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Ernie DiGregorio is a Former NBA Rookie of the Year athlete in 1974 and a Collegiate Hall of Fame basketball player. He’s an effective coach that focuses on one-on-one skills coaching to athletes of all ages, a seasoned motivational speaker to various businesses, community organizations, youth groups, and nonprofits, and the author of “star with a BROKEN HEART”, “MILEY’S BIG SHOT”, and “ALPHONSO SAVES THE PLANET.”

He was born in the small town of North Providence RI. Developed himself through tireless practice and dedication into a wizard with the basketball and became Ernie D. Defied the odds to become an All-American at Providence College where he met Dave Gavitt and Marvin Barnes and along with their teammates carried the team to the Final Four in 1973. For his efforts, Ernie was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame in 2019. He went on to be drafted as the 3rd overall pick in the NBA draft by the Buffalo Braves and was awarded the NBA Rookie of the Year in 1974. He had a successful NBA career that was cut short by injuries, but he continued in coaching and teaching the game to kids.

He is currently an aspiring writer and working on a variety of projects including “Miley’s Big Shot”, an incredible coming of age story for children. He is also working with his alma mater Providence College to release his book “star with a Broken Heart”. A story of hopes and dreams, hardship and triumphs, overcoming racial boundaries, addiction, and perhaps most importantly, friendships that became family….all filtered through the lens of a turbulent American history in the late ’60s and early ’70s. The book is dedicated to Father Robert Morris OP who was a leader at PC and founded the MLK Scholarship Program. The book is slated to be released shortly and Ernie is working on taking this incredible story to the big screen.

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Underdog Ernie D. and His Underdog Story

Pamela Bardhi
Hello, everyone, and welcome to another episode of the underdog. Today I have a very special guest, Ernie Digrigio. Ernie, how are you doing?

Ernie
I’m doing great. And thank you for having me on the show today.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, thank you for being on the show. It’s such an honor, I love your energy. I love your passion. And I can’t wait to hear all about you and your journey and in the basketball world and just in life in general, and all the awesome things that you’re up to now. You know, it’s so exciting.

Ernie
Yeah, it’s an interesting life. You know, I remember, someone told me a long time ago, y every day is a gift. So I try to make the best of every day and stay positive and take care of the people I love. And thank God for giving me this opportunity.

Pamela Bardhi
Thank you, Ernie. Thank you. I know, my God, I don’t even know where to where to start and your story. I guess we’ll start with basketball first. How did that become your passion?

Ernie
Oh, when I was about 10 years old, I started playing baseball and it was fun. I had never touched the basketball. But I needed nine players on each team to have a game. So I couldn’t really practice. One day I picked up a basketball and I said, boy, this is cool, I can go all by myself and just shoot baskets, I don’t need anyone else and I can practice and be good someday. And the weird thing is Pam like, at age 12, I knew what I wanted to be in life. I wanted to be a professional basketball player. So I dedicated every single day to practice, practice, practice. And I believed in myself, and guess what I became a professional basketball player.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s incredible. You’re just like a 12, I’m just I’m gonna be a basketball player.

Ernie
Yeah, I wanted to be a professional basketball player. Because back then, right here in Providence, they had a very good college team Providence College and used to be on television. And everybody used to watch it and talk about it and stuff. I said, boy if I could ever be like those guys, that would be special. And that’s what I wanted to do. I had that determination and drive that. Even if people said I was crazy, I could never be a pro. Like my mother said, go to work with your father, or my guidance counselor at school said, Do you know how many, only a select few ever make it? I didn’t listen, I knew I could make it if I just practice those eight or 10 hours a day.

Pamela Bardhi
So it started when you were 12. So basically around middle school or middle school. Did you join any teams at that time? How did you sort of start playing?

Ernie
Well, that’s the weird thing. Most people when they become successful, either coach or play on different teams. I played all by myself, just dribbling the ball, bouncing it everywhere. I went, getting up at six o’clock in the morning, shoveling in the snow when it snowed in the winter when it was 90 degrees. And I practiced by myself because I knew that’s what it took. Practice, practice, practice. The best thing about it Pam, it was fun. So never once that I ever play basketball and I said, Oh, I gotta do that again. It was always fun. So I had more fun being by just me, my basketball in a hoop than I probably ever had in my life.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s the one thing about passion, right? It doesn’t feel like work. You know, when you’re doing it’s just like you, you love it and you’re just ingrained in it. Nothing else matters. You know, so when you were up shoveling that snow or in that 90-degree heat, you’re out there loving it and focusing on your dream. I just can’t believe you found out what you wanted to do so early. So what was the basketball journey? So after you decided and you kept practicing, what was the first team that you joined?

