Mike O'Koren Almost Played for the Celtics?
It's true he did, otherwise, how would we ever get the above picture? He signed with the Celtics on October 2, 1987 and played all 8 games in the pre-season, even managing to be added to this preseason roster display slide-show, which was distributed to other teams in the league prior to the start of the season (this was sold on ebay recently).
Who is Mike O'Koren? Well he was a highly-touted college prospect at North Carolina who had a huge 31 point game vs UNLV in the 1977 NCAA semis, which was a UNC win. . He was an unselfish player, a classic Dean Smith guy and as our fellow columnist Cort Reynolds describes him "a lesser Bobby Jones."
He was drafted high, the #6 overall pick in the 1980 draft by his hometown NJ Nets (he was a product of Hudson Catholic where he was high school teammates with Jim Spanarkel). He averaged over 25 minutes per game and 11 ppg his first 2 years in the league.
|O'Koren sitting on the far left. You may or may not be able to name others in this picture.|
What kind of player was Mike O'Koren? I reference to none other than Zander Hollander's Complete Pro Handook of 1986:
Confidence dipped again last season, when he missed 15 games and averaged only 15.3 minutes when he did play... North Carolina product working on last year of contract that paid him $400,000 last year and will only pay him $300,000 this time around... Suffered most from first-year coach Dave Wohl's struggle to find combination of players he liked... Never complains, but deserves more time than he is given... Was sixth player chosen overall, one spot ahead of Mike Gminski, by Nets in 1980... Born Feb. 7, 1958, in Jersey City, N.J.... Was told by Wohl that he would play more in playoff series against Bucks, but was used for only seven minutes in opener and did not play in second game.But alas, Mike's dream of playing a regular season game for the Celtics (and appearing in WTHHT) never came to fruition:
I recall O'Koren in the league. My instinct is that he had a better career than Brad Lohaus and Mark Acres (his Complete Handbook blurb was definitely better than theirs). That season also marked the rookie campaigns for Lohaus and Acres and KC Jones was notorious as a guy who frowned playing young players. That makes O'Koren's release all the more unusual. Did O'Koren miss out on sticking around because he was older? Did they think "well we have Fred Roberts as backup and he'll get most of the minutes so no need to keep Mike around?" Would he have added anything to that 1988 squad?
Who knows. All I know is that Mike O'Koren played for the Celtics. And now, you know that too.