Rubama: Bob Ferry was the first scout to attend the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament. Many more followed him there.

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When the Portsmouth Invitational Tournament was in its early stages, the event needed something to give it a boost.

It got it with an endorsement from Bob Ferry, who was then a general manager with the Baltimore Bullets.

“He was the first (NBA) scout to ever come to the PIT in 1972,” said James “Booty” Baker, one of the PIT’s organizers, who served on the selection committee. “And he came here to see a little guard named Kevin Porter from St. Francis in Pennsylvania. After he came in and saw him play and saw the talent we had, he told Marty Blake, who was the chief scout for the NBA. And Marty told all of the other scouts. That’s when the scouts started coming to the PIT.”

Ferry died last month. He was 84.

Baker, 92, said hearing about Ferry’s passing was tough because he knew what he meant to the PIT. He also formed a friendship with him.

“He was a great man and a funny man,” Baker said. “He and I were really good friends. His wife and my wife, we would have dinner together.”

Ferry was a journeyman center who played in the NBA for 10 seasons for the St. Louis Hawks, Detroit Pistons and Baltimore Bullets.

He remained with the Bullets as a scout and assistant coach to Gene Shue before he transitioned into the front office, where he helped guide the Washington Bullets to their only championship in franchise history during a nearly two-decade run as general manager. He also won the NBA Executive of the Year Award in 1979 and 1982. He is the father of former NBA player and Duke All-American Danny Ferry.

Baker said Ferry was a huge part of the history of the PIT. Ferry was impressed with the quality of play, and soon word spread to other NBA GMs that you could find players at the PIT.

Ferry found Porter. He went on to play 10 seasons in the NBA. He led the league in assists in four of those seasons.

By the 1980s, every NBA team scouted the PIT.

“He meant so much to it because he was the first scout to come,” Baker said. “He encouraged other scouts to come. And he came every year. The last time I remember seeing him was 2018.”

Hall of Fame basketball coach Lefty Driesell also has fond memories of Ferry.

“When he would come, I would go with him sometime (to the PIT),” said Driesell, who played in the PIT and was named to the all-tournament team in 1955 and 1956. “He was a great guy and was like a brother to me.”

Driesell, who was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2018, said Ferry had strong ties to the area.

“I gave $100 to the Boys and Girls Club here in his honor,” Driesell said. “That’s what he wanted me to do.”

The PIT began in 1953 and is limited to college seniors. The participants read like a who’s who of basketball, with such former performers as Rick Barry, Dave Cowens, Earl Monroe, John Stockton, Scottie Pippen, Doug Moe, Dennis Rodman and Jimmy Walker.

It has been played annually, except for the past two years due to COVID. But it’s set to return in 2022. The 68th PIT is scheduled for April 13-16, 2022.

Baker is glad to see it return, but said it’s going to be strange without Ferry in attendance.

“We’ll miss him coming to the PIT because of his friendship,” he said. “Every year he came, he would come down and talk to us and the people. He had a lot of friends in Portsmouth. He’ll be missed.”

Larry Rubama, 757-446-2273, larry.rubama@pilotonline.com Follow @LHRubama on Twitter.