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    Then & Now: Gerard Myrthil

    Then & Now: Gerard Myrthil

    Compiled By Dave Brandon (Photo Courtesy NU Media

    Relations)

    Gerard%20Myrthil.gifGerard

    Myrthil played for Nebraska from 1978-1979, and came to

    Nebraska from the famed Laurinburg (NC) Institute.

    Myrthil

    saw his teams go 36-21 during his two years on the

    hardwood in Lincoln, and played for the late Joe

    Cipriano.

    The 6'2"

    guard is our latest interviewee in this Sunday's edition

    of "Then & Now."

    HHC: Thanks

    for joining us. How long has it been since you talked

    about Husker Hoops?

    GM: Actually,

    it’s been awhile because while I’ve been following them,

    I don’t even know who the coaches are anymore.

    I was

    there with Moe Iba and Joe Cipriano, but after my

    sophomore year, I got pushed out, and was basically told

    they’d no longer honor my scholarship.

    So, I

    have mixed feelings about that, you know, I really do.

    It wasn’t the best thing that happened for a brother,

    being a Converse All-American my sophomore year (of high

    school). So I barely ever talk about their basketball

    program. I should have went with Tom Osborne when he

    asked me to come out and play defensive back.

    HHC: Sorry to

    hear all that. You are originally from New York City,

    New York, but attended Laurinburg (NC) Institute, where

    you were captain of the basketball team as a senior and

    averaged 24.0 PPG, 10.0 APG, and 7.0 RPG while leading

    the team to a record of 18-2. What was that experience

    like?

    GM: It was the best times of my life, man.

    The BEST. Those were three years that put my life back

    on track, because before then, I was just a plain old

    thug, idiot, with no schooling. I went to Laurinburg and

    I developed a sense of integrity. I played baseball,

    basketball, football, I was school chaplain, I was

    second in my class in graduating, and it was the best

    thing.

    I would

    refer that (place) to anyone, to go to Laurinburg.

    HHC: What made you end up at Nebraska?

    GM: Well, I didn’t know where I wanted to go,

    and they didn’t know where they could get me, but they

    knew my grades were good enough to go anywhere. As I

    look back on it now, I probably would have preferred to

    stay in the south, but I had no choice but to go to

    Nebraska, so I took what they gave me. 

    Laurinburg’s philosophy was to open doors. If you hadn’t

    sent someone to a particular school, open the door and

    send someone there. And I was the first one to come to

    Nebraska. And from there, its history, but I really

    didn’t have too much to say about where I wanted to go,

    I just knew I wanted to go somewhere and not pay for it.

    HHC: How big

    of a shock was it to head to Lincoln from New York City

    and North Carolina?

    GM: Oh, it was pretty much a big shock. I

    never, ever dreamed that dorms were that big, and that

    so many people lived in so close quarters with no

    privacy. It was just like living in a club. There was

    noise 24 hours a day, and it wasn’t easy, especially

    considering that I never really ever, at that point in

    life, had ever been outside of New York but to North

    Carolina.

    So it

    was a cultural shock, and to me, people that had only

    seen black people on TV or whatever, made things weird.

    There were times that people even came up and asked to

    touch me. I thought it was a myth that farm guys had

    never seen a black man or interacted with one, so that

    was a cultural shock.

    I felt

    special, and that I had obligations to let them know not

    to believe what you see on TV or radio. I thought that

    was opening a door for others, and they loved me for

    that.

    Most of

    my friends were from off the farms. They invited me to

    their houses, they let me drive their cars to get

    around, which wasn’t easy. My social life was

    non-existent, so it was hard.

    That

    first year was the hardest year of my life, considering

    the shock of a big school, and being away from home like

    that. Most of all, just being out of your element, so to

    speak, ya know?

    HHC: Yeah, but

    not in the same context as you, for sure. How was the

    basketball aspect of it?

    GM: The

    basketball was good – Moe Iba was nice to me, and Joe

    Cipriano was very nice to me. But the transition was

    about to go down with coaches, and the year we went to

    the NIT (1977-1978) was the best year, so that was nice.

    I played a role in that, but I was very shocked to find

    out that if I stayed, which I could, then I might not

    play, so I just transferred right away.

    HHC: What was

    your relationship like with both Coach Cipriano and Iba?

    GM: Cipriano liked me because I had

    rawness about me. Moe Iba was more of a disciplinarian

    and wanted the offense to go slow, and the ball needed

    to pass around, and the offense needed to go through

    certain people who were there for awhile, which I could

    understand. But then there were times when you needed to

    push it, and there would be conflicts between the

    coaches about me.

    So, I

    just thought it was a good experience, because actually,

    when I got over to Europe later and played in Sweden, it

    all paid off. The exposure of living with different

    cultures, different languages, it really paid off. And I

    must admit that the Nebraska experience opened my eyes.

    I had never seen big football like that in my life. If I

    would have had a football scholarship, I might have been

    in the pros, and you might have been talking to a Hall

    of Famer right now, you really might have been.

