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Mr. Nick Finley Stamatis (Deceased)
3010 Breckenwood Dr.
Lexington, KY 40502
|Nick wrote extensively for the Shipley Reunion in 2001 and it is being used as his Living Memorial for Coach Shipley's Tribute. Nick's obituary and his military service information were provided by Tim Thompson and are included below his Living Memorial.
Also, Tim submitted an update on Sept. 27 in Nick's behalf and it was posted by Dr. Ed Dugas on Sept. 29, 2017. Nick's poem written for and delivered at Tim's 70th birthday party is priceless.
Nick's posting for the 2001 Shipley Reunion.
Basketball Team Member, 1959-61.
3 Children, Leslie, Shane and Cy
Showed up unannounced and unrequested [since I had never played organized basketball before]. If I had not been a lifelong friend of Tim Thompson I would not have been looked at. Was fortunate enough to be put on full scholarship by Coach Shipley, which was the greatest robbery since the Great Train Robbery.
In a life of athletics, one glaring thing always stands out about all of those experiences. Not glories, honors, wins or losses, only the great teammate friends and coaches, and the times we had, have remained paramount in my memory bank.
I think of a wonderful "coon ass" named Comeaux, who was standing next to me when we looked at a team bulletin board that showed the way that afternoon's scrimmage would be teamed up. I was looking at this name and said, "Who is this guy, did he already quit?" he said,"Phewww, no mon, dos me." [I thought he was Como and I didn't know about, or how to pronounce, any of this "eaux" stuff.]
Mom called me after I had been at USL a month, checking on her boy and the fact that he had to go to the all weekend Army Reserve meeting since he was out of active duty but still "serving" his country in Reserves. She asked me how it went and if I had met any new friends over the weekend. I told her, "Mom, I was with these soldiers for 3 days and I never heard a word of English. Are we in the same Army?"
I think of the uniqueness of Humphreys, McHorris, Thompson, Simon, Wallace and Aulds all being capable of those big point totals in any game. [I wish you would show the high point games for each of those guys for the 60-61 season.] They were fabulous - average height of the six, 6 ft. 1 in., record 18 and 5. Must have been good coaching.
I think of my great friend Tim Thompson spinning the ball off the backboard and into the rim at ridiculous angles, and that amazing follow through of his, when you could hear his fingernails scrape the ball when he shot a free throw, during a game. I also liked the way, when he got tired of all the fouling, and hacking around on him in practice, instead of offering to fight the guy, he would simply throw a 90 MPH chest pass, from point blank range into the guy's forehead. He was quiet and never passed up an opportunity to say nothing.. I remember when we were rooming together one year and about mid-semester some guy came in and asked me something about Tim, and I answered him, "Heck, I don't know, I haven't talked to him yet this year."
I think of my wonderful roommate Joe Breyel, making up his bed with clean sheets monthly and then the first night he slept in the newly made bed, kicking and thrashing the bed apart to free those "red-headed feet" of his, that stuck out 1 ft. past the covers. I asked him why in the world he made up the bed if he was going to kick it all apart and he said, "I just don't like my feet captured." Yeah, we know that Joe,...but why do you tuck it in, in the first place?
I remember [Hog Jaw] McHorris, sitting in a chair, with his feet up on the top balcony rail of Roy Hall, with a match in his hand. He had some special ignitable chemistry that seemed to surpass us all. He drew a crowd bigger than some rock concerts could draw...and one time was nearly "done in" by a back draft. I hear he is a Dentist now, wonder how stuff like that happens?
I marveled at Mike Wallace's marvelous moving picks that no referee could ever figure out.
I saw Humphreys put up 40 one night and never break a sweat.
