Stu Primus’ nickname on the Lynn Classical basketball team was “Do-It Stuart.”
Because he just did it. He did it on the basketball court and the football field, and even on the baseball field as an All-Star (with Tony Thurman) in the West Lynn National Little League. He later “did it” all as a guard on the Boston College basketball team that was a power in the formidable, best-conference-in-the-nation Big East playing John Thompson’s Georgetown teams (and Patrick Ewing twice a season). He also played spring football at BC. Primus was drafted by the Indiana Pacers in the 1985 NBA Draft and also played professionally in the USBL. Two of the 6-foot-3-inch Stuart Primus’ teammates in the USBL were 5-foot-6-inch Spud Webb and 7-foot-7-inch Manute Bol.
Primus was a phenomenal backcourtman on the 1979-80 Lynn Classical basketball team that many consider the greatest high school basketball team in Massachusetts history. One year later as a senior Primus was named the Boston Globe Player of the Year. The 1979-80 Lynn Classical quintet will be honored on June 11 at a celebration at the Lynn Museum.
One of the 1979-80 Rams’ greatest achievements came after they won the Division 2 state championship with a perfect 25-0 record.
Primus and teammates “Pancho” Bingham, Tony Thurman, Sandy McGee and Meryl Brown then marched into a sold-out Revere High School gymnasium and simply ran away from Division 1 state champion Cambridge Rindge and Latin while putting up close to 100 points in a victory over Patrick Ewing and Company. If that game were played today, it would have been broadcast live on ESPN.
The entire Classical Five, coached by Lou Falkoff and a young Tom Grassa, had played for the football team the previous fall, winning a Super Bowl.
The Amazing Pancho Bingham
Stu Primus had the utmost respect for all of his teammates during their time together in Lynn. William “Pancho” Bingham, for example, was 6-foot-4, but there was no posting-up, back-to-the-basket for the amazing Bingham, who instead thrived as a point guard alongside Primus and Thurman in the three-guard backcourt. Bingham became a Boston Globe All-Scholastic First Team selection on his way to a full scholarship at Boston University where his coach was Rick Pitino. Bingham had reportedly outperformed Patrick Ewing in a pre-season Lynn Classical-Cambridge Rindge and Latin scrimmage and scored 25 versus Ewing in the Rams’ win over Cambridge at Revere High. Had there been a three-point rule back then, there’s no telling how many points Bingham, Primus, Thurman, Brown, and McGee would have scored.
Another point to consider is that back then, Classical was a three-year high school, with players competing in junior high and freshman basketball as ninth graders.
“The whole thing about that Classical team was we could all handle the ball,” said Primus. “Pancho was the primary ballhandler and could shoot the lights out. But basically the ball came off the rim, someone grabbed the rebound and we went up the court and it worked out okay.”
“And we could all dunk the basketball, though we used to give Pancho some grief about some of his dunks,” jested Primus.
Tony Thurman became an All-American at BC
Like his Classical teammates, Tony Thurman was a Boston Globe All-Scholastic basketball player. Today his daughter, Ava, is a rising star for the Lynn Classical girls basketball program.
But it’s football where Thurman became a superstar and an All-American defensive back at Boston College.
“Tony was our starting quarterback at Classical and I was the backup,” recalled Primus, who started at outside linebacker and was the placekicker and punter. “Pancho was a tight end and middle linebacker. Sandy was one of the best athletes in football. He was a wide receiver, a kickoff and punt returner and a safety. Meryl was a receiver.”
Primus speaks reverentially about Thurman’s achievements in the BC football program.
“You know Tony was a consensus All-American at BC,” said Primus. “He was also a Hall of Fame collegiately. He set the all-time interceptions record (12) for a single season that still stands today. And he was on the Bob Hope All-American football show.”
Jeff Byrd Recognized Primus’ Incredible Potential
The stories never get old. Stu Primus personally recalled the tremendous guidance he received from long-time community leader Jeff Byrd who recognized Primus’ basketball gifts early and brought the rising star to Salem as a 15-year-old so he could play against older, more experienced players.
“So I’m now playing in the Salem summer league against adults and in my first game, every time I take it to the basket and go up for a rebound, this player keeps elbowing me in the side,” remembered Primus. “It was Tom Thibodeau (who is now the head coach of the NBA’s New York Knickerbockers).”
Byrd also brought Primus to the Wayne Embry Basketball Camp where Stu had the opportunity to meet and compete again Celtics players and coaches. “He [Byrd] dropped me off the camp and I was looking for him and he left. I had two of my best weeks being at that camp. During my breaks from basketball there I would go sit and talk with people. For two weeks, I had some great conversations about the Celtics and basketball with this gentleman who was courtside for the games. And then I realized I had been talking to Johnny Most (the long-time Celtics’ radio voice) for two weeks.”
Classical Alum Hogan Remembers the Best
They are such legends that high school basketball fans from that era like Patrick Smith and Tony Palmieri and a then 10-year-old Fred Hogan only need their singular names – Stu, Pancho, Tony, Sandy, and Meryl – to elicit joyful memories of when Classical basketball games could not be missed and you had to get there early or you didn’t get a seat.
“Those guys were like gods to me,” recalled Hogan, now a member of the Lynn City Council. “Watching that team play basketball and watching Stu and the guys grow up in the Marian Gardens and looking up to them, it was like looking up to the basketball gods and football gods. Those Classical teams back then were unbelievable. It was crazy looking at them as a 10-year-old. And you know what’s crazy, when you were four years old, you knew you were going to Lynn Classical. That’s how it was. You knew what school you were going to before you hit age 12. To honor this team after 40 years is a great thing. They definitely deserve the recognition.”