    There

    was one guy who didn’t come there for football that

    didn’t make it, a walk on. And that’s the only thing I

    regret, is not taking that offer from (Tom) Osborne to

    walk on. Some of the alumni told me that if you get hurt

    playing football, you lose your basketball scholarship,

    so I was stuck between a rock and a hard place.

    HHC: You were

    in Lincoln for the second year of the NU Sports Complex

    (now Bob Devaney Sports Center). How nice of an arena

    was it in its day, and what was it like playing there?

    GM: Oh, that complex was the bomb. The

    showers, the dressing rooms, the training rooms, the

    affiliated indoor track where we got our speed and

    timings down. It was gorgeous, it was big time, and it

    was Big 8 big time, believe me.

    That

    complex was just smokin’ yo, it was very, very nice, and

    you felt good to come and go to practice and play in a

    place like that with 14,000 people there. It was

    something else man.

    It’s

    rare that I talk about it, because usually I don’t try

    to, because I have issues about that. But I can open up

    with you and tell you that I’m a recovering drug addict

    at this point. And there’s a lot of things I never

    recovered from, and Nebraska was one of them. And it

    took me awhile to understand why I was trying to kill

    myself on drugs, because I couldn’t talk to anybody

    about what happened to me at Nebraska. And things I knew

    I should have been a part of I couldn’t, and it took me

    like 20 years to talk about it and to forgive myself, to

    tell myself that it wasn’t my fault. I had no control or

    power over that, but at the time I didn’t know that, so

    the next 10 years I just felt like I was psychologically

    disturbed.

    As a

    city kid, you come home for two summer’s and people are

    like, “Hey, he’s at Nebraska, that’s huge, he’s big

    time.” Then you come home a third year around Rucker

    Park, and people are like, “Oh, he’s not there anymore,

    he could have had it, but he didn’t.” And for me to come

    home, it was really psychologically damaging.

    God is

    good though, and he got me back on the right track. I’m

    a grandfather now with two grown sons, and I’m going on

    four years clean, and I was homeless not to long ago,

    about two years ago. And the lord gave me a place in

    Brooklyn with a good job, and when I get the chance, I

    work with kids and tell them my story, my testimony. I

    tell them my story, where I’ve been, why I’ve lost it,

    and I talk about my feelings.

    You

    should always talk about your feelings and not hold them

    in. I didn’t have a father, so my Mother really raised

    me. When she died about nine years ago, I just had to

    smack myself and tell myself this is reality now. But

    she was my main enforcer in life – she sent me to

    Laurinburg, and she prepared me for college at Nebraska.

    You know, it was a hardship to lose her, but sometimes

    God closes doors to open others, and he talks to you all

    the time. Sometimes you don’t pay any attention to it,

    but sometimes he just closes a door to wake you up in

    order for you to get your life straight, and to get off

    the street corners. And ever since, I’ve been walking

    straight and narrow.

    HHC: I am glad you are doing better and

    able to talk about it now.

    GM: Yeah, me too. 

    HHC: Your

    freshman year on the court at Nebraska was 1977-1978,

    and the team went 22-8 (9-5, 2nd) while reaching the

    second round of the NIT. You guys were also the only Big

    8 team to defeat Kansas that year. Are those the moments

    that stick out most about that first year?

    GM: Yeah, I remember that Kansas game. It

    was a good feeling, and I believe they were ranked very

    high and leading the conference. So it was a good

    feeling.

    We had a

    good nucleus, with some guys from California, the wheat

    lands of the Midwest, and then you had a couple of kids

    from Chicago and New York. It was a crazy combination,

    and I don’t know how we did it, but we did. It was

    really a blessing.

    I think

    we were ranked 19th that year for awhile, and

    I felt good about the program. It’s always good to be a

    ranked team and a potential NCAA Tournament competitor,

    and it was something that I’ll cherish all my life.

    HHC: Your second year was 1978-1979, and

    the team went 14-13 (7-7, 5th). As a team, you guys were

    first in the Big 8 in team defense and ninth nationally.

    How much of that was a credit to Moe Iba, and what made

    the team so good defensively?

    GM: Basically, most of that was attributed

    to Moe Iba. The offense was mostly Joe Cipriano, but we

    would work just as equally hard on the defensive end. He

    would teach us the man-to-man, help and recover, that is

    what he would call it. The man-to-man, help and recover,

    I remember that. And we lost games, not because teams

    outscored us, but we lost games that second year just

    because we were in an abyss to score ourselves. We would

    hold teams that were scoring 80 and 90 points to 40 and

    50 points, but it doesn’t make a difference if you can’t

    score yourself. And I think that’s where the problem

    was; there wasn’t enough time in practice to do the

    offense. We needed to be more creative on offense.

    I felt

    the tension that second year, I really did. I saw the

    tension in Moe Iba. His defense would work, but the

    inability in the offense would be like, “Wow.” It wasn’t

    a program to get up and down the court. We were fast,

    and we had a fast team, but we were so often slowed down

    that it was a cardinal sin to really run on a fast

    break.

    When I

    had played basketball in Harlem, you went down and

    forced the action, no matter the numbers. You’d make

    them foul you and put you on the line. I saw a lot of

    tension between Iba and Cipraino. One wanted to run, and

    one wanted to slow it down. But, it was what you had to

    do, and I wasn’t complaining at all because I got a

    chance to travel around the country. Who am I? I’m

    blessed. I was blessed just to be there for two years, I

    really was.