Ernie
In my elementary school, first three eighth grade, and I played on a team. In fact, I have pictures of it. My team It was called the Lakers and I picked my brother was in the fourth grade. I picked all the fourth graders on my team, and we beat everybody else. And then from there, it was on the high school when I was a freshman in high school. And it was kind of tough in high school because the high school coach wasn’t a basketball guy. He was a baseball guy. So he didn’t know much about basketball. So I wasn’t going far. But by the grace of God, my senior year, he retired and they hired a guy who really knew how to play basketball.

I played at Providence College, a little guy who fought for everything he did in life. He was an underdog, you know, a little guy five, six plan against people’s six foot six. So he taught me that really grit and determination and how to do wind sprints and how to do push-ups and how to be in great shape. And that was a gift because then I really got better now I knew that extra stuff, what it took, and then I worked even harder.

Pamela Bardhi
So it sounds like that was sort of your mentor in the basketball game was Yeah. Oh, coach.

Ernie
Yeah, it was my high school coach. He’s the one who really showed me that you have to get physically stronger and quicker to play at that college level. And at the pro level, you know, I was good in high school, I averaged 37 points, a game, and all that stuff. But still, I had to get quicker and stronger. And it was fun.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. I don’t know if I ever told you earlier. Maybe I mentioned it on my last call. But my dad was a professional basketball player for Albania.

Ernie
That’s ironic, a synergy that got us together because I love basketball players.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my god, you would love my dad. He’s a riot, he’s like six foot six is just like oil. You said 37 points a game. That’s what he used to do like back in Albania. And when I played basketball in high school, I was the JV captain. He’d watched me playing and he’s like why are you only scoring like two points. He’s like, I used to do like that.

Ernie
The good thing is I have four daughters. And I never pushed them to play basketball. But the funny thing was, everywhere I went, because you know, I was always in the newspaper or on TV and stuff. The first questions people would ask me, they wouldn’t ask me how I’m doing. They would say, does your daughter play basketball like you? And my poor kids, they had to take that lead sort of like, I think really push them away. So sometimes people don’t know kids are very sensitive.

Pamela Bardhi
Yeah, yeah. I mean, you know, so you do get you right, you get a lot of pressure, you know, from your parents, too.

Ernie
But I love the pressure. Great players, you know, successful people love pressure, because like you said, it does not pressure. It’s the drive, determination, and passion that is the word. Once you have a passion for something, you don’t feel pressure.

Pamela Bardhi
Absolutely. And I mean, you know, and I always think of the quote that’s always been stuck in my head, you know, diamonds are built under pressure, they need the pressure to become diamonds.

Ernie
That’ll be my quote for the week down.

Pamela Bardhi
Yeah, when I read that, a few years ago, I was like, wow, so it’s like, the next time that you’re feeling the pressure, understand you’re being built into a diamond. And I that’s rings. So true. Like you were just saying, You’re like, you kept going and you kept pushing. It’s an awesome quote. It’s an awesome quote. So how was the transition from high school to college playing?

Ernie
Yeah, it was tough, because, believe it or not, until I was a senior in high school, I didn’t realize you needed two years of algebra, and two years of a foreign language to go to college. So I had to go to prep school to get that second year of algebra and Spanish I took that was probably one of the best years that ever helped me get where I got to get because I got a year stronger. And I got a year of practice before I went to college. So I wasn’t coming right from high school to college.

I went to prep school for a year, not far from Rhode Island, but it was in the middle of the woods. And it was my first time away from home. So it wasn’t any fun. But I did real well there and had a zillion scholarships to go to different places all over the country. But I didn’t even look because I was determined to play in front of my mother and father, so they could watch me play. And I played right at Providence about 15 minutes from my house.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s incredible. So you made it to Providence College because I remember you saying when you were younger, you were thinking about those players. So ironically, you manifested it. Someway, somehow.

Ernie
Yeah, I got a four-year scholarship to Providence College and when we went there. I had a great career where I was a first-team all-American, one of the top five players in the country. I was the top senior player in the country and my team went to the NCAA tournament. Final Four out of 360 teams. Our school only had 2500 students, UCLA had probably 35,000, University of Indiana 40,000, University of Memphis 35,000, and we had 2500. We were going to fight.

