Wonderful But Not Quick

By Scott Cole / March / April 2003
June 22nd, 2007
Arnie Berman ’72 has always been proud of his standing as the leading all-time scorer in men’s basketball at Brown. But if truth be told, he never expected the honor to last three decades.

“I enjoyed the record for thirty years,” Berman said shortly after Earl Hunt ’03 eclipsed him as Brown’s all-time points leader this winter. “It was nice to have it that long. But I’m happy for Earl. I met him last fall. He seemed like a really nice person.”

Berman scored the last of his 1,668 points on March 9, 1972, during a 72–61 loss to Providence College at Marvel Gym. Hunt surpassed him on December 30, 2002, when he hit a pair of free throws with 14:22 remaining in the first half of a game against St. Mary’s University in Moraga, California. The shots gave the six-foot, five-inch Hunt 1,669 career points—and the number-one spot in the Brown record book.

“Candidly, I thought it would have been broken years earlier,” reflects Berman, managing partner of the Florida-based law firm Shutts & Bowen, “especially because after I graduated, freshmen became eligible and the three-point shot came in.” It’s a good point. The talent pool in the NCAA deepened when varsity squads were opened to freshmen in the 1972–73 season, and scoring picked up in 1986–87 after the three-point shot was instituted. Berman, by contrast, scored his 1,668 points over three seasons, starting all seventy-seven games Brown played during his sophomore, junior, and senior seasons. Hunt, a starter since his freshman year, broke the record in his ninetieth career game, one-third of the way through his senior season.

Berman witnessed the moment via telephone from his home in Boca Raton, Florida, thanks to WSKO’s radio broadcast of the game. The station kept him on the line long enough for Berman to hear Hunt surpass him: “I remember saying at the time, ‘Well, that’s fitting.’ ”

Berman, a six-foot, seven-inch, 217-pound forward from Short Hills, New Jersey, was a deadly free-throw shooter for the Bears. He stills holds the school records for free throws made in a career (636), in a season (250, during 1971–72), and in a game (twenty-five, in twenty-six attempts, at Cornell on February 4, 1972). Berman was a second-team All Ivy League selection as a junior and was an All Ivy, All New England, All East selection during his senior year, when he averaged 25.3 points per game—another Brown record. He graduated with sixteen game, season and career records, eleven of which still stood at the beginning of the 2002–03 season.

“Arnie had little innate talent,” says Gerry Alaimo ’58, a former Brown player and the Bears’ coach from 1969 through 1978. “He was a self-manufactured player. I never experienced anyone who worked harder at getting better.”

Berman was picked by the Buffalo Braves in the fifth round of the 1972 NBA draft, the sixty-fifth player selected overall. He went to rookie camp with the Braves, but injuries hobbled him during training camp and he was cut. The Buffalo coach was Jack Ramsay, who is now an NBA analyst for ESPN television and radio. “He told me, ‘Everything you do is wonderful, you just don’t do it quickly enough,’ ’’ Berman says.

“If Arnie had Earl Hunt’s talent,” Alaimo says, “he would have been an NBA player.”

“Oh, well,” says a chuckling Berman. “It’s all worked out fine.”

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March / April 2003