When we last heard from Mike Homer, the Lafayette freshman had just dropped 22 points on a Maryland team that was on its way to a No. 5 ranking early in the 1996-97 basketball season.
Like the Terps, Homer faded after that.
“That