Only one thing missing in Corzine's three levels of success

Dave Corzine experienced a triple crown of basketball success, without leaving his hometown.

In high school, he led Hersey downstate in 1974, the first team from the Mid-Suburban League to make the trip.

He helped turn DePaul into a national power. His senior year ended with the Blue Demons ranked No. 3 in the country, setting the stage for the best run of success in school history.

Then he spent seven season with the Bulls, picking up a teammate named Michael Jordan along the way. The team was in a sorry state when Corzine arrived and reached the Eastern Conference finals by the time he left.

So do any of these success stories stand out as a personal favorite?

"The younger I was, the more I enjoyed it," Corzine said. "I had no lifetime goals of ever doing any of that stuff I did. I was very fortunate my whole life. I had great parents. So much of life in general and basketball is being in the right place at the right time."

This story has an unusual, but appropriate, beginning. Corzine's parents, Al and Gwen, met as members of the Paramount Tall Club. Dave was their only child.

Growing up in Arlington Heights, Corzine was always tall for his age, but this wasn't the era of evaluation camps or summer AAU tournaments. By today's standards, he was a late arrival to basketball.

"It was a whole different world then," he said. "You just played outside with your friends. So we played all sports with my friends growing up in the neighborhood. Seventh and eighth grade was the only organized basketball I played. We played about eight games a year, but that wasn't unusual then. That's how it was."

Corzine said he was 6-2 in seventh grade and 6-11 as a sophomore in high school. Another important stroke of luck was arriving at Hersey two years behind 6-9 Andy Pancratz, who became a role model.

"Andy was my idol coming out of junior high," Corzine said. "He helped me tremendously, not only having him to play against, but he had his driver's license two years before I did. He let me tag along. We'd go down in the city and play in tournaments. Go all over park district leagues and play.

"Andy was great at working out, he put a lot of time into it. I was fortunate to have a player who was that much better than me at that point in my life that I could play against every day. I always tell kids, 'If you're a decent player, the most important thing you've got to do is find better players to play against.'"

When Pancratz was a senior and Corzine a sophomore, Hersey lost in the sectional. Two years later, Corzine needed his reliable chauffeur back, because he was injured in a car accident and missed several games.

"As soon as he (Pancratz) left me on my own, I crashed my car," Corzine said with a laugh. "On the corner of Palatine Road and Rand Road, there used to be a Jack in the Box. Coming home from practice, trying to get through the lanes of traffic and got hit head-on by another car. I must have had 40, 50 stitches in my head. I had to sit out all the holiday tournaments. I missed a decent part of the season."

The car accident explains why Hersey's final record was just 19-10. But the Huskies beat the No. 1-ranked team in the state, Maine South, in the sectional, knocked off Waukegan with future NBA player Jerome Whitehead in the supersectional, then lost to Bloom in the state quarterfinals.

It wasn't until his senior season was over that Corzine started thinking about college. He said there was some interest in Auburn and an overwhelming march of recruiters into his living room, but he only took one visit. Pancratz was at DePaul, coach Ray Meyer lived nearby and had coached George Mikan, so why go anywhere else?

Corzine, Pancratz and Joe Ponsetto led DePaul into the NCAA Tournament in 1976, where they lost to VMI in the regional semifinals. The '78 tournament run was memorable. The Blue Demons made a big comeback to beat Creighton and Corzine scored 46 points in a win over Louisville, before losing to Notre Dame in the regional final. The Blue Demons reached the Final Four a year later behind freshman Mark Aguirre.

The Jordan years

Just about everyone has seen Jordan share the story of his rookie season with the Bulls in "The Last Dance" documentary. He walked into a hotel room, saw his teammates doing some things that could get them arrested and walked back out.

Corzine joined the Bulls two years before Jordan. He chose his words carefully when asked about that story.

"I saw that episode. I remember whoever was interviewing him asked about the 'traveling cocaine circus,'" Corzine said. "I've heard different versions of the same story. I wasn't in the room, though. In the NBA, guys pretty much stick with their buddies. Guys have their own personal lives. When you drove off (from practice), you pretty much went your own way.

"All I can really say, I wasn't hanging out with guys on the team doing anything I shouldn't be doing or they shouldn't be doing at the time we were hanging out."

Another popular topic of "The Last Dance" was Jordan's harsh treatment of teammates. Again, Corzine has a different perspective. He was older than Jordan, not a new arrival, not a high draft pick like Scottie Pippen or Horace Grant.

Corzine actually played in the NBA Finals as a rookie with the Washington Bullets. He spent two years with San Antonio and was the Spurs' third-leading scorer in the 1982 Western Conference finals, before he and Mark Olberding were traded to the Bulls for Artis Gilmore.

"I saw five years of (Jordan's) interactions with teammates," Corzine said. "He would go at a teammate, but not a whole lot more than other guys. Any team's got to have a leader. He was just a normal person who happened to be an extraordinary basketball player.

"You could tease Michael. He could take a ribbing. I don't think Michael's way was particularly negative. Anybody who's the leader of the team is going to be yelling at guys about where to go, what to do. I never had an issue with Michael."

Corzine heard plenty of boos during his first two years with the Bulls, but fully recognizes the good fortune of being part of those late 80s teams.

"I'm in a rare group of people who got a chance to know Michael Jordan and play on his teams," Corzine said. "I couldn't have been luckier."

Regrets, there are a few

Through this long run of Chicago-based good fortune, Corzine does have some complaints. Mostly, he wishes he could have stuck with the Bulls for a couple more years.

Corzine was traded to the expansion Orlando Magic in the summer of 1989. In the previous 12 months, the Bulls traded for Bill Cartwright, while drafting Will Perdue and Stacey King. Now, Corzine had a better NBA career than Perdue or King, but he was 33 at the time and Jerry Krause decided it was time for a change.

"It was frustrating to be so close to those championship teams," Corzine said. "The first championship team was pretty much the same team that I left. I give Jerry Krause a lot of credit for putting those teams together. I wish I hadn't been traded. Two more years and they were getting the rings. I would have liked to pick up a few of those."

Corzine suffered the first major injury of his career in Orlando, blowing out a knee. He spent a season in Seattle, watching mostly from the bench, then played in Italy.

Remember how much Krause loved loading up on big men? Robert Parrish, James Edwards, John Salley, Joe Kleine and Ed Nealy all won titles with the Bulls. Corzine was ready to jump back in.

"After I came back from Italy, I was over with the Bulls practicing, still staying in shape, during open gyms in the summer," he said. "I was hoping if I looked good enough they might pick me up as a backup guy at that point. I was hoping I might get another shot with them, but that didn't work out either."

Like Corzine said at the beginning, the younger he was, the more fun it was. That goes for the disappointments as well.

"If you asked me the low point of my basketball life, it was that Bloom game," Corzine said of the 56-51 loss in the 1974 Class AA quarterfinals. "I would have loved to have won a high school championship. It was so much fun that year.

"We had a 17-point lead in that Bloom game. That still hurts. They full-court pressed us in the second half. They went to the full-court press and wore us down. They ended up playing against Joe Ponsetto, my teammate at DePaul, and Proviso East in the championship game."

No championships, but that's a heck of a three-level basketball life.

• Twitter: @McGrawDHBulls

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Artis Gilmore, right, of the Boston Celtics steals the ball away from Dave Corzine of the Chicago Bulls during first half action at the Boston Garden in Boston, Mass., March 20, 1988. AP File Photo
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