n Monday Jan. 15, former University of Massachusetts men's basketball standout Marcus Camby caused one of the more bizarre moments in recent NBA memory.
After being elbowed in the face near his eye by San Antonio Spur Danny Ferry, Camby had to be restrained by officials and teammates from retaliating. Camby seemed subdued, until he saw blood coming from his eye. He then lunged after Ferry, who had his back turned on the sideline at the time, with a punch.
"He poked me in the eye, bloodied me up," Camby told teammate Larry Johnson later that night. "I wasn't going to hit him until I saw the blood in my eye."
Rather than hitting Ferry though, Camby butted heads with New York Knicks coach Jeff Van Gundy, who was trying to stop his starting center. Van Gundy would need 15 stitches to close the wound above his left eye.
Looking like a prizefighter after a 15-round bout, Van Gundy told the media after the game, "He got the shot in that every one of our players would like to do to me. He just got one free."
Van Gundy has not had the best of luck in such altercations. During a 1998 playoff games between the Knicks and the Miami Heat, Van Gundy tried to part a pair of battling titans - Alonzo Mourning and Johnson. He wrapped himself around Mourning's ankle and took the brunt of that fight's punishment also.
Last year, Van Gundy's 1995 Honda Civic was blown up by an airplane's afterburners before the Knicks flight to Miami for yet another playoff game versus the Heat.
Camby turned contrite on the day after the incident, especially with regard to his head coach.
"Seeing Jeff today, I just feel sorry for the guy," Camby said. "Because if you look at him you'd think he's really been in a fight."
Camby was ejected from the game. Before hitting the showers, Camby grabbed a folding chair in protest, before a security guard took it away from him.
Camby reportedly later waited around for Ferry - first outside the Spur's locker room and then outside their team bus. He eventually had to be convinced by among others, teammate Johnson, Knicks President Dave Checketts and General Manager Scott Layden, to leave the arena.
"We were banging around the whole game," Ferry said. "I don't remember doing anything to lead to something like that."
Camby was suspended by NBA commissioner David Stern for five games and was fined $25,000 for swinging at Ferry. Ferry served his one-game suspension for the elbow on Wednesday Jan. 17, when the Spurs played host to the Toronto Raptors.
Although Camby expressed remorse for his actions, he did file an appeal with the NBA Player's association. However, the legal action did not prevent Camby from serving the suspension.
"I regret that I lost my cool, because that's not me," Camby told ESPN at the Knicks practice facility. "Those who have been around me since I've been here know that I'm an easygoing-type guy."
|Audio clip: Camby expresses his apologies for the incident.|
Camby wound up with some scrapes above both of his eyes - both from Ferry's punch and from colliding with Van Gundy.
The Knicks organization responded negatively to the punishment leveled on Camby by Stern. Notorious troublemaker Latrell Sprewell, whose 1997 choke hold on then Golden State Warriors coach PJ Carlisimo caused an eruption of media attention the likes of which have not been paralleled, lashed out at Stern for the punishment.
"I just think it's unfair. Without mentioning names, guys have been in fights and connected and they haven't been fined that severely. I just thought it was a little harsh and a little unfair. Not just to Marcus but to our team," Sprewell told the Daily News. "The bottom line is that he didn't hit the guy and they didn't take into account him getting elbowed twice. They have to look at the total picture. If you're looking at the total picture, I don't think you come up with a five-game suspension."
Earlier this season, former Knick and current Toronto power forward Charles Oakley received only a three-game suspension for clocking Sacramento Kings guard Jeff McInnis.
Van Gundy echoed the sentiments expressed by his star swingman.
"The punishment doesn't fit his actions," Van Gundy told the Daily News. "I think clearly there was a lot of talk of three to five games and I think that put a figure in their minds about what would be acceptable to them. And I think people saying if he was back for the Lakers it would be a cave-in to NBC. I think that had an effect too."
Stern has recently acquired a reputation for being rather stringent in his rulings. Earlier this season, Dallas owner Mark Cuban was nailed with a $100,000 fine for simply sitting on the baseline of Reunion Arena with his trainers.
UMass men's basketball head coach, James "Bruiser" Flint, who was an assistant coach during Camby's college career, expressed some surprise over the Minutemen alum's actions.
"Marcus never got that angry up here. I know he'd never hit anybody," said Flint "He didn't have to; Tyrone [Weeks] was here. He went in and hit people for him."
However, during the 1994-95 Minutemen campaign, Camby's sophomore year, he was ejected from a game versus Rutgers for throwing a punch.
Tyrone Weeks is now an assistant coach at UMass' Atlantic 10 rival St. Bonaventure.
Despite Camby's absence on Jan. 19, as he served the first game of his suspension, the Knicks beat the Detroit Pistons 91-91. Kurt Thomas, who took Camby's place in the starting lineup, finished with 10 points and five rebounds. On the season, Camby is averaging 10.6 points, 11.1 rebounds and 2.3 blocks a game.
With Camby in the line-up, the Knicks have amassed a 25-13 record, second best in the Eastern Conference behind only the Philadelphia 76ers, who hold the NBA's best record.
In 1998, Camby was traded from Toronto to the Knicks for Oakley and cash compensation.
ARTFORD, Conn. (AP) - A lawyer who tried to be Marcus Camby's agent while the player was at Massachusetts admitted misconduct to settle a case that cost the school its only Final Four appearance.
In a deal announced by the Statewide Grievance Committee, Wesley Spears acknowledged he gave financial assistance to Camby, now with the New York Knicks.
Spears also admitted he had a draft of a lawsuit delivered to the home of Camby's mother, which he should have known ``was likely to cause embarrassment to Mr. Camby and his mother,'' according to the settlement.
Based on Camby's admissions that he took valuables from Spears and agent John Lounsbury while he played at Massachusetts, the NCAA stripped the school of its 1996 regional championship and ordered it to return the money it earned by reaching the Final Four. In the semifinal, UMass lost to Kentucky, which went on to win the national championship.
NCAA rules prohibit college players from accepting gifts from potential agents.
Besides imposing a reprimand, the grievance committee ordered Spears to take a course in legal ethics.
Spears did not admit to Camby's claim that he gave the player about $5,300 worth of jewelry and the services of a prostitute while Camby played at UMass.
The settlement says the lawyer ``provided services and benefits to or on behalf of Mr. Camby after he declared his eligibility for the NBA draft'' after the 1995-96 college season.
Spears also did not admit to Camby's claim that he tried to blackmail the player. Camby told police that Spears had taken photographs of him with a naked woman at Spears' West Hartford home.
Neither Spears nor his lawyer, Hubert J. Santos, returned messages left at their offices Monday.
Based on Camby's accusations, Spears was charged in December 1996 with attempted extortion and promoting prostitution.
The lawyer could have faced up to 20 years in prison if convicted. But he was admitted to the state's accelerated rehabilitation program, which requires no admission of guilt.
After two years on probation and performing community service, the charges against Spears were dismissed in 1999. A reprimand is the least severe discipline that can be imposed on a lawyer for ethical misconduct.