Old Rochester's Peter Trow played basketball at UMass with Al Skinner, Rick Pitino and Julius Erving
By Brendan Kurie, The Standard-Times, April 16, 2020
Forty-nine years ago, when Peter Trow was a freshman at UMass, he would lace up his sneakers each day and play two-on-two against some friends from Long Island.
“It was kind of amazing,” Trow says now from the cottage on Molly’s Cove in Mattapoisett he’s lived in for 67 years. “You’d be playing and you would just stop and watch what Julius could do.”
Erving was a junior that season — his last before kicking off his Hall of Fame career in the ABA and NBA — while Trow, Skinner and Pitino were all freshmen (along with 1979 American League Cy Young winner Mike Flanagan).
“Julius is an incredibly good guy,” Trow said. “He had a great personality. I can remember being a freshman, just a kid from Mattapoisett, and players would get their books in the basement. I remember him in the coaches office, he put his arm around me and brought me downstairs and showed me around. He was a God around campus.”
That season the 6-foot-4 Trow averaged 15 points per game for the UMass freshman team, which ranked third behind Skinner and Pitino, who was Trow’s roommate before going on to a Hall of Fame coaching career at Kentucky and Louisville, with NBA stops with the Knicks and Celtics.
“Rick and I spent a lot of time together,” Trow said.
One day in September of their freshman year, the two were walking home from practice together.
“I’m going to be a major college coach someday,” Trow remembers Pitino saying.
“I looked at him like ‘What the hell are you talking about?’ I’m thinking about the fraternity and going out and school work. He knew even before we played a game what he was going to do.”
Trow would invite Pitino and Skinner to Mattapoisett during school breaks, they would go water skiing and grab some pitchers at the Spinnaker or Mattapoisett Inn.
“Rick was just on a whole different level,” Trow said. “He was a tremendous amount of fun. Smart guy. Had the charisma.”
Trow had set a Narragansett League record with 516 points at Old Rochester, setting a league record with 200 field goals and scoring a school record 636 points as a senior. He also set school records for points in a game (49) and for a career (1,279). He averaged 32.2 points as a senior as a sweet-shooting, sandy-haired forward.
Recruited by more than 50 colleges and universities, Trow was originally set on going to UConn, but when they failed to offer him a scholarship, he accepted an offer from UMass.
After putting up 15 points a game for the freshman team, he averaged 9.4 points on 45.7% shooting as a sophomore. As a junior, a neck injury limited him to an 8.5 scoring average. As a senior, he helped UMass win the Yankee Conference Championship, averaging 9.3 points on 50% shooting. He won the Samuel B. Samuels Award as the team’s best free throw shooter (84.4%) and was named the team’s most improved player. In his final game, in the NIT, he scored 18 points, but the Minutemen lost in overtime. He also played receiver for the UMass football team his senior year and spent two seasons as a quarter-miler for the track team.
While Skinner was drafted by the Celtics and Pitino left to serve as an assistant coach at Hawaii, Trow also found himself following basketball. He spent one season as a player-coach for the Tetramin basketball team in The Netherlands, coaching the squad to a Div. 1 championship while winning the league scoring title with more than 30 points per game.
“That was what I always wanted to do,” Trow said. “But I hadn’t graduated, so I came back and student-taught and got my degree and went on with my life.”
After earning his degree he spent a couple of years as a substitute teacher at ORR and coached the track team for two years. He also spent a few seasons coaching basketball at Lawrence Academy.
The bulk of his professional career came in laboratory product sales for Pfizer and Becton Dickinson, traveling up and down the Eastern seaboard while moving up from sales rep to regional manager to vice president.
Trow was also a founding member and on the Board of Directors of the VFW Foundation, which has given out more than $3 million to support drug discovery, health and well-being and science education.
“Four of us were in a meeting and we worked in this space and we were like ‘What can we do to give back? What more can we do?” Trow recalled. “That’s how four people in a $6 billion corporation with over 6,000 employees made a difference.”
Trow and his wife, Amy, a social worker in New Bedford, raised their daughter Grace, who is a nurse. He spent much of his free time keeping active by biking, swimming, kayaking and sailing. For the past 40 years he’s gone out with the “Mattaposett Mutts” a group of basketball-loving friends who used to play and then grab some beers, but now mostly just eat and drink together. Many of them — John Guilherme, Andy Davidson, Mike Roderick, Jay Meehan — he has known since elementary school. During the COVID-19 outbreak, they have maintained their routine, but now the meetups are bumper-to-bumper with takeout pizza.
For 20 years, Trow has been living with chronic leukemia. But about a year ago, he was diagnosed with Stage 4 head and neck cancer and had to have large swollen areas removed from his head and neck.
“I had a tough go of it,” he said. “I couldn’t close my eyes. They had to put a weight in my eyelid. It was brutal. If you can’t close your eye, it just waters. I had to tape my eye.”
Trow went through more than six weeks of chemotherapy and radiation, lost 36 pounds, went through six blood transfusions, seven trips to the ER and more than 60 trips to the Dana Farber Cancer Institute and Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Just three months ago, during one of his routine scans, the doctors once again grew worried.
“They thought it was really, really bad,” he said. “I wrote my obituary. But it turns out it wasn’t.”
Trow said he is feeling better. He still talks to Skinner, most recently the head coach at Kennesaw State, every week. Last year, when he was diagnosed, he got a “nice, warm” text from Rick, who was coaching in Greece.
But despite his recent illness, Trow looks back fondly.
“I’ve had a blessed life,” he said. “I’m very grateful. Even with the cancer. … We’re all playing for time. As long as there’s time on the clock, there’s a chance someone will make a big play to win the game. It’s true for basketball, COVID-19 treatment and cancer therapies.”
Buddy's Best: Where Are They Now?
In 2015 and 2016, longtime Standard-Times sports scribe Buddy Thomas unveiled his Buddy's Best 20 For 50 lists, compiling the greatest basketball, baseball and football athletes he covered in his first 50 years on the high school beat. He named a No. 1 athlete for each school in each sport, and now we are catching up with those athletes to see where athletics — and life — have taken them since their high school glory days. Today we feature Old Rochester's No. 1 basketball player, Peter Trow, who ranked No. 4 among Buddy's all-time Top 20 SouthCoast basketball players. Buddy's capsule:
Peter Trow, Old Rochester, 1970s
One of the top high school performers of his generation, the 6-foot-3 forward capped an eye-popping career with an unforgettable senior season that saw him win the Narragansett League scoring title with a record 516 points, set a league record for field goals with 200 and set three school records for points (636), most points in one game (49) and most points in a three-year career with 1,279. Trow averaged 32.2 points as a senior and was regarded as the best shooting frontcourt player in the area.