I remember the irrepressible Larry [Birdman] Simon, with 4 seconds left in one game and us [and I use that term "us" liberally] winning by one point, and him with the ball in our court. A couple of the opponents were pressing him and he just decided to roll the ball towards their basket. Coach came flying off the bench, as he sometimes was capable of doing, face red as a beet and with his hands pulling on that flattop of his. All five of the opposing team dashed madly after the ball and when one of them finally got to it, the horn sounded. Larry just looked at Coach and shrugged his shoulders. When Coach finally got to the tunnel he put his hand up to his mouth and started heaving chunks. He didn't seem to enjoy that move, as much as I did. Larry seemed to me, to have it pretty much, all under control...I don't know why Coaches get like that. Bird...may you fly forever.
I remember Dean Church, against any opponent of any speed and any size, and him taking his man under the basket and piddling around for maybe a half an hour and scoring on him every time. I remember when you left USL and later went for an interview at Eastern Kentucky. Of course, it didn't help that they could time you in a 40 yard dash with an hourglass. All you did was return to USL and make Louisiana College Athlete of the Year.
I remember thinking the first time I saw Coach hurl after a ball game and thinking, "Heck, we're gonna make a great team. I clean my system out before a game and he does his after. We're a couple of cleaned out son of a guns."
I remember those players that just left in the night, never to be heard from again. I loved them all.
I remember that hard-nosed competitor Ray Jarboe. The only way he caught passes was to catch them on the rebound off his chest.
I remember the elusive "big man" that was always going to show up and save us, but never came. Coach, where in the heck did you ever get that guy we named "The Buzzard", he couldn't play a lick, heck, even I was better than he was. Well, anyway you got me and Joe Breyel to run him off with one of your famous "roll the ball" drills, and "take the lick" drills. Joe and I had football backgrounds and were...well...we were sort of "expendable". We actually liked that guy though.
I remember Coach harping on learning how to eat the ball instead of throwing it away, and then John [The Chief] Reding during a game, and with no place to throw the ball, looked over at Coach and put the ball up to his mouth and started chewing on it.
What the heck was the name of that school that had the backboards attached to the overhanging balcony, and their fans would slap the backboards when we shot our free throws? Isn't there some kind of rule against that?
I remember Sam Thomas and I laughing all the time and him taking four hours to eat a cup of ice cream cause he liked to taste every bite real good, in fact he smacked his lips like a cow chewing its cud, to get all the taste. I always hated fouling him so much in practice, me liking him so much and all.
Bruce Bolden, and the concern he had for his grades and how his classmates were doing in their classes.
One of my favorite moments was at one of the games when Bobby [Old Man] Andrews was asked to come in late in the game and do some mop up duty as only he could do it. He got out there and really was attacking his man, and all of us were yelling at him and finally most of the fans were too. Old Man looked a little bewildered at all the support, even though I always thought he was great. He started looking over at the bench with quick glances but never neglected his man. He just knew he had just become one of the most popular people on the team. We finally were able to bring him down a notch or two when we convinced him that he had his jersey on backwards. He looked like he was wearing a turtleneck all up around his chin and had that wondrous big number in front. Course that low cut back, with the small number looked kinda funny also. I know I couldn't wear mine that way...but if it suited Bobby, it was all right with me. I don't think I played in that game either, and heck Coach, I checked afterwards and I had my jersey on perfectly correct. I mean, is it me? Bobby once came home to Kentucky with me, but wasn't used to all the curves in the road. He got kinda sick on me and didn't want to help any with the driving. Funny thing though, he didn't want me to drive either.
I think when Tim and Howard and I drove from Kentucky to Louisiana during those non-Interstate days we had to start in mid August to get there by September 1st. Sometimes cars just can't make it that far. Once Ray Jarboe and I had our dates and then headed to Louisiana at 1:00 am with the idea of taking 2-hour shifts. I started, and Ray went to sleep, at three in the morning I said, "Ray, are you ready to take over?" He said, "Sure." Ten minutes and I was asleep, five minutes later, he punched me and said, "Greek, if you can't drive, we're going to have to park this thing." Thanks Ray.
Has anyone ever opened up the 1960 Acadien Yearbook and taken a real good look at the 10 or more pictures of Tim Thompson and really looked at his eyes, and wondered why I had a hard time sleeping at night when we roomed together?
