DECATUR, Ga. - Soon, basketball season will officially end for Mike Glenn, and another, all-important season will begin.
It has been this way for the “Stinger” since he hosted his first summer basketball camp at New York’s Mill Neck School for the Deaf 40 years ago.
Glenn was a guard with the New York Knicks then and just wanted to make a difference in the lives of those he felt led a lonely, isolated existence.
“I had no idea when I started I’d still be doing this, but it’s just been amazing,” Glenn said recently.
“To think there have been over 4,000 kids to come through the camp is a tribute to my dad and all the people who have volunteered their time. It’s just been a wonderful experience and one of the most rewarding things I’ve done in my life.”
Glenn had just returned from New York, where he was presented the Knicks’ Dick McGuire Legacy Award for his community service. And it’s worth noting that the week before, he was listed by the Chicago Tribune as one of the 25 greatest NCAA Tournament players in Illinois school history.
Now he’s focused on this year’s camp, set to open Father’s Day and run through June 21 at Clairmont Presbyterian Church and the Decatur Recreation Center.
Basketball, summer camp and the deaf have been central to Mike Glenn’s existence for as long as he can remember. He’d grown up around deaf children, many of whom played ball for his father, Charles Glenn, back when the Georgia School for the Deaf was still segregated.
Glenn was a freshman at Coosa High School in Rome, Ga., when he attended his first basketball camp, an experience he naturally assumed was open to anyone who wanted to participate.
He was quite shocked to learn that wasn’t the case, that there was no such thing for deaf kids even though he’d grown up with them, played with them, knew they loved the game as much as he did.
“These were some of my closest friends,” Glenn said. “I felt bad for them.”
Someday, he thought to himself, and tucked the notion in the back of his mind.
By 1973, when he graduated from Coosa High, Glenn had made a name for himself on and off the basketball court. Not only had he been voted the No. 1 player in Georgia, he was an Academic All-American, president of the senior class and No. 3 in his class.
His success continued at Southern Illinois University, where he made All-American, led the Salukis to their first Sweet 16 NCAA Tournament and finished as the second all-time leading scorer.
Glenn graduated in 1977 with a math degree and was headed to play for the Chicago Bulls when he broke his neck in a car accident.
He’d fully healed from the injury by December, but instead of resuming his career with the Bulls, Glenn asked to be released and signed with the Buffalo Braves, the team we now know as the Los Angeles Clippers. He finished the season with the Braves and then signed a three-year contract with the Knicks.
He was in New York when he shared his dream of hosting a camp for deaf kids with the team’s director of public relations, Kevin Kennedy.
One day, after getting a call from Mill Neck School officials requesting a player participate in a tourney it was planning, Kennedy reached out to Glenn.
The shooting guard jumped at the chance.
“They took me to center court between games with an interpreter but I told them I didn’t need one,” Glenn recalled.
As he introduced himself using sign language, a hush fell over the crowd. People were shocked, thinking Glenn was deaf.
He shared his dream again. School officials encouraged him to hold the camp at Mill Neck and Glenn agreed.
The next summer, with support from his teammates, the first Mike Glenn Basketball Camp for the Deaf opened.
“The kids just loved it,” he said.
Even after Glenn signed with the Atlanta Hawks in 1981, Mill Neck continued to host the camp; by 1983, it had become too difficult to hold the camp in two places.
Glenn made the hard decision to host only in Atlanta but open the camp to eligible high schoolers across the country.
He left the Hawks in 1985 for the Milwaukee Bucks, where he remained until 1987, the year Glenn decided to trade his pro career for financial consulting with Merrill Lynch and eventually a game analyst, first for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution and then television.
Glenn is now a pregame analyst for Atlanta Hawks games and host of “Hawks Live” on Fox Sports Southeast.
With the regular season over as of April 10, Glenn will soon redouble his efforts to pull off his 40th summer basketball camp, which opened in 1983 to girls and to the hearing in 1991 because “it’s so much more fun when everybody is invited to the table.”
He remembered Willie Brown, a three-time Most Valuable Player of the camp and one of the camp’s biggest success stories.
Brown, captain of the deaf Olympic team, was awarded scholarships to play Division I college basketball, playing two years at Hofstra and then Georgia State University. He now officiates at both state tournaments and collegiate games.
Both he and Georgia School for the Deaf teammate Fred Stone are now certified referees for the state of Georgia, the first deaf referees in the state. Both have volunteered at the camp every year since 1984, when they graduated from the Georgia School for the Deaf. Both have had children win the camp’s MVP award, and both have a child enrolled this year.
Other campers have gone on to play at Gallaudet University, the only university for deaf students in the nation, helping not only change the perception of the deaf but also open doors to them.
“It’s just such a great feeling to know you’re part of the bridge between hearing and non-hearing and provide opportunities for them to get to do what they love,” Glenn said.
“Even if they don’t go to the NBA, WNBA or a Division I college, I want them to have the week of their lives.”