Where are they now? Former Fort Lee/Princeton basketball star Ted Manakas
There's a 45-year-old photo Ted Manakas keeps from his final high school basketball game – Jersey City's Lincoln High against his Fort Lee team in the state tournament — at a Hackensack gym jammed with 1,500 fans.
The picture was taken by a Record photographer, who mailed it to Manakas.
His action shot never made the newspaper, but it has traveled with Manakas from New Jersey to Minnesota, Seattle to the United Kingdom, and now Colorado as he pursued high-level software management positions.
Few of Manakas' current colleagues are aware of his fine career as a Princeton guard, or that he was an NBA draft pick.
"The B.A. in history from Princeton and my business record are more relevant than the on-court history," he said.
Manakas, 62, has traveled the world in his profession, but the old basketball photograph instantly transports him home to North Jersey and to the frenzied, wonderful madness of those days under coach Dick Kelly.
"We had a huge rivalry with Cliffside Park," said Manakas, referring to a series so intense that games sold out a week in advance, often accompanied by rumors of threats against one top player or another. On the floor "there was an electricity that was memorable."
As a "pretty accurate deep-range shooter," Manakas averaged 27 points per game in his senior year for a 19-4 Fort Lee team that won the Bergen County Scholastic League American Division.
And if the modest three-point line had existed in college basketball from 1969-73, Manakas would've led Princeton with more than his 17.5 points per game as a senior.
Sharing a backcourt with future ABA/NBA guard Brian Taylor, Manakas' Tigers were ranked 14th nationally at one point during his junior year.
Manakas recalls an early-season, neutral-site win as a senior against No. 2 Florida State, in which Princeton held the ball for the final 1:45. He converted two free throws with two seconds left for the two-point victory.
"If you couldn't do that, you were not on the floor," Manakas said of Princeton's style of ball-control movement. Legendary coach Pete Carril was in his third year when Manakas arrived.
Back then, only one college basketball game aired Saturdays, and the NIT tournament was something more than an afterthought. After an NIT win over Bobby Knight's Indiana team in their junior year, Manakas and Taylor were interviewed live by CBS' Pat Summerall.
Summerall asked Taylor about jumping to the pros, which he did that year. Then Summerall put the question to Manakas, who replied: "Since no one's asked me, I think I'll go back to school."
A year later, the Atlanta Hawks — featuring Pistol Pete Maravich — made the 6-foot-2 Manakas the 36th overall pick in the 1973 draft, earning him a $7,000 bonus.
"I had a very good training camp; I didn't have any regrets," said Manakas, whose final game as a Hawk was an exhibition at Princeton against the reigning champion Knicks – whose roster included Princeton's Bill Bradley.
After a ceremony for Bradley, Hawks coach Cotton Fitzsimmons put Manakas in the starting lineup in front of friends and family at his alma mater.
He was cut from the team on opening night.
An injury to Tiny Archibald led to a 10-day contract with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings, whose roster included current Lakers coach Mike D'Antoni and was coached by Bob Cousy.
Manakas' NBA career consisted of five games and 12 points. In a league of polyester pants, disco medallions and exuberant nightlife, "I don't know if that was right for you," Manakas' mother told him.
He played for a year in southern France before starting his business career with IBM. He currently is an information technology and services consultant in Colorado Springs.
There are trips to Bergenfield, where his mother still resides. And occasionally, he'll break out that old Record photograph to show his wife, Ellen, and stepdaughter, Margaret.
"She commented on the intensity on my face," Manakas said of his wife, whom he met long after his hoop days.
"For her and me, it's like looking back in a time machine."