Remember that Blue Tank that John Reding drove, sometimes that thing didn't run for a whole semester. He did have the habit of storing stuff in it though, as it sat in the gravel parking lot covered in Louisiana dust. John would wait until he had the back seat filled with dirty clothes and he was down to no underwear or socks and was wearing just a few of his uglier pants and shirts, then he would wash it all. He also had a bad habit of not cutting his hair for a whole semester, until Coach volunteered to pay for it. [Which is of course illegal] Speaking of that, a few years after I left there, somebody asked me if I DIDN'T play basketball at USL and there was something in the paper about them. I interrupted that SORRY SO AND SO in mid sentences and said, "HE DIDN'T DO A DURN THING WRONG AND THAT'S FINAL." I knew Coach and loved him, and to this day, appreciated him putting a pitiful excuse for a ballplayer like me, on scholarship. It was humanitarian work, plain and simple, on his part, in my case. Besides that I was there for 5 semesters and never got one illegal cent, and the only thing that I ever heard about was that haircut he offered to pay for, for John Reding, and heck, John never did take him up on that. John had his pride, you know...and I never did correct that guy either, I actually didn't play basketball, I sat basketball there.
I remember James [Robbie] Robinson was friends with most of us on the team and we would sneak him into the station wagons and hide him among the basketballs and uniforms in the back, to take him with us to the away games. We'd get to near where we were going and stop to eat and sneak him out of the wagon. When we started back on the road there he would be, standing by the road, hitch-hiking to the game. Someone would say "Hey Coach, there's ole Robbie, he's hitch-hiking all the way up here just to watch us play, can we pick him up?" I'll admit that was kinda sneaky, but I doubt we did anything worse than that, honest Coach.
Of course, me Coach, I never did anything worth telling about down there. I also never did one bad thing, honest. And I was definitely not in the group that decided to go to Mardi Gras and leave that night at 8:00 and drive to New Orleans and barely make it back to Lafayette in time for the team bus to leave on that road trip. I just had too much team spirit to do any of that.
Well, I talked about everything but my athletic career at USL and after all, that IS a small part of what this reunion is about. I always thought that if you can't be the best at something, well you might as well be the worst.
Three things come to mind.
1] The Coaches decided to have a team "one on one" tournament, during the preseason, and thought that they would have the finals before some of the student body in the gym. Me and some other lesser Guard got into the finals, and the Coaches seemed a bit upset that none of their studs could cut it with us hacking and fouling subs. They decided to just play the finals on the outside courts where the rest of the tournament was held. I think 3 people and a janitor came to watch me hack to death some poor sucker and win the durn thing. To this day I have never heard one comment about me wining that thing.
2] I got called into Coach Curtis' office one day. I thought he was going to make me Team Captain or something. He said, "Stamatis, do you realize that of the whole team, you have the highest costing food expense? Why is that, Stamatis?" I told him that it was really quite unusual. Ordinarily I couldn't even eat at all before I competed in an athletic event, me being so high strung and all, and we could cut that budget to nearly nothing if I ever thought I was going to get into a game. He didn't even comment, but as I went out the door, he said, "Stamatis, you know guards don't shoot hook shots, why don't you give that thing up."
3] I did get in one game though, and my thoughts were to win that durn thing, all by myself if necessary. Coach forgot to tell me that the game was already won, and that's why I was in there in the first place. In a minute and twenty-four seconds I got 4 fouls. The next time we went down the floor the whistle blew and I said to myself, "Holy Smokes, I have just fouled out of this, the first basketball game of my life." The ref pointed to me and said, "You're the shooter." I drained that durn thing and looked over at Coach, to kinda give him a wink, but couldn't seem to make eye contact with him. My only thought was. ..If you don't make the first one, you can't make them all.
Two summers after I left USL I was in Fort Worth, Texas with a job, wife and a baby. Some of us had kept in contact and those that could, came from Louisiana, Texas, Mississippi and who knows where, for a little reunion. There was, I think, about 8 of us. I had bought a new inboard boat and we were going to give it a workout on a Texas lake. After the first two teammates got there on Friday night, we decided to call John Reding in California. I said, "John we're having a little party down here in Texas, why don't you get your butt down here and join us?" Without hesitation John turned to his wife and said, "You want to fly to Texas in the morning and go skiing?" One second later he said, "We'll be there in the morning, I'll call you back about the time." It don't get any better than that.
