When McCoy cries ‘Uncle’ … UMass star gets Hall of Fame help from Connie Hawkins
By Joe Burris, Boston Globe Staff, 2/7/1992
Jim McCoy pointed to the front of his leather high-top athletic shoes, around the toe area. Scuff marks. Bad sign.
“That means I'm dragging my foot on my layups,” he said. “My uncle always tells me to raise your toe on the layups so you can get better elevation on your layups. If you don't bring it up, you don't get as high as you can. As you can see, I'm still dragging it.”
McCoy, a small forward for the University of Massachusetts, heeds what his uncle says about basketball, and if you were in his scuffed shoes, you would, too. McCoy's uncle is Connie Hawkins, the former ABA and NBA great who last week was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield.
McCoy, a Pittsburgh resident who was coached by his uncle in a summer league last year, hasn't spoken to him since Hawkins was elected. McCoy said Hawkins recently moved from Pittsburgh to Phoenix, where he took a front office job with the Suns.
Meanwhile, McCoy has been busy helping lead UMass to one of its best records ever. McCoy is a reliable scorer; he became UMass' all-time leading scorer in just three years. Unlike his uncle, who was a front-line player, McCoy's output comes primarily from the perimeter. He is one of the best shooters in the Atlantic 10, a player who releases well at the height of his jump and scores with accuracy over foes on pull-up jumpers despite often leaning in.
Now if he could do something about that dragging right foot. “When I was a kid, Hawkins would come up to me and the first thing he'd say was, 'Let me see your sneakers,' ” said McCoy, whose father (Jim McCoy Sr.) and Hawkins were roommates when both played for the Pittsburgh Wrens of the ABA. They began dating sisters, and both couples subsequently married.
McCoy said his uncle wasn't caught unawares by the Hall of Fame recognition. “We talked about it this summer; he knew he probably would get inducted,” said McCoy. “He didn't want to say too much this summer because he didn't want to jinx it.”
The Minutemen enter tomorrow's game against St. Joseph's with a record of 18-4 overall, 6-3 in the Atlantic 10, and seven regular-season games remaining. They have a chance for the first 20-win UMass regular season since 1976. The Minutemen have not lost back-to-back games, and if they conclude the season without such a blemish, it would mark a first since 1956.
All this despite the fact that McCoy (the top returning scorer in the league this season) has seen a drop in his production. McCoy is averaging 15.6 points a game this season, down from 18.9 last year and 20.7 the year before. But UMass is a more balanced team than in his previous two seasons. Thus, rather than force shots when heavily guarded, McCoy can now dish off to reliable teammates.
“It's been a fun year because we're winning,” said McCoy. “I'm not scoring as many points as in the past, trying to compensate in other ways.
“I'm getting double- and triple-teamed more than I thought I would. It seems like every game, once I come off a screen, two or three people are coming out at me. But it's opened up other people, particularly Harper Williams, UMass center.”
“McCoy has played well when we've needed him to,” said UMass coach John Calipari. “He had a couple of games where he struggled to get going, but it's hard when everyone is keying on you like they do him. And they want to be physical, so if the officiating is loose and they're letting him be pounded, he doesn't play as well.
“But here's a kid who has scored 2,200 points and led us from a bad team to a good team, so I think he's been fine. There are times he starts to struggle because he tries to do more than he needs to. The good thing about our team right now is that if he doesn't play outstanding, we can still win. So I think he's getting a better feel for that, where he doesn't have the pressure on him to have to get it done. And the thing is, the best basketball he plays is down the stretch, the last five games. He's done that every year he's been here.”
Watching the scuff marks on his shoes is about the only pointer from Hawkins that McCoy can still use. “I used to play inside in high school and junior high, so he taught me inside moves,” said McCoy. “My father taught me outside moves.”