Damon Hatheway: How did you come to choose Middlebury after playing and studying at Colgate?
Carl Scheer: I was an all-city and all-state player in Massachusetts and wanted to play college basketball [but] I didn’t get a whole lot of offers. I ended up walking on and getting a scholarship at Colgate. Of course so did fourteen other kids at a time when Colgate was trying to be a national program. I saw that in my freshman year we had a freshman team that was 19-0 or 18-1 and there were 15 other guys on the team that were all-city or all-state — all-district, whatever it was. They were just really good, talented kids. And I realized I was not going to play a lot in four years. It really was important for me to complete a full impact of what college was all about. I wanted to have the opportunity to play collegiate basketball and I was going at best be sitting on the bench and playing limited time at Colgate. So I decided that I wanted to look around and see if I could transfer to a smaller school where the program was still good and I could play some competitive college basketball. And Middlebury fit my inclinations. It was not only a good basketball program, but it was one of the few co-ed schools at the time. In the late 50’s there weren’t a lot of small co-ed schools. There were about 1300 students at the school — 700 boys and 600 girls. I also played baseball in college and the baseball coach was also the basketball coach. Tony was a great guy and welcomed me as a transfer. I sat out a year and in the year I sat out Middlebury had a very good team. Tom Hart played center and was the leading rebounder in the country at the time. The team had some very big wins that year — beat Dartmouth, which was the Ivy League champion. So that was kind of the beginning for me and then I played for two years. We didn’t have a great team, but I got a chance to play a lot and met a lot of wonderful guys. I was the co-captain of the team my senior year with Scotty Greer. I had a really enjoyable basketball career — I only wish I had gone four years to Middlebury. I think I would have even enjoyed it more and would have been challenged and hopefully get to play more. But this was fine and I have a wonderful memory of my basketball experiences.
DH: You played one season with Tony Lupien before Coach Mackey took over — what was that transition like and what are some of your memories of Lupien and Mackey?
CS: Tony was a pro coach: he was a Major League Baseball player; he treated the players as men. Mackey was a very kind guy and very soft-spoken. He wasn’t a disciplinarian in anyway, but he did have certain rules. He didn’t have a wealth of knowledge of basketball and we kind of coached ourselves, quite frankly. The experience between Tony and Coach Mackey was quite different. Tony was professional, expected you to act as a professional in terms of how you acted on and off the court, but he never pushed you beyond what was reasonable. The year I sat out they had a very, very close group. I was allowed to practice and spend time traveling with them on the road. We actually traveled by car as I remember to games. It was an interesting small college experience — very competitive, close-knit teams, particularly Tony’s teams. My roommates were Charlie Sykes and Zip Rausa, both of whom were varsity players. Charlie was a 6’3’’ forward from Maryland and he was a really wonderful teammate, really smart guy and a good player. And Zip was a pilot; he flew planes upon graduation — another wonderful guy. They were both the year ahead of me.
DH: I gather that the three of you were roommates your first year at Middlebury. What was it like living with those two individuals? And what were they like as players and people, if you can expand on that.
CS: They were terrific. They were wonderful in allowing me to participate with them in other activities on campus, in other groups. We ate together often. They just knew what college was all about; they were very mature guys. Charlie was a leader, Zip had a wonderful way about him — he was determined to be a success. They both had great study habits and I assume their grades were very good. We had a three-room suite and we had just wonderful times together, learning what it was to get through college and plan for the future. They sobered up my thinking — I was a young, inexperienced kid, really. I looked up to them, I believed that they were going to be successful young men when they finished school, Charlie was a very good basketball and Zip was a hard-nosed tough kid, and both of them had really good athletic instincts. I have such fond memories of all the good things about college and what Middlebury stood for from these guys. It was an experience that I didn’t anticipate and didn’t understand until I got into the middle of it. I wish again that I had a chance to spend more time at Middlebury than the two-and-a-half years that I was there. But I was fortunate to choose a school that allowed you to blossom and go forward. I captained the basketball team with Scotty Greer and I was the captain of the baseball team my senior year, as well. I met some wonderful guys.
DH: When you were at Middlebury how did athletics fit within the academic mission of the College and what was the relationship like between the team and the student body?
