Drazen Petrovic had just poured in 44 points against the Houston Rockets in January 1993. Herb Turetzky, the Nets’ official scorer, told Petrovic to sign the sneakers he played in.
“Why, Herb?” Petrovic asked.
Turetzky conveyed the magnitude of the moment to the budding Croatian star: 44 points in an NBA game is a big deal. Petrovic noted that he had scored over a hundred points before in Europe.
Petrovic’s response is just one standout memory for Turetzky, part of a journey that began with the franchise’s first game as the New Jersey Americans at the Teaneck Armory in 1967. The Americans moved to Long Island the next year and became the Nets. Turetzky, a fresh-faced student from LIU who loved to keep score, followed along.
We asked Turetzky, who from his sideline seat has seen the Nets grow from ABA also-rans to NBA Eastern Conference contenders, for his most memorable moments in Nets history. These -- condensed for clarity -- are some of his responses:
On the Americans losing the franchise’s first playoff game via forfeit to the Kentucky Colonels, after the circus moved the game from Teaneck to an unusable court in Commack, Long Island:
“I remember seeing holes on the floor that my shoe could go through. There was separation between the boards, spots where the screws weren’t in. They weren’t ready for it. They tried to put it together in an emergency. I was on the phone for two hours trying to track down Louie [Carnesecca] at St. John’s, to see if they could get us in there to play the game. We just couldn’t find a way to put it together. Gene Rhodes was the coach of the Colonels and I’ll never forget: He said, ‘We’ve gotta win this game for those yahoos back at home.’”
On an ABA fight that involved coaches (Kevin Loughery and Al Bianchi) and players (including Julius Erving and Doug Moe):
“One time we played the Virginia Squires at Queensborough Community College. Preseason game. It escalated. They started getting in fights. Started spitting at each other. A brawl, they started throwing chairs. And Kevin and Bianchi ran out there like they were [playing] in the '50s in the NBA, going after each other. We had 11 technicals in that game and managed to finish it. Other than the Malice at the Palace, that was the biggest brawl I’ve ever seen at a pro game.”
On hard luck just before and after entering the NBA:
“We signed Tiny [Archibald] to complement Julius [Erving]. It was the ‘Dr. J and Tiny A Show.’ That was the [slogan] of the season. All of a sudden Julius gets sold. We come to the first national TV game of the season against Philadelphia; Tiny breaks his ankle. He’s out for the year. And now the ‘Dr. J and Tiny A Show’ became the ‘Super John and Larry Kenon Show.’”
On the unshakable confidence of “Super John” Williamson, whose 16 fourth-quarter points propelled the Nets to the final ABA title in 1976:
“He gave himself the nickname ‘Super John.’ When he was a rookie, Kevin [Loughery] signed him. He was an undrafted player out of New Mexico State. He bumped into Kevin at an airport and he told Kevin, ‘Sign me.’ We lost the first four games or so, and he went up to Kevin and he said, ‘Start me.’ And he did, and we started winning. He believed he was the best.”
On one of the negatives to playing games at Rutgers University from 1977-81:
“A lot of guys would get picked up on speeding tickets because the police were waiting because nobody else used those roads at night. They knew most people going were either coming or going from the ballgames.”
On the myriad and bizarre promotions he’s seen through the years:
“They were having a night at Rutgers for Rich Kelley [a 7-foot center]. And they made big growth charts: a full-size picture of Rich Kelley. The day they made the growth chart to give out, Rich Kelley got traded. We had a Frisbee promotion, where they gave Frisbees to people before the game. They were coming out of the stands. We had a giant pierogi night there. They had about a 50-foot pierogi on the floor. There were some very interesting things. At Nassau Coliseum, they gave out the promotional red, white and blue ABA basketballs one night. A nice touch for kids. Again, they gave them out before the game. They were all over the floor.”
On getting called out by a coach:
“There was one night, Lawrence Frank was coaching us, and I’d just been inducted into the New York City Basketball Hall of Fame in 2004. We were on the ride home from the game and Lawrence is on the radio and Jason [Kidd] might have had 27 points, 12 rebounds and nine assists. On the radio [Frank] goes, ‘I don’t understand. If Herb Turetzky’s such a Hall of Fame scorekeeper, how come he couldn’t find another assist for Jason to get another triple-double tonight.’ I was embarrassed, but it was funny.”
On watching Shaquille O'Neal rip down a basket with his son David, then a ball boy, close by:
“He was sitting on the stanchion, to the right of the basket. When the stanchion started coming down, you see the pictures in the newspapers, you see David’s feet. Reebok put out an ad for the sneaker stores the following season showing that happening and you can see David right there in the picture. When that ad came out in the sneaker stores, I got a copy of it. Shaq autographed it, ‘Dave, stay away from the basket.’”
On the back-to-back NBA Finals teams in 2002 and 2003:
"It was electric. You had a team of deer running down the floor.”
On his wife, Jane, taking one for the team during a preseason game at Nassau Coliseum:
“We’re playing the Knicks. Jane was sitting right behind the bench in the front row. I’m sitting in center court. The ball goes loose, flying over the way LeBron [James] went into the fifth row the other night. Jim Chones [the team’s first-round pick at the time, in 1972-73] chased the ball and jumped over the Knicks’ bench, crashed into Jane, knocked her out cold. I’m sitting courtside. I look over to my left, and I see her down on the floor. We got a ballgame; I couldn’t leave. The ball was inbounded and we had to keep going.”
Jane Turetzky was revived and turned out to be OK that night.
“I have a love affair with him and he has the love affair with the game,” she said.
If the Nets force a Game 6 against Miami, Turetzky will be in his seat again, working his 1,269th straight game.
Jake Appleman is the author of “Brooklyn Bounce: The Highs and Lows of Nets Basketball's Historic First Season in the Borough.”