Marty Conlon: Ex-Stepinac star grateful for career
By JOE LOMBARDI
THE JOURNAL NEWS
Stephen Schmitt/The Journal News
Marty Conlon was a bright light on the basketball courts at Stepinac High and Providence College before playing nine seasons in the NBA.
(Original publication: December 5, 2006)
Marty Conlon played for eight teams during nine seasons in the NBA and was a member of Rick Pitino's Final Four team at Providence College. But Mike O'Donnell remembers a time when people didn't want Conlon on their basketball team at all.
"I have friends in Bronxville who knew Marty pretty well, and they wouldn't even choose him in a pickup game," said O'Donnell, who coached freshman basketball and is now the athletic director at Stepinac, where Conlon was a high school star. "They would flip and fight over who would get Marty when he was a freshman."
Those people couldn't possibly have imagined that Conlon, then about 6-foot-3, would wind up enjoying a long and prosperous professional playing career. Although that career finally has come to an end, the 6-10 Conlon is still involved in the game. Now 38, he lives in Manhattan and conducts workouts for college players and camps and clinics for youngsters.
"I'm not complaining," Conlon said. "Even Michael Jordan had to retire."
Conlon averaged 6.5 points and 3.5 rebounds in 379 NBA games. He said the highlight of his career was the 1994-95 season - his first of two with the Milwaukee Bucks. The former Bronxville resident averaged 9.9 points and 5.2 rebounds per game that season - both career highs.
"That year was just the best," Conlon said. "I got to play in every game and averaged 25 minutes a game, and played against all the great guys like (Larry) Bird and Jordan. It was rewarding for me because it showed what I could do."
What the gangly power forward did was as unique as it was effective.
"He had unbelievable moves for a big guy," O'Donnell said. "He would take a step one way, then step another way and then go to the hoop. And when he got fouled, he never missed his free throws. He was a special player. Everyone wants to play two-on-two or one-on-one, but he was a team player."
"Even though I wasn't the best player, I was able to contribute as a shooter and a passer," Conlon said. "I wasn't just like a 6-10 banger inside. I could pull my man out and hit the bounce pass, and also had enough post moves."
Conlon's brand of basketball proved a good fit in Italy, Greece and Spain, where he played five seasons before retiring from the pro game last year.
"Basketball there is a lot different," he said. "It's more offensive-minded. There's better shooting."
So Conlon has worked with former college players to help them adjust to the different game - including former Kennedy High star and fellow Providence alumnus Donnie McGrath, now in his first season in the Italian league.
"With players like Donnie, we work on what teams overseas are looking for and work on different moves that can be effective there," Conlon said.
This past year, Conlon was a player and assistant coach for the Irish national team (McGrath also was a team member). He hopes to continue his involvement with the team as just a coach in the future. He also plans to continue a basketball camp he started called Boot Camp Basketball, which was held this year at Fairfield University.
"I'm fortunate and I know that I'm fortunate," he said. "All good things come to an end. Most people have to face these changes of life when they're a little younger. I'm thankful I was able to play for that long."