Art Quimby is a member of the UConn Basketball All Century Team. He owns the University of Connecticut men’s basketball record for
single-season total rebounds (611) and rebound average (24.4/game). He
totaled more points (1,398) and rebounds (1,716) combined than any player
in UConn history (3,114) and he ranks No. 1 in career rebounding and
career rebound average (21.5/game). This is a short list of statistics
that could go on a basketball resume of Art Quimby. I had the opportunity
to meet him in September 2003 at his home in Columbia, CT and talk to him
about his career and reflect on his college and post-college days, both on
and off the court.
Art went to New London Bulkeley High School, a small, all-boys school with
a talented basketball team. “In my senior year we won the State
Championship, we won the New England Championship, we went undefeated and
with that we had a lot of offers from a lot of schools. I had like 74
schools I could have gone to,” Art told me.
After managing all of his offers, he was set to go to the University of
Kentucky. UK was the biggest basketball power in the country at the time,
and its gym was bigger than Madison Square Garden. “UK had such a good
program they could have beat most pro teams,” he said. UK was on probation
for having been involved with a basketball scandal so Art decided it might
not be the best place for him to go. He also looked at Holy Cross, which a
few years earlier had a relatively successful team. The coach at Holy
Cross wanted Art to go to a prep school. The coach said he was bringing in
a player by the name of Tommy Heinsohn, who later played for the Boston
Celtics and the coach said he planned to rebuild his team every two years.
The Korean War was on, and Art, who was a good student, wasn’t willing to
wait two years.
Art went to meet Hugh Greer, the men’s basketball coach in the early
1950s, at UConn and liked the school. He liked Connecticut, the rural
environment and loved trout fishing, which he got to do when he went to
the school for his recruiting visit. Perhaps it was the fishing that
sealed the deal, as Art chose to attend UConn.
that time, the teamed played at the “Old Cage,” which had a dirt floor
that was covered with a portable court—it was later known as the “Field
House”—and it was while Art Quimby was playing that UConn became a
powerhouse. “For me, UConn was a wonderful thing. It was a way for me to
get an education. I love Connecticut. That was probably four of the best
years of my life. I really loved it and I met my wife of 45 years at UConn”
Quimby told me. Art and his wife Judy have three children; Jim still lives
in Connecticut, Kate lives in Washington, DC and Paul resides in
Pennsylvania and will soon be performing as a carpenter on the television
show “Mr. Fix It” on HGTV. They also have four grandchildren and a fifth
on the way.
Art said he didn’t encourage his kids to play sports. He didn’t want his
kids to grow up as “Art Quimby’s” kids and be questioned why they weren’t
playing basketball. He was amenable to their playing, but was okay with
them choosing not to, as well. Art himself was not only good at
basketball, but also excelled at swimming, track and football; but since
he was offered a scholarship to play basketball, he pursued that activity.
After college, Art was the only player from his senior class who was
offered a professional contract of $7,800 to play for the Boston Celtics.
Back then basketball was territorial and UConn was in the Boston Celtics
territory, so if you were drafted, you went to the Celtics. The Celtics
sold him to the Rochester Royals. As he had always thought about his
future, Art knew that if he went to the pros, he’d last there for several
years, but there was no real money in it at the time. He’d also loose his
commission in the army and he wanted to go to graduate school so the
decision was simple, he didn’t play basketball professionally and he has
never regretted it.
“Now if it was the money that it is today, there would be no question,
you’d go and you’d be set for life. I’d be driving around in a Ferrari and
investing my millions in something and my kids and their kids wouldn’t
have to worry about money forever, if money’s important, I don’t know” Art
The former player was also offered a basketball future among teams like
Peoria Caterpillar, 20th Century Fox and San Francisco Bankers. The
players competed in basketball, but also worked for the company as a
career. They paid better than the National Basketball Association and
offered a longer-term career. Peoria Caterpillar was interested in Art,
and it was tempting as it was a good team one year prior that had won
their division title, that eventually became the U.S. Olympic Team that
captured the gold. He came close to accepting the team’s offer, but knew
life in the Midwest would limit his boating, sailing and trout fishing.
Art opted to go to graduate school and earned a master’s degree in school
guidance. He had his commission in the army and he went into teaching, and
then moved on to be a guidance counselor and later became an educational
consultant with the state department of education. He was a high school
director for 11 years, became assistant superintendent, then
superintendent for 6 years, and was responsible for all of the vocational
schools in Connecticut and 2,500 employees.
At the same time, he remained active with the army reserve for 30 years
where he commanded a brigade of soldiers and was chief-of-staff of an army
division. He retired 11 years ago at age 58 as a full colonel. “It was a
very busy time”, Art said.
He now enjoys golf, has a sailboat and goes fishing at the shore, and
travels south annually in a motor home. He also enjoys his time with his
wife and kids. “Life has been good, I’m really happy,” he said.
doesn’t miss basketball although he really enjoyed it and recognizes that
it opened doors for him. Playing for UConn offered him name recognition
and that really helped later in life. He made a lot of close friends with
fellow UConn players and his opponents. When he was selected for the All
Century Team at UConn in 2001, a newspaper article was
published about it and within a week he received lots of phone calls from people that
he hadn’t heard from in four or five decades to congratulate him.
In looking back, his basketball experiences at UConn keep popping up;
there is always someone that knows you. His most memorable moment in a
UConn uniform was when the team beat Holy Cross at an away game his junior
year. The year before Holy Cross had won the National Invitation
Tournament and in that era the NIT was bigger than the National Collegiate
Art’s team was successful, in that it qualified for both the NIT and NCAA
one year, but voted to go to the NIT because players were awarded watches
in that tournament, whereas the NCAA only gave players a little medal,
unlike the status it has today. The NIT was played in New York City at
MSG, where opponents were big-name teams and the national press covered
the games. How much better could it get?
His most memorable time at UConn as a student was that he had a priority
number to register for classes. His number was single digits with an
appointment on a Monday morning. To compare, his wife carried a number
greater than 2,000 with a Thursday appointment.
When asked about his thoughts on how the team has changed over the years,
he said, “The talent has changed. With UConn being a national powerhouse,
it gets some of the best kids in and out of the country.” He thinks the
best recruit UConn ever got was Emeka Okafor. “When Emeka came in, hardly
anyone knew who he was and he’s improved more than anyone I’ve ever seen.”
Art enjoys watching the current team. He thinks the players are
unbelievable and really talented. He said there is no question Coach
Calhoun is a fantastic coach, recruiter, organizer and has done an
incredible job. He feels that UConn runs a clean and excellent program. He
has to see this year’s team play before making any predictions about the
Final Four, but he said that this year’s team has the talent to go that
far, despite having a target on their back that will be challenging for
them. The team should do well and they probably will do well but the Final
Four is a big assignment, he reasoned.