CS: That’s an interesting question. For a small school, and which would now be Division III, athletics was important but it was a balance with the academic division of the university. Athletes were part of the student body, I don’t think they were lionized or exiled, and as an athlete you didn’t get any special breaks. We were expected and required to attend classes — I remember getting up for eight o’clock class after a long road trip somewhere in Maine, Colby or wherever we played. The balance of athletics and academics was the perfect opportunity for me. It gave me a chance to do what I really wanted to do very badly coming out of high school — to play and feel what it was to play college basketball and yet understand that I wasn’t going on to play in the NBA. I ended up going to law school and practiced law for six years in North Carolina before I moved into sports. But the balance, the opportunity to join a fraternity, to see the social and academic life blend nicely with the athletic program was perfect for me. I practiced harder and longer than most of the kids — I was in the gym a lot — but I didn’t compromise my academics either. I probably could have done better academically, but I wanted to maximize what limited skills I had in sports as I went forward, and I was able to do that. So for me, I saw a blend of sports and academics that made sense.
DH: What moments, games or accolades stand out from your career when you look back now?
CS: Some of them unfortunately were experiences that I didn’t participate in. The team when I had to sit out was the best team in terms of wins and losses. I remember going up to Dartmouth to open the season and upset Dartmouth, which was at the time picked to win the Ivy League and I think they did, and went on to play in the NCAA Tournament — that was a big, big win. In my years we played Vermont and St. Michaels very tough — I don’t know if we beat them or not — the memory gets a little vague when you talk about wins and losses. We had some wonderful games during Winter Carnival, but I wouldn’t say that there was anything so memorable that it made national news. We played a reasonably competitive schedule. We weren’t very good, but we played hard and the practices were as tough as I can remember them. We made them to bring about a more cohesive team. There was no special basketball games — or baseball for that matter — that stood out, it was just blended into one wonderful experience. Getting through basketball and getting good weather [for baseball]. We made one trip down south. Down south for us at Middlebury was Penn State, State College, that was as far south as we were going. It was a beautiful weekend there; they had unusually warm weather early in May — to us that was thawing out, so to speak. The co-eds were sunbathing up on the big green grass up on the outfield and we were distracted by that as a baseball team, but it was a wonderful experience anyway.
DH: How close have you stayed to the program since graduating and in your eye what’s the biggest difference between basketball when you were at Middlebury and Division III basketball today?
CS: I’m ashamed to say that I haven’t kept up as much as [I would have liked]. I’ve contributed financially to the programs, both basketball and baseball, but I haven’t gone up. They’ve had reunions and I’ve been invited, but being in basketball myself, our seasons are quite intense so I don’t get a chance to follow the teams as much as I would like to.
DH: What were you able to take from your basketball career at Middlebury into your post-college career in basketball with the Nuggets and then with the Bobcats?
CS: I’m a pretty competitive guy and I think I learned in college that you can’t win every game. And you can build a successful program both at the Division III level and in the NBA if you have not just talented players, but players who understand that the game is won by teamwork and what you’re willing to give up in terms of your own game to make a successful venture possible. And the success that I’ve enjoyed at the pro level has come from the early understanding that you can’t be successful in basketball in our business unless you understand what it takes to be successful as a team — willing to give up some of your individual success for the betterment of the team — something that I learned early on at Middlebury. I saw the Tony Lupien team execute team play and [they were] able to compete against bigger and stronger guys because they understood that success at that level depends on their ability to play as a team. And that’s very true in pro basketball too. If you look at the recent change in Kobe Bryant’s [game] — he’s had 28 assists in the last two games. It’s a complete change of what he’s known for and what he’s made his success as. But his team needs him to be an all-around player, not just a shooter and a scorer for them to win. That’s just one example, but I live it every year in the NBA. Teams that make the playoffs and do well are the teams that understand what it takes to be a true team. Good high school teams and good college teams today — Duke is a good example — they have talented kids that were All-Americans in high school, but they really together understanding what it takes to win as a team and therefore they’re an NCAA Tournament team every year, they win 20-25 games and compete successfully in the ACC, a tough conference. And they do that because Coach K demands that they understand what it takes to be successful and they’re willing to work to do it. I think work ethic is another thing I picked up from my experiences at Middlebury and hopefully took it to the pro-level with my off-the-court work here in the front office.