“What steps will you take? Spend your entire life dangling over the back of a garbage truck? — the story of how two Indiana State University coaches persuaded Larry Bird to participate in collegiate basketball

Bill Hodges and Stan Evans deserve a heartfelt thank you from every basketball fan on the planet because they never said no.

Larry Bird had little interest in playing basketball when he was a teenager. To start with, his mother—who had divorced from her husband—had to work extremely hard to support the family and asked her six children to do the same. In order to finance his studies and family, Larry spent the most of his early years working as a garbage guy, construction worker, and gas station employee.


But at one time, considering Bird’s basketball potential, two Indiana State assistant coaches believed he should have received more.


How Bird was enlisted by the Evans brothers

So one day, Bill Hodges and Stan Evans, assistant coaches at Indiana State University, drove out to French Lick to speak with Larry and try to talk him into changing his mind and maybe returning to school to play basketball. At that point, Bird had already left two universities in less than five months due to his inability to continue his education while also watching his family struggle. Thus, they questioned Larry right away on whether he intended to waste his life working as a garbage guy.


“How are you going to proceed?” Evans inquired. “Live your entire life dangling off the back of a garbage truck?”


When Bird heard Evan’s rhetorical question, he sniffed, but it didn’t disturb him because he was a real job enthusiast. Little Larry didn’t mind doing chores like picking up trash, painting cribs, and maintaining parks. Bird initially refused to be persuaded by the recruitment pitch and recommended they target his friend Kevin Carnes, a standout point guard in high school who had enormous talent but one catch: he was married.

When Bird ultimately had a change of heart

The recruiters were aware that Canes’ wife would not have permitted him to play collegiate basketball because he was married. Bird then criticized it as such a waste of a chance, to which Hodges and Evans retorted that he was essentially harming his career in the same way.


Bird answered, “Too bad,” according to The Indianapolis. “If Kevin Canes had attended college, he would have been an incredible player.”


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