...and I think of Shelby Aulds, Larry [Birdman] Simon, JC Reinhardt and cry.
I love every one of you guys, and that's the only thing I ever got out of all those years of competing ...but it was everything.
And one other thing, even though I held back on the really good stuff, you better edit this thing and not show it to your Minister, Wife or Grandkids.
Graduated with a Civil Engineering degree, from the University of Kentucky 1963. Worked for 2 Years at General Dynamic/ Ft. Worth as a Structural Engineer on the F-111 Tactical Fighter. Had a Home Building career almost as successful as my basketball career. Currently doing Home Inspections for PPI Inc. and some Engineering/Home Problem Consulting.
Mostly I load up a Kayak, Mountain Bike and some Backpacking Gear, and take adventure trips into the Florida Everglades, or out west to Colorado, Wyoming and Montana or wherever else I can get myself into trouble. The bike don't work too good in The Everglades though.
When I decided to return home to continue my education at the University of Kentucky, since it looked like I was not going to make it in the NBA, I bought 3 Fifths of Kentucky Bourbon and went to three people that I had appreciated the most for their help while at USL. Gave one to Coach Shipley [and he didn't even try and talk me out of leaving], went to the best and most admired professor that I ever had, a Professor of Mathematics, some guy named Ray Authement and gave him one, and come to think of it, I think I drank the last one.
* * * * *
After communicating with Nick's family, Tim Thompson, sent the following information: Military service (active) from June 1958-Dec.1958 and reserve duty until discharge in Dec. 1965.
* * * * *
Obituary: Nick Finley Stamatis - Men's Basketball 1959-61 - January 15, 2015
STAMATIS Nick Finley, 74, Lexington, died January 15th, 2015 at UK Medical Center. Son of the late George and Virginia Stamatis, he was born December 26th, 1940 in Lexington, KY. He graduated from Lafayette High School. He attended college at Southwestern LA in Lafayette, LA, and graduated from UK. He also served in the US Army. He is survived by three children: Leslie (and Joker) Phillips; Shane (and Madge) Stamatis; and Cy (and Eli Lyle) Stamatis. He was known as "Daddy Nick" to his beloved 13 grandchildren. In addition, he lovingly referred to his childrens' half-brother, Chad (and Mandy) Turnbull, as his "half-son." The family would like to thank the wonderful UK health care staff who cared for Nick for the past two years. Private ceremony will be held. No visitation. Memorial contributions are suggested to CaringBridge.org or the UK Medical Center
Published in Lexington Herald-Leader on Jan. 16, 2015
Athletic Network Footnote:
Posted by Ed Dugas, Jan. 16, 2015 with information provided by Nick's close friend and teammate, Tim Thompson.
Please click here for Nick's Athletic Network Profile. It is a classic.
Please click here for the 1961 Basketball photo gallery and click on all three photos in the top row - Nick is in all of them.
Click here for Nick and teammates enjoying the Shipley Reunion, first night at the Acadian Village, on Nov. 2, 2001.
Click here for photo of Nick, Coach Marlin & Jenny, Tim Thompson at the 2011 Basketball Reunion reception at the Alumni Center. I bet Nick just but a few words on them. As he liked to say, "Go figure."
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This update provided by Tim Thompson on Sept. 27, 2017.
I remained a friend of Nick's after leaving USL. After he graduated from Kentucky he moved to Ft Worth, TX to work at General Dynamics. He persuaded me to leave Boeing in Seattle and join him and his wife and Leslie in Ft Worth.
Then after less than a year he left me in Texas and returned to Lexington to build houses with his father-in-law and later on his own.
A short time later I also returned to Lexington to work for a Civil Engineering firm. When he left the home building business he worked with my surveying company a short time and then started doing home inspections.