    HHC: During

    your times on the court at Nebraska, you played with

    some great players like Andre Smith, Brian Banks, and

    Carl McPipe. What do you remember about those guys, and

    do you stay in touch with any former teammates?

    GM: No, I really didn’t. I don’t even know

    whatever happened to a lot of those guys. I always

    wished I’d run into Carl McPipe or Brian Banks overseas.

    I ended up running into other guys from the Golden State

    Warriors and guys who had NBA rings on their fingers,

    but never those guys. I’ve wondered at times if they

    were okay, what they were doing, etc.

    Andre

    was the backbone and turned out to be quite a player

    after it was all said and done. He turned out to be the

    real glue. I think McPipe was hurt for a minute, and we

    had a nice little run without him. But no, I’ve never

    seen them, but like I’ve said, a lot are from the

    Midwest or still out there.

    HHC: What are

    your favorite memories of Nebraska, both on and off the

    court?

    GM: The snowstorm one day. I woke up, and

    we couldn’t leave the building. And I never knew they

    had tunnels underneath the building

    (Harper-Schramm-Smith complex), and I was walking down

    there, and just couldn’t believe they had tunnels from

    one building to another. And we had the little

    cafeteria. I don’t know, the weather was awesome out

    there man. I mean, I saw everything from lightning

    storms to tornadoes, from electrical storms to wind

    blasts. The weather was so unpredictable.

    Another

    thing that caught my eye in Nebraska is that I must say

    that the Lincolnites, and the Nebraska people, they were

    pretty decent people, I have to admit. I’m not a racist

    and I’m not prejudiced, but I stayed to myself at first,

    and I never got a raw deal from anyone that lived there.

    The people were the salt of the earth. Never was there a

    time that they didn’t give you the shirt off of their

    back if they had it. This is from old men to homeowners,

    to children, to everyone. There wasn’t any racism in

    Nebraska, because they never had a black friend or

    something like that, it wasn’t like you find in the

    south, you know? It’s not like in the south.

    They

    (the people of Nebraska) would go to the end of the

    earth with you, as far as I’m concerned. And I should

    know, since I am from Harlem, where they raise you as

    racist. It’s all “cracker this, cracker that.” I didn’t

    detect that at all at Nebraska, and I take my hats off

    to everyone there. They really made you feel at home,

    regardless of the situation.

    HHC: Have you been back to Lincoln since

    you left?

    GM: No. Never have.

    HHC: Finally, what has Gerard Myrthil been

    up to the last thirty years, and what are you doing

    today?

    GM: I went to Stockholm, Sweden after

    Nebraska, and played in a Division

    II pro

    league over there. I have family there, with two

    brothers and a sister, and my brother is now playing

    over there in the Division I League. My father called me

    the other day and told me he just scored 40 something

    points. He’s about 6’9”, and he’s only 24.

    My

    oldest brother was a professional soccer player in

    Stockholm, and my sister works for IBM in Sweden at the

    international corporation. And my Father and his wife

    have a sun tan lotion business, where he creates the

    product and they make it, bottle it, and send it off.

    I went

    there just to visit back in the late 1980’s, but they

    offered me a contract just to play against their players

    in practice. There were things I’d do in the layup line,

    in the games, or things I passed at the schoolyard, and

    I just passed it on to them, and I was able to send

    money home to my Mom before she passed away. I did that

    until the year the New York Giants won the Super Bowl

    (1991).

    Today, I

    am a bus driver. I subcontract a bus for the city

    driving handicapped people through New York City so they

    can make their church appointments, make hospital

    visits, and most of them hardly ever get a chance to go

    out. So, when I’m in the van and driving, I’m usually a

    listener, a preacher, a fireman, I’m all things, because

    these people are so alone. They don’t have family that

    comes to visit them on a daily basis, and when they get

    dressed and come on my bus, I’m going to hear whether

    they are happy or sad.

    So, I’m

    just like a father and confessional cabinet, and I’m

    just there to get them where they are going and to be

    kind and courteous to them. I do that now. I’ll be 50 in

    July, I’m a grandfather, and a father of two sons. I’m

    not married, but that’s okay.

    HHC: If we set you up an e-mail account at

    [email protected] , would you be

    interested in taking some e-mails from our readers?

    GM: I would love to, but I don’t have a

    computer. I don’t really understand the Internet and

    everything. (EDITORS NOTE: Dave will be happy to call

    Gerard with any e-mails/thoughts/wishes you’d like to

    send him. The e-mail has been set up for him, so go

    ahead and e-mail if you wish)

    HHC: Ah, okay. Thanks a lot for your time,

    and anything else you'd like to add?

    GM: I just want to thank those athletes at

    Nebraska who were walk-ons in different sports. There

    were those volleyball players, gymnasts, and football

    players who were like my family.

    I just

    want to think everyone for being salt to the earth

    people, and don’t change. Stay humble, be humble, and if

    you love and respect, you will have love and respect

    given to you.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">



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