entitlement,” the former Cleveland Cavalier, Los Angeles Clipper and Memphis Grizzly coach and executive said. “Once I was short-handed for a scrimmage and asked a kid to play forward. He said, ‘but I am a guard.’ I asked him again. He wouldn’t do it. So, I told him to leave the gym.

“I am hard-nosed that way. That is how I grew up. There’s no discipline anymore. We (parents and coaches) allowed it to become this way and we need to change it back.”

Hecker’s old school style of coaching remains popular, as he continues to teach his basketball shooting techniques in all corners of the globe. The 71-year-old Murray resident has offered clinics and camps in more states than he can count, along with at least seven countries he can think of, off the top of his head: Australia, Canada, China, Finland, Italy, the Netherlands and Senegal.

“I also held a basketball clinic way up in the Arctic Circle, so I guess that is Alaska,” Hecker added.

Murray resident and longtime basketball coach Barry Hecker (fourth from right, gray shirt) continues to share his basketball shooting skills around the world, including this 5-day camp in Senegal, on the western edge of Africa. (Barry Hecker)

 Prior to all those basketball camps and clinics – as well as the NBA jobs in three different cities – Hecker was also the head basketball coach at both West High School and Westminster College in Salt Lake.

“Another big problem with basketball today is, more and more games are being scheduled at the expense of practice time,” Hecker added. “Kids just aren’t learning the fundamentals as well anymore. They don’t know how to pass or shoot properly.”

But that lack of practice time is also keeping the mostly-retired Hecker still active in the game, offering group clinics and individual instruction.

“I have been to some tiny places here in Utah, including Tintic High School (Eureka), Tabiona, Vernal and Manila,” the coach added.  “Here, along the Wasatch Front, I have had clinics at Northridge (Layton) and Rowland Hall (Salt Lake) high schools, recently.” 

Hecker charges just $10 for his 2-hour shooting clinic, primarily because “all these kids want to shoot anymore are 3-pointers – but they need to learn so much more.”

Among the individuals Hecker has offered instruction to, is 6’11” American Fork center Isaac Johnson, a 4-star recruit who recently committed to play at the University of Oregon, over scholarship offers from Utah and BYU, among others.

“I worked with him on the old ‘sky hook’ shot, like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar used to become the all-time NBA scoring leader,” Hecker said. “After working with him a couple of times a week, for a couple of months, we got him to where he can shoot the hook with both hands. It’s an indefensible shot, but no one learns it anymore.” 

Barry and his wife Terri have lived in the same Murray home for 15 years. She is a ski instructor at Brighton. His tie to the community also led him to assist in coaching the Spartans’ ninth-grade basketball team, which had a 3-year record of 50-10.

“I don’t plan to live here, year-round, forever,” Hecker added. “I get too tired of the winters. So, we might split time between our place here in Murray and maybe another home in Florida. But that won’t happen until Terri decides she’s done giving ski lessons.”

This past year, Hecker’s basketball coaching skills carried him to places much further than Florida.

Last summer, Hecker participated in a basketball instructional camp in Senegal, the furthest-western country in Africa, 6,000 miles from Utah. Not long after that, it was on to Helsinki, Finland, more than 5,100 miles from his Murray home. While on that trip he met a former member of the University of Utah basketball team who played for the 1998 NCAA men’s basketball title against Kentucky.

“Hanno Mottola is from Finland and was a forward on that Utah team that lost the championship game,” Hecker said. “So, when I went to coach at the Finnish Federation of Coaches clinic, my wife and I had the chance to go fishing with Hanno and a friend of his and have lunch. We talked a lot of basketball – it was a fun trip.”

Possibly more fun than Hecker has observing the state of basketball today.

“The NBA is nearly unwatchable for me, now that it is nothing but 3-point shots,” he concluded. “But I do believe the inside-out game will return. For now, I will just keep trying to teach kids the fundamentals. And along with that, I hope I can help show them they should feel more grateful than entitled.”