by Jim Maggiore
The sold out crowd of approximately 450 people gave Earl Monroe a standing ovation when he was done speaking at the 4th annual induction dinner for the Greater Binghamton Sports Hall of Fame, which was held at the Doubletree Hotel in downtown Binghamton on Monday, April 23rd. Monroe’s theme during the night was one of unity, as he stressed that the beauty of sports is that it brings people together. He noted that when he played for the Knicks, he played alongside two Rhodes Scholars (Bill Bradley and Jerry Lucas), a doctor (Dick Barnett), and Walt Frazier, who remains a close friend to this day. “Basketball brought us all together and we still stay in touch today,” remarked Monroe.
Regarding Frazier, who like Monroe was drafted in the first round of the 1967 basketball draft, Monroe explained that Walt told him early on that “New York was my town.” By focusing on bring a championship to New York, Monroe and Frazier overcame a slow start in their relationship to form a lifelong bond today.
“I grew up in Philadelphia and basketball made me move South in the 60s, as I went to play college ball at Winston-Salem University,” Monroe explained early in his speech. He then quickly demonstrated the aplomb that years of public speaking has taught him as he drew a round of laughter when he stated, “and being a black man and going from the North to the South in the 60s was probably the opposite of what a smart person might have done.” As for his stay at Winston-Salem, it wasn’t without its challenges. Monroe explained how he wanted to transfer from Winston-Salem after his freshman year. “I was scoring all these points off the bench, but I wasn’t starting and I felt I should be playing more, so I told the coach I was going to leave. Early in this chat, coach stopped me and told me to wait a bit. He made a phone call, and told the person on the other end I planned to leave school.” Monroe now briefly paused in telling his story, as he stretched out the silence in the ballroom a bit. “My mother was on the other end and she told me in no uncertain terms that I was staying at Winston-Salem,” Monroe concluded as the ballroom broke out in appreciative laughter.
Regarding his trade to New York from Baltimore in time for the 1972 season, Monroe said that New York was his kind of town. “I liked to stay out late. I was the type of guy that liked to wake up at 11 at night and go out on the town. I liked the idea that New York was the city that never slept.” In further explaining his move from Baltimore to New York, Monroe subconsciously weaved his love of basketball with his lifelong love of music. “I had to adjust my rhythm to the rhythm of the Knicks, from where things revolved around me to where I had to fit in with my new team,” remarked Monroe as he started to swivel his hips a bit and subtly raise his arms up and down as if he were still dribbling a basketball.
During his playing days Monroe not only had a smooth rhythm on the court, but he was also known for his moves off the court. After his playing days were over, Monroe worked in the music industry for forty years, producing various shows. Music has always held a special interest for him and the audience broke out in applause when he talked about a special song he produced. “One of my biggest post-playing days thrills was to produce a song titled ‘We are All One,’ I feel it was the most important song I ever was involved with.”
Besides focusing on the unity of sports, Monroe stressed the importance of making the most of the opportunities that one gets during the course of a lifetime. “Opportunity knocks at every door,” remarked Monroe, “but it’s up to you to unlock that door” he succinctly offered.
After finishing his speech, Monroe answered a series of questions from the audience. He left his audience laughing in one of his final remarks, as he referred to his autobiography, “Earl the Pearl: My Story,” which he coauthored with Quincy Trope in 2013, to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Knicks’ championship. “I think we only sold ten or so copies and I signed them all tonight,” a smiling Monroe stated.
Hall Notes: The 15 GBSHOF inductees in the class of 2018:
- Chris Coleman, U.S. Olympian (bobsled)
- Doreen Denmon, softball
- Jason Goldman, wrestling
- Mark Gumble, wrestling
- George Herrick, soccer
- Richie Karl, golf
- Bill Kenville, basketball
- Frank Little, U.S. Olympian, trapshooting
- Tom Mitchell, hockey
- Ed Stack, sporting goods
- Michael Starke, tennis
- Frank Sorochinsky, wrestling
- Charlie Tarricone, basketball
- Randy Will, U.S. Olympian (bobsled)
- Tom Yelverton, pole vaulting.