His 2001 reunion stories are a real classic of times spent playing (or sitting basketball at SLI-USL).
His fun loving story telling was always unique. One that stands out was when he was doing home inspections. He was in a house doing his work when an urge came over him so he decided to LOAD TEST the commode. About that time the home owner came home and she wondered what was going on--LOAD TESTING was his reply--
For several years Nick and I would go to Cave Run Lake in eastern Kentucky. This started out to be a survey job but ended up being more pleasure. We became good friends with the owner of 250 acres adjoining the lake. Nick bought one lot and I bought two. We dreamed of some day building small cabins to stay in while there.
The owner passed away in 2007 and it just seemed too far to go with so many other things like raising a family going on.
Nick always wanted to tell me how his grand kids (many) were doing-he was so proud of them.
Nick's daughter Leslie was formerly married to Joker Phillips (UK football coach for a few years).
Nick was a big fan of the outdoors and the pleasures it offered. He often make trips by himself to the Everglades, Rocky Mountains, Big South Fork in KY and TN.
Being single allowed him not to be restrained in any way and he would have a detailed itinerary plan for every step of the trip.
Many years ago Nick casually mentioned to me that he was writing a book. This was going on for a long time and I wasn't sure it was real. The book probably would be called fiction but woven through it are life experiences related to real people, places and events.
The strange thing that I see are the characters. Each has a convoluted name from someone in his life. The main character is Tim-don't know if that is me or not?? (The character is certainly not me!) The girl he ends up with at the end of the book is a Cajun beauty name Charly. I believe this to be a girl he dated his second year at SLI. There is also an Authement, Robbie, Cathead Reding from his Louisiana experiences. Also others from his eastern KY mountain heritage and home town of Lexington.
The book was never published before he passed away in January 2015. I am privileged to have a manuscript of a near final draft with noted corrections to be made.
Nick's appreciation of Coach is contained in his 2001 Reunion bio.
Please see below Nick's poem written for and delivered on Tim's 70th birthday.
Nick Stamatis's poem to Tim Thompson on his 70th Birthday March 15, 2009
Nick Stamatis's poem to Tim Thompson on his 70th Birthday March 15, 2009
70 Year's of Strangeness----and what wasn't strange was weird:
When ole Tim was born,
some said "Isn't he cute."
But they didn't know,
he would grow up mute
When we roomed together,
in Louisiana down south.
He did everything sparingly,
including using his mouth.
I remember about mid semester,
some friend popped in the door
and inquired something about Tim
as if I would know more.
I told that guy the truth,
of that you can bet,
As of these first three months,
he hasn't spoken yet.
And traveling with ole Tim,
riding with someone who's asleep.
You can drive almost forever,
and you'll never hear a peep,
He has strange habits,
and many a weird quirk.
But at least you'll say
that he sure ain't a jerk.
It all goes along with
some celestial pattern unknown.
And if you watched him close,
you'd think his mind had just blown.
Even his eyes are weird,
they give absolutely no clue.
As if his thoughts were concocting,
without meaning or glue.
A sad sack appearance,
with strange facial hair.
And one who doesn't like,
venturing out from his lair.
With a hobby as weird,
as his strange mind could yield
he's spent hours by himself
hunting rocks in a field
And the anal attention
to lining stuff up straight,
and everything perfect
He can spent hours and hours
getting most things done.
I finally figured it out.
it's how he has fun.
Way past his prime,
he thought building would be fun
He picked the perfect time,
to turn his money to NONE.
Speaking of money and such,
how about our idea in 1964.
That GM stock we partnered on,
turned our $ 400 to $ 4.
But he did get lucky,
when it comes to family things.
A great wife from Louisiana,
resulted in 4 more weird beings.
I finally figured out
why we've always been friends.
You can't argue with someone
when the silence never ends.
Your friend forever,
|Basketball- (M):|| 1959, 1960, 1961|
|Military Veteran:|| 1958, 1959, 1960, 1961, 1962, 1963, 1964, 1965|
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