The Tribune Democrat, Johnstown, PA

Local News

June 27, 2012

Local basketball great Pat Cummings dies

JOHNSTOWN — Johnstown native Pat Cummings, who played 12 NBA seasons and was a record-setting big man at the University of Cincinnati, was found dead on Tuesday at an apartment in New York City.

Cummings, 55, was one of the best basketball players to come out of Greater Johnstown High School and was a junior on a 25-1 team in 1972-73 that is considered perhaps the best in the program’s storied history.

He played for five NBA teams, including his time on the inaugural Miami Heat squad and in the big-city spotlight with the New York Knicks in the mid-1980s.

He averaged 9.6 points and 5.6 rebounds in 683 NBA games.

Reports Wednesday stated that a medical examiner had yet to determine the cause of death but said there was no initial sign of foul play.

“I was shocked and deeply saddened when I heard the news,” said Jack Buchan, who graduated from Johnstown High with Cummings in 1974 and was a basketball teammate. “This is a guy that I grew up with. He was the one that pushed me and got me to come out and actually play in the summer. He wanted to win a state championship. We all did. Him and Donnie (Maser) were the guys that would yank the football players out to play (basketball).”

The 6-foot-9 Cummings scored 1,136 points at Johnstown and played on locally legendary Trojans teams with Don Maser, who scored a then-record 1,400 points and went on to play Division I hoops at Duquesne, as well as the 6-6 Buchan and playmaking guard Ken Horoho Jr., another Division I player. Those Johnstown teams played at the Class AAAA level, often against teams from across the state.

In 1973, Johnstown won the War Memorial Invitational and ran off 25 consecutive victories before a Randy Holloway-led Sharon team from District 7 beat the Trojans in front of 3,624 fans at the War Memorial Arena for a state playoff game.

Cummings was part of Johns­town teams that went 64-13 in three seasons.

“When I think of Pat, I think of how hard he worked,” said former Johnstown basketball coach Paul Litwalk, who had more than 400 coaching wins at the school.

“When Pat first came into the high school scene as a sophomore, he was really interested in basketball and worked real hard. We had a weight room at that time and he was in the weight room quite often. He spent an awful lot of time on the Coopersdale playground, and anytime we went to a camp, Pat was really willing to learn.”

Cummings used the skills he learned to excel at the highest levels of the game.

At Cincinnati, Cummings tallied 1,762 points, which at the time of his graduation trailed only legend Oscar Robertson’s 2,973 points. Cummings’ total still ranks sixth at UC. His .642 shooting percentage in 1979 remains a Bearcats record.

“Pat was obviously a great shooter and made a big impact as one of the best players in the history of our program,” University of Cincinnati coach Mick Cronin said in a statement.

“Our thoughts and prayers are with his family and friends.”

The Milwaukee Bucks selected Cummings in the third round of the 1979 NBA Draft.

He played for Milwaukee, Dallas, New York, Miami and Utah before retiring 1991.

“Pat was a pure shooter,” Litwalk said. “He could score with his back to the basket and facing the basket. As he matured both physically and mentally, he was a real force.”

“He was a unique individual, a unique guy,” Buchan added. “Pat was the best basketball player to come out of this area in the modern era. He played for 12 years in the NBA and averaged almost 10 points and six rebounds a game in that career.

“He was the best shot I’ve seen for a big man. He shot .680 for Cincinnati in college one season. He averaged 27 points his senior year. He was the man.”

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