Long before Rex Chapman knocked in deep 3s for the Hornets and Suns, this week's featured WTHHT player knocked down deep jumpers for the Celtics. No, I doubt you remember Rex Morgan.
After a standout college career at Jacksonville University (making him the second WTHHT player from JU after the A-Train, but not the last, as long as Dee Brown's still out there), Rex was picked in the second round of the 1970 draft, the overall 21st pick, which as you know thanks to David Stern and overexpansion, would be around the middle of the first round in this year's draft.
Rex would last two seasons with the Celtics and, not unlike other guys we've covered such as Mal Graham, Clarence Glover, and Steve Downing, sometimes guys had more lucrative offers in other fields, a preposterous concept in today's game. After those two years he was out of the NBA, cut by the Celtics. Since he didn't latch onto another team, the NBA paid the remaining salary since he had a "no-cut" contract at the time. Not entirely sure why since he did appear in 34 and 28 games. Back then I feel the options were: you could make more money doing something else (not Europe, like another profession); the league was too tough and you couldn't stick it out; you got injured.
Rex Morgan had his own fan club! This is no lie. Paula Zingarelli was the president of the club. Paula was only 15 years old at the time and was a Red Sox fan but when a friend dragged her to a game at the Garden, she became a devoted Celtics fan. Somehow Paula got access to Rex and asked if it was ok to start his fan club. Rex obliged.
Rex Morgan driving on Bill Dinwiddie in Celtics' summertime outdoor action!
Soon Johnny Most heard about it and mentioned it on the air. The fan club had 50 members and Paula diligently edited a monthly bulletin that talked about her idol (anyone able to provide a copy of the Rex Morgan Fan Club will be given a free t-shirt from Celticslife).
But alas Rex was eventually waived and Paula was disheartened. "I think to some people (meaning coach Tom Heinsohn) the players are just cattle. It just isn't fair. Two minutes for Rex? What kind of chance was that?"
"My son was going to school here
[at ACD], and Artis Gilmore's son was going to school in the fifth
grade, and we coached the middle school. Then the headmaster, Dr.
Lichtward, said 'We're going to be a high school. Would you like to
coach the high school?' It was neat to coach Artis' son and mine. I said
'When my son graduates, I'll leave.' But I had so much fun and had kids
that I was developing, and it's been a great situation. ... I've had
offers to go on to college now, [but] this is what I want to do. ... I
enjoy it. It's a passion. Every day you walk in and you see these kids
with bright eyes and bushy tails, ready to go to work."
On his favorite story from playing with the Celtics:
"People always ask me
how big Wilt Chamberlain was. ... I remember playing in The Forum and
Richie Powers ... was refereeing, and Wilt gets a rebound, and he
grabbed it out one-handed like he did, and he's looking to throw, and I
go up and knock it out of his hand and grab it and lay it up. About two
plays later, he does the same thing, but he grabs my shirt and picks me
up and throws me across the floor and throws the ball down the floor. He
runs by and he says, 'Don't fuck with me rookie.' I look up, and I'm
just bouncing on the floor and Richie says 'Don't fuck with him, rookie'