Pamela Bardhi
What? Oh my God, that’s amazing. Yeah.

Ernie
That’s the underdog story.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. Oh my god, what did that feel like? You know.

Ernie
It was unbelievable.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, my God.

Ernie
I mean, that’s when the whole world stops and watches college basketball. March Madness, and to be on that stage, on national TV, that’s when you really have to perform. And someday I’ll send you some videos, but we were special. We did really well. The irony is our big guy got hurt. Like I used to get the rebounds. Hurt is like Marvin bonds, we lost the game. But it was still a heck of an experience. And the exposure was amazing.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s unreal. I can only imagine that you worked so hard at it. And then you get to the Final Four. And that’s kind of like that’s the top of the pinnacle. You know, in college sports. Oh, my God, I can only imagine the feeling.

Ernie
It was unbelievable, like that week before the game. It was so publicized that they had a picture on the front page of the newspaper of a cleaning company cleaning my uniform. That’s how crazy it was. And then when the game was on, they said they had it on and all the supermarkets, on radio, the whole state actually shut down. And it was special. I’ll tell you what a thrill to relive it.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, my goodness. So from there, how did you get to the NBA Draft? I’m sure it wasn’t hard. You made it to the, to the final Yeah, saw you and they’re like, we want this guy.

Ernie
Yeah, I was the third person picked in a draft. So you know, there were two guys picked before me and I got picked by this team buffalo. And then I went to play in Buffalo, and I became Rookie of the Year in the NBA. So this little kid from North Providence, Rhode Island, who no one believes, could ever be a pro beat all those odds, and then went on to the NBA and become Rookie of the Year.

And once you have that confidence and you believe in yourself, you’re unstoppable. And that’s how I was. You know, I was someone who believed in myself, and I backed it up by practicing so much that I knew I could do those things. So it was a great feeling when you went out and played against the greatest players in basketball. You’ve come back to your hotel room, if you in Chicago or Philadelphia, or San Francisco or LA and look in the mirror and say, Boy, I just scored 25 points against the best players in the world. It was a great feeling.

Ernie’s Mantra In Life

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my god. And I’m so intrigued by you and your passion. So what was your mantra the whole time? Because obviously, you felt like the underdog coming up, you’re like, oh, that you know.

Ernie
I give you an example. When I came out of college, there were two basketball leagues, there was the American Basketball Association. They were the National Basketball Association. The National NBA was established and all the greatest players played there. This ABA had some very wealthy owners, and they were spending huge dollars on getting the stars out of college to try to build the league. Well, they offered me more money than they did in the NBA. But I told my lawyer, you know, so many people have doubted me because I’m too small. And they said I was too slow and I couldn’t play. I had to go play in the NBA and prove to everyone that I was that good. So, that’s the underdog story. But once you like I said, believe in yourself and you put the work in. Anything’s possible.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, 100% 100%. Was there a specific quote or something that you lived by that sort of kept your mentality strong? Because I know sometimes, you know when people sort of rejecting you, in a way like saying, oh, you’re too small to this to that, you know, like you have this thing in the back of your mind saying, Okay, I got this and everybody’s mantras like different. What was yours? I’d love to hear it.

Ernie
I had a couple of things that kept me and believe it or not, I would get it a big piece of cardboard. And I’d write the team we played against. And then I’d write how many points and how many assists I got. So I can look at it all year long. So I know that I could keep up that top level of play. That was one of the things that drove me but I have always had a beat the odds my whole life. When I was in high school, they said, I played in a Class B League, and I could never play an A.

And then I went to prep school, and they said, you know, he was a great prep school player, but you’ll never play in a major college then I went to college, and I was a freshman and freshmen couldn’t plan a varsity. And I averaged 29 points a game, and they said, that’s good as a freshman, but you’ll never play in the varsity. Then I got on the varsity.

I started when I was a sophomore. And they said, well, he’s pretty good as a sophomore, but he can never be an all-American. That was an all-American. They said, Well, he’s a good great college player, but he’ll never be a pro. And then when I finally became Rookie of the Year, this gentleman was walking down the street, and he said to me, Ernie D, the only skeptics that remain the true skeptics. So you know, it was always a battle of the underdog my whole life. I never listened to anybody. I was thick-headed and I just kept doing what I did.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. In the back of your mind, you’re like, I’m gonna keep going. I’m gonna keep going. Get there. It almost their rejection and doubts almost fueled you in a way?

Ernie
Yeah, no question. It is always true. Yep. There was always my point where I push when somebody said, I couldn’t do this and do that. So I just kept working.

Pamela Bardhi
So Oh, my god, you’re amazing, Ernie.

Ernie
I don’t know about that. My wife still makes me watch television upstairs. She takes control of the TVs. I’m not that amazing.

Pamela Bardhi
I find it so cool. You know that you just kept it going in your mind. And you just every single time you broke every barrier that came and it was like little by little but you were strategic about it like you would write it down and you would just keep it rolling.

Ernie
I think, Pam, the most important thing we can tell people out there is you can’t doubt yourself because we all go through tough times in life. And if you start doubting yourself, you know, I had a there was this great, great players name was Pete Maravich. He was one of the all-time greats. And one time he said to me, Ernie Dee, how you doing? I said I’m okay, Pete. He says, Remembers one thing, once they get your confidence, it’s One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, meaning once you start questioning yourself, you’re in serious trouble.

Pamela Bardhi
Wow. I mean, so when you went to the NBA, first off, what did that feel like when you actually got

Ernie
A great that it was a dream come true. It was everything I worked for. The best thing was, when I went to my press conference in sign, my mother and father came with me, and they sat there. And I got pictures of that, and the looks on their faces, where they were so proud of their son, that’s a great feeling in itself to know that the people you love, you’ve made them happy. Because, believe it or not, my father used to go around signing autographs, because that’s how big it was and it was. It’s amazing how people look at you. So I made a lot of people happy along the way that loved me. And to me, that’s the most important.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s amazing. So first, I know you’ve had, you’ve played for a few teams. So what was it? Well, I mean, you’re starting team probably would be your favorite because that’s your first experience. I don’t know what was your favorite team that you played for?

Ernie
I played with Buffalo, which are the LA Clippers for four years. And then I played a half a year with the Lakers, the Los Angeles Lakers, and a half a year with the Celtics, the Boston Celtics, you know, I had great memories on a lot of them. But I loved playing in Boston because I played with some really great, great Celtic legends, and one guy named John Havlicek stands out to me. He was a good friend and a great person. And it was just a thrill to be able to pass him the ball, especially his last basket he ever made. So, you know, I’ve had some great, great memories in the NBA.

Pamela Bardhi
What was your favorite memory in the NBA?

Ernie
I think the most special game for me was my rookie year we played in Portland, Oregon. I had 25 assists and that still remains an NBA record. To this day, assist for a rookie, 25 assists, so that was probably one game that will always stand out as being really special.

Pamela Bardhi
Wow. Wow. 25 assists as a rookie. That’s insane.

Ernie
Yeah, that was good, I know. It was fun. I had some great players I played with. They became you know, still great friends. A lot of them and you know, it’s nice to know that you had a goal, you work really hard, and it can be accomplished. I set goals for myself all the time. You know, for instance, this morning, I told you, I walked 14 and a half miles a day, I get up, I do eight miles. And then I’ll go out, and I’ll go do another three or four. And then later, I’ll do another three or four. But if I don’t set goals for myself, I get lazy.

Pamela Bardhi
Yeah, I was gonna say, what’s your strategy to success, Ernie? Because you broke every barrier possible in your life. So I’d love to know sort of what was the mentality or your strategy? Like you just said, goal setting?

Ernie
Yeah, but the one thing I got is this image. God gave me this image that I imagined things. You know, I imagine I could be a writer, I imagine I can do a movie, I imagine. The difference with me is that I don’t just imagine, I really go after it and believe it. That’s what’s different. I think, you know, a lot of people have thoughts and ideas, what they want to do, but they’re scared to make that commitment. I’m not afraid. And a lot of times you fall, you get disappointed, but you got to pick yourself up, and you got to keep going.

Pamela Bardhi
Yeah, and that’s the difference between extremely successful people and just normal, right? execute, you know, how to execute. And that’s the biggest thing, you know, and for anybody listening to who is looking for, like a new strategy of goal setting, and that kind of thing. What would be your secret sauce in that? You know, what, what would you share with them?

Ernie
Well, first of all, I’d say you’ve got to start with the premise that it can be done. Because I’m giving an example because I was only six feet tall. And most basketball players are 67697 feet right away, people look at me and say, it can’t be done. And like I said, even my mother who loved me more than anyone in the world, said go to work with your father, she didn’t know basketball players can make money. But everyone else said, You know, I would do something else, I look for another career.

If I ever listened to those people, I would have never achieved my goal. So the one premise that I’d start off with them is, you have to truly believe in yourself, if you don’t, and you question yourself, then you’re in trouble. So I would think that’s my biggest strength. I am a very confident person when I do something, and a lot of times I could be wrong. But with basketball, I was right.

Pamela Bardhi
I love it. I completely agree with you. It starts with yourself, right? You got to believe in yourself and you got to have that imagination and figure out how to execute. You know, one thing at a time. For you it was like all right, the endgame was getting to play in college.

Ernie
Yeah.

Pamela Bardhi
But first, you had to get to middle school you had to get through high school. You know, it’s like one thing, one thing at a time, you know,

Ernie
Yeah, but the weird thing is, and this is where I think it’s a gift from God. You know, I do what I wanted to be when I was 12 years old. That’s different, right? Like, a lot of people might not want to be something and they do it. I don’t know what other people do. I just believe that I never question and I couldn’t do it contrary to what people say.

Pamela Bardhi
It is, it is a gift truly, that you knew at that age, what you wanted to be and what you wanted to do. I think when I was 12, I wanted to be a singer and entertainer.

Ernie
Yeah, I wanted to be a singer too

Pamela Bardhi
Really? I couldn’t get there. But I just somehow we appeared. That’s so awesome. So fast forward and you’re in the NBA, and you’re playing for these amazing teams. What were some of your most impactful moments, in that experience?

Ernie
I used to love to play in New York. New York is the mecca of college basketball, New York City, Madison Square Garden. That’s where they have, the greatest acts in the world. And I used to play on a Saturday afternoon, and there’d be 19,500 people in the gym. And I’d go out and play. To me, you can’t duplicate that feeling when they call your name and you run out on the court and they introduce you and the crowd goes crazy or you do something to bring the crowd to their feet.

Those are memories that like etched in my mind forever. That feeling you can’t get that feeling anywhere. Those are the things that stand out to me. The crowds that the media. I was my wife used to save scrapbooks. You know, when I played in college, and All that stuff in the pros, and we got suitcases in the shed, and I was looking at some of them. And I found one article, where, you know, when a college player plays you want to get your name mentioned, you want to score a lot of points, you want to get your picture in the paper, this one paper had seven pictures of the same paper. I took it out, I gotta get it framed, because, that was the first I’ve ever seen.

So those things, motivate athletes, the publicity, the notoriety, the exposure, the crowd cheering, those are the things that pump athletes up. And also the money, you get paid a lot of money to play, something you love to do. But you can’t replace the chills you get when you bring the crowd to their feet. That’s special.

Pamela Bardhi
I can only imagine especially Madison Square Garden, you have almost 20,000 people in one room. Oh my God.

Ernie
Then you could compare that to imagining a singer like Michael Buble. Michael Jackson is those guys. I mean, they had that magic. Then all Barbra Streisand or Whitney Houston. They had that gift. And I tell you a quick story. When I play for the Celtics, my assistant coach was this guy, Casey Jones, who was a great, great player and a great guy. We were playing in New Orleans one night. And he said to me, Ernie, do you have a friend of mine who’d love to meet you? I said, No problem, Casey, take them by being happy to meet him.

So I’m in a locker room and he takes this guy in, and he shakes my hand. He says to me, I want to shake the hand of a true artist. He said it to me. And then I found out this guy was a world-renowned musician, Les McCann. And he was actually saying, what I did with a basketball was, you know, pure artistry, you know, dribbling behind my back, I’ll never forget that. Because that’s those are the things that make you like, say you had something special, and it was all worth it.

Pamela Bardhi
I know. And then that’s the thing when people validate your dreams like that, it’s just you just grow even stronger, and you just keep you, just sing, you know?

Ernie
Yeah.

Pamela Bardhi
And so what were some of the most inspiring teammates, like moments with teammates that you ever had throughout your career.

Ernie
In college, it was really different, you know, in the 70s. Just like today, racial relation was a tough thing. They were you know, whites weren’t talking to blacks, blacks weren’t talking to whites. And I was the little white guy from this little suburban town, North Providence. And my buddy was this guy, six foot nine, African American mob and bonds came from an all-black area. Our friends always tried to split us apart. But we became brothers and very close to each other. Because he and I both had a passion that we both wanted to be pros.

And we used to practice every day in practice pushing each other to get there. And he was just a phenomenal player. He had great timing and could rebound and block shots. But he was my brother because if my guy would dribble by me, he’d have to go by him and he would block the shot. But we’d be at we ended up becoming best friends, he’s to come over my house and eat on Sundays, what my family and I used to go over his house and eat with his mom and his sister. So that was one of my special teammates. In college. He was my brother, in the pros, pros are a lot different because, in professional athletes, they pretty much stay to themselves. They don’t have that closeness like it is in college where the game is fun.

When you get in the pros pan, money becomes a big factor and everybody’s worried about what the other guy makes. And so it becomes very competitive. And it was awful hot for me to get really close to too many guys, but I stayed close to a couple of the Celtics. Dave Collins was always a good friend of mine, Kevin Statham, a good friend of mine, and a couple of my teammates passed away who are really good people, but I love to go back to Buffalo, the buffalo people are special and they treat me like a king. So I still go back all the time.

Pamela Bardhi
Really.

Ernie
I always go back. I can go to a restaurant, right? Tomorrow in Buffalo, and they’ll remember me what it was in 1973 Can you believe that?

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my gosh. No way.

Ernie
Yeah, honestly. It’s amazing. I mean, it’s they love their athletes. They’re hard-working down to earth people, and they really, really care. I’ll give you an example. They had on TV the other day the Buffalo Bills played a football game. And the quarterback in a Buffalo Bills grandmother passed away. The people in Buffalo raised for the cause of the grandmother $570,000 and gave it to the cause on behalf of the quarterback. That’s what kind of people they are in Buffalo. They really care about people, their athletes, they love their athletes.

Pamela Bardhi
Wow.

Ernie
That’s a great story.

Pamela Bardhi
That’s incredible. Oh, man. And what would it say like throughout your basketball experience, so you played for four different teams? Yeah.

Ernie
Yep. Providence in college, and then Buffalo and Los Angeles and Boston.

Pamela Bardhi
Boston. What was it like playing for the Celtics?

Ernie
It was great. Celtics, the Celtics have a tradition. You know, they won so many championships. The guy who read our back was the matriarch of the whole Celtic tradition. He started the Boston Celtics and one time I said to him, Hey, Red, I’m gonna do a motivational video. Do you mind if we film you for a few words? And he said, Sure. So he got on and he said, you know, Ernie D was one of the few athletes who could sell tickets as an individual. And they were very, very few players in the history of the NBA that could do that.

To me, that was the greatest compliment I could get. I ever got my whole life and all the games because that came from the matriarch of the greatest dynasty, and all of the sports ran our backs. So I had some special people, special memories in Boston, and that probably is the greatest.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my gosh, it was Boston. I mean, we’re crazy over here. Every athlete you know, up-downs, whether you’re scoring all the points whether we’re winning, whether we’re not, Celtics fans are the wonderful kind who had the best fans, would it be buffalo or would it be Boston?

Ernie
You know Boston has a tradition. Buffalo has great fans but it took a while for basketball to catch on. And Boston, they have a tradition that they want 18 World Championships. That’s unbelievable. You know, it was my favorite athlete in Boston. Wasn’t even a basketball player. It was Bobby Orr the hockey player.

Pamela Bardhi
Yes, Bobby. Yes.

Ernie
Yeah. Cuz I used to watch him play. And I said This guy is unbelievable. You ever seen him play hockey? I’ve seen some footage of him. He was amazing. He was like, he was on a different level. He could handle the puck like it was attached to him. And when I saw that, that’s how I wanted to be with a basketball. He was my idol.

Pamela Bardhi
He was the hockey artist and you’re the basketball artist.

Ernie
Yeah, well, I could handle a basketball because I bounced it everywhere I did for eight hours a day. So I didn’t have to look down at it. So I could do some amazing things with a basketball. He practiced so much with a puck. You know, skating was so fast. And it was like, attached to him like a Yo-yo.

Pamela Bardhi
I love it. No, he was incredible. I’ve heard so many things. I mean, I used to intern, at TD Garden. So I got like a full, you know, walk through the Hall of Fame there and everything I learned about every, every athlete and one of them. That was every one of those statues was was Bobby Orr. And I heard about him too, which was so cool. What an experience and you know, you got to realize your dreams young, which I thought yeah, is really really, really amazing. And now after the NBA, where did you sort of transition into?

Ernie
Believe it or not, I don’t think I did a lot of different things like for 18 and a half years, I was the celebrity host at Foxwoods resort casino. I sign autographs and meet the high rollers and stuff like that, but nothing can ever touch the magic of when you’re doing something you love to do. Like, right now, I’ve found a passion for writing my books. And that’s exciting to me because you can share with people, some real stories of some special people. And it’s exciting. So I’m excited about where I am right now. Every day I wake up.

Pamela Bardhi
Yes, and I heard your story with Miley. I would love for you to share it if you’d be willing.

Ernie
Yeah, I’d love to share with you. My favorite my wife loves this one too. You’re ready? All right.

Miley was a baby kangaroo who was shy and very small, but when she played the game she loves she fell 10 feet tall. She practiced every night shooting fruit and her mother’s pouch, while the other kangaroos played video games on the couch. Miley shouted Eddie the eagle from high up in the sky. Comfy on my basketball team. I know we can win if we try. Miley had her doubts. She was too short. Her feet are too small. Anyone I run about I always seem to fall. Catch you take my mother and I watched from the sidelines. Trust me. You know what a kangaroo falls flat on her behind.

Oh, sweet. Miley said her mother, letting out a sigh. You can do anything you want, you only have to try. Just keep believing in your dream. And someday you will see there is no end at all to how happy you can be. Miley pondered for a minute. And then she finally agreed. You’ve shown me what it is to dream mom. It’s basketball I need. Soon the big day was upon them. Game Day was finally here. Miley looked at the crowd. Her eyes were filled with fear. Maybe this was a mistake, she thought quietly to herself. until tonight the only crowd I played for the animals I myself.

Then the thoughts in her head were suddenly cut short. Miley heard the band and saw the cheerleaders on the court before Miley knew it. The game excitement had begun. Remember senator mother. Just have yourself some fun. Then the crowd hush down and the announcer calls their name and just as Miley feared he’ll laugh when she came into the game. You’re too small to play with us big Bobby the bed laughed and said go back and you have above this pouch and hop back into bed. They’re right? I am too small sighed Miley feeling sad and alone. I just want to get my mother so we can both go back home. She hopped along quickly and started on her way. Wait up shouted at the eagle.

Please don’t throw your dream away. It may seem impossible and even quite unfair. But being your small size can help you if you dared. My looked at Eddie. She was puzzled and unsure how could beings three-foot tall help around the floor and he reassured her don’t give up just try your best believe in yourself and your talent will do the rest. Then he tossed Miley on his shoulders and they flew back into the game. And Miley played with confidence in that crowd shouted her name. She amazed them with her speed as she outran Rocco rabbit tying his ears and knots as she zoomed past them to the basket. She saw Tiny the elephant charging towards her which sets speed that zigzag between his legs leaving fans speechless and he everyone went wild as Miley hopped over Gillian, the giraffes head so high.

For a minute, she looked as though she could touch the bright night sky. Miley looked at the clock. There wasn’t much more time. It was now and never for Miley started really shine. She dribbled left, she dribble right, then straight through Tiny’s feet. And just because the buzzer sounded, she shot the ball from 30 feet. Swish went the ball in the basket. As everyone stands in wonder. The fans rushed to the floor their feet sounding the loudest thunder. Miley explained to her mother. You did it and I’m so proud that before she could say another word Miley was swept up by the crowd.

Finally, the night was ending. And Miley thanked everyone who loved her. Then perhaps most importantly, she had to thank her mother. Because of you, I believe in myself that I’m not afraid to dream. Now I have all I want need. My mother in my team. As the two bounced off together. Miley’s stars shine so brightly. Miley hopped back in her mother’s pouch said I love you, mom. Good night.

Pamela Bardhi
I love that.

Ernie
End. like that one?

Pamela Bardhi
I love it. I love it.

Ernie
I think you want little kids to believe in themselves. Right?

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my god. 100,000% I love it so much. It’s highly the underdog.

Ernie
Oh, you know?

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my gosh, that’s awesome. That’s so awesome. So basically, you’ve gotten into writing that you imagined this one’s for this book was for your grandkids. And I’m sure any kids out there are going to be so inspired by. I’m inspired by it.

Ernie
Thank you.

Pamela Bardhi
What so aside from Miley, what other books are you working on, or sort of different pieces that you’re working on?

Ernie
Yeah, I have one book already written, published. It’s called a solid a broken heart. That’s the one about my college coach Dave Gavitt, my teammate Marvin Bond’s who had a drug addiction, and myself, we get together at a young age. And then we go through all these battles on and off the court. And it’s not a basketball book. It’s a human storybook about, people and passion and drug addiction and everything.

Then I have my third book, I think you’re gonna like my third book, it’s all written. And it’s all copywritten and this one’s called Alfonzo saves the planet. And it’s about this Sumatran tiger, who gets together with his animal friends to try to explain to the humans you cannot keep building shopping plazas and houses and destroying our habitat, we have to work together in harmony together.

And it’s a great story because every single animal that gets involved, and there’s about 15 of them and play in this basketball game to try to show the humans, you know what is possible when you work together, there’s an Underdog Story involved when they go get every single one, whether it be the Badger, who’s overweight that has to get in shape, or pompom the giant panda bear, who has emphysema because of the smog and China, or all these different instances that have these really important issues about climate and climate control. So yeah, I think you’re gonna really like that one.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh, my gosh, I love them all. I love your imagination, and how broad that they are, you know, one, know the book that you’ve already published. That was more of nonfiction. That’s its reality. And then, the children’s book that you’re working on now. And then you have this book, as well. So I just love your spectrum and how broad

Ernie
Thank you. Well, you know, when you have seven grandchildren, right, you learn a lot about kids, and I’ve always loved kids because, believe it or not, I’ll be 70 years old, and I’m still a kid at heart. I think if you can, my daughter bought me, I have four daughters, she bought the mug from Disney. It said always remain a kid and it’s nice, because, you know, life goes by so fast. And if you can be around the people you love and do what you love to do, and like you’re doing helping people charter an easier way in life. You know you feel good about yourself, you’re giving back and you’re helping people. That’s why I admire what you’re doing. And it’s a real thrill to be on your show today.

Pamela Bardhi
Thank you so much. It’s an honor to have you, Ernie, seriously in every respect. And I mean, my last question for you is what would be your biggest piece of advice for someone who maybe wants to become an athlete or just anyone who’s trying to push for their dream in life? You know, what would be your best piece of advice.

Ernie
I think the best piece of advice is, everybody goes through adversity. Just because you don’t make the team one year, and the coach doesn’t believe in you. Don’t give up on your dream. Because anybody who achieves anything successfully, whether it be sports, or in business, has to go through tough times and failures, you just can’t quit when the tough time comes. That’s when you have to get stronger and more determined. And as long as you keep that cushion, where you’re not the type of person where you’re hurt, and you get devastated, you got to keep it all in perspective. Failing is part of the process to be successful. And I think that’s the most important message I can tell young kids when they play sports.

Pamela Bardhi
Amen to that and Ernie, I admire what you’re doing tremendously till I think you make a huge impact on the world. I think you mentioned you know, I was just going to ask you what’s next for you, but it sounds like your books working on my books. And it sounds like you’re going to the big screen soon.

Ernie
Yeah, for sure. We’re gonna have like what’s amazing about my story is I gave it to a gentleman at the college at Providence College, he read it we met a week later and for breakfast and the first words he said to me, this is a movie, this is a seven-part series and it starts out like different parts where it starts. So it’s not me that just believes it because I’m a believer, I believe the impossible. It’s a lot of people who are very smart and who understand the people and these are really unique people and the story is as timely as it can be with race relations being where it is. And also with drug addiction. That story is like today, tomorrow, and last week, so I’m excited about it. And I will send you a book in a couple of weeks, I promise.

Pamela Bardhi
Oh my god, I would love that. I would love that. And that now you gotta let everybody know how they can find you and your awesomeness.

Ernie
Yeah, right. Well, I will. And I’m working with the college now and getting a bunch of these books out to a lot of the alumni and a lot of season ticket holders, but it’ll go on the market before Christmas. So it’s pretty exciting.

Pamela Bardhi
Wow. Wow.

Ernie
Yeah.

Pamela Bardhi
And where can anybody find you to contact you?

Ernie
ErnieD.com.. That’s the easiest way.

Pamela Bardhi
Ernie. Thank you so, so much for being here today. You are so awesome in every respect, that I admire and respect you tremendously. And you know, it’s just your stories out of this world. And I know it’s gonna inspire many, many people who listen to it.

Ernie
Thank you. I appreciate it. And I appreciate your kindness and your big heart. And like we both know, you know, if you’ve got a heart and you care, it’ll show and it was a pleasure.

Tune in to the episode to hear the rest of my incredible interview with Ernie DiGregorio.