Interview with York Larese

<i>Inside Carolina</i>'s Thad Williamson sat down with former Tar Heel great York Larese, while in town for the Shaw's Summer League in Boston.

BOSTON – Everyone knows about North Carolina's 32-0 record in 1957. Most Carolina fans also know about the 1967-69 run of three consecutive ACC regular season titles, ACC Tournament championships, and Final Four appearances.

What is less well known is the mini-glory era that came in between. Frank McGuire's last three teams (1959, 1960, 1961) compiled a 36-6 ACC regular season record to finish first or tied for first in three consecutive ACC regular season races. A standout guard on those teams was York Larese, a three-time first team All-ACC selection who averaged 17.9 points a game for his career. Larese, who scored 37 points against Duke in the 1959 Dixie Classic and tallied 30 or more points in six other games, went on to play one year in the NBA and later coached the New York Nets of the ABA.

Larese is attending the Shaw's Summer Pro League in his capacity as an NBA scout, and graciously agreed to speak to IC.

Thad Williamson: Who are you scouting for?

York Larese: I'm scouting for the Indiana Pacers.

TW: How long have you been doing that?

Larese: Three years.

TW: Is it full time?

Larese: Oh yes.

TW: About how many games a year do you see?

Larese: 120, 125.

TW: And how many of those are college games?

Larese: They are all college.

TW: How many times did you see North Carolina play this past year?

Larese: Once–I scouted a game up in Connecticut. I see them on television. But I only cover the Northeast, so I don't get a chance to go down to the ACC.

TW: Do you do mostly the Big East conference or also the smaller conferences?

Larese: There's nine conferences–the Atlantic 10, MAAC, NEC, Colonial... and the Big East.

TW: Ivy League?

Larese: Oh yeah–of course! They are in my area.

TW: Did you see Jason Forte play at all, at Brown?

Larese: Yes–I like him, I like him a lot. He's a good shooter–he reminds me a little of his brother face-wise.

TW: But not height-wise.

Larese: Not height-wise.

TW: As a former player, what was your reaction to finally having a season where everything fell apart for the Tar Heels?

Larese: I'm still wondering about that, because it's something that Matt has to get over because, you know, he came in and a lot of guys left. He's still experimenting, and he'll have a better year, he just has to have a little time.

TW: Do you feel pretty confident that he'll be able to progress from here, and get the program back to where it should be?

Larese: Oh, oh yes. I'm confident in Matt. I just think now he's putting his core together, and we'll see.

TW: You're a shooting expert–do you think the shooting ability of these guys is the same or different, better or worse than when you played?

Larese: They're a little different, and not as good shooters. They're great scorers–but the art of shooting is not as good as it used to be. It's something that they develop, they have either bad habits or good habits, but they live with them, they come into the NBA with them, and coaches today don't have a long time to teach them, really. They worry about the Xs and Os of winning the game. The kid comes to them, he better be a good shooter. And some of the time, they don't learn how to be a good shooter.

TW: When a player has been shooting an incorrect way for like five or ten years, how long would it take to actually reconstruct it and fix it, if you had the time to do it?

Larese: Ah, there's a certain age where you don't get involved at all. You might help the shot a little bit, but I wouldn't tackle that at all. They're set, they're in the NBA. I teach a couple of the Indiana Pacers free throw shooting, that I can do, but outside shooting and jump shooting, no longer.

TW: Do you think the three point shot has helped or hurt?

Larese: It definitely has helped. The crowd, they love it–it's an exciting shot, you can win games with it.

TW: What about the theory that the 3 point line has taken away the mid-range game, and the ability of players to hit a shot from anywhere on the court?

Larese: I don't really think it took away the mid-range game, because, you either take the three, or you maneuver in such a way that you take the mid-range jump shot. I don't think it's taken away any of the shots.

TW: What are you looking for as a scout in these games?

Larese: Just looking for talent, some free agents maybe that are available. Just looking at who will be on teams and how good they are.

TW: Is there like a science of scouting, is it something you have gotten better at, or is it a case of, if you know basketball, you can do it?

Larese: It's not because I know basketball and can do it. It's something you've got to look at today and in the future–what's he going to be like three or four years from now, and today, if he's ready to play today. If he's ready to play today, you give him high grades, and when he comes into the NBA he's going to be a factor. But you're looking for potential a lot, and you're looking for the players who are more mature, the four-year seniors, European players. That's what we do.

TW: Is there any one that you've spotted in your career so far that you're particularly proud of?

Larese: Oh, it's a team concept–it's not one guy, one player. We have five people who spend a lot of time together in meetings, and when we get to a conclusion of our top 60 in the draft, we might miss two out of sixty. We canvass the world, and when it's all said and done, it's a team effort.

TW: So every player that gets signed gets seen by multiple eyes multiple times.

Larese: Yeah–that's a good way to put it, multiple eyes.

TW: What were you doing before you became a scout?

Larese: I was in the footwear business, a lot with Puma, years ago with Converse, and I did some buying and brokering of goods.

TW: And are you still giving shooting clinics at Carolina basketball camp?

Larese: Oh, it's my 38th year going back. I haven't missed it, and I don't intend to miss it, probably until I die. I just love Chapel Hill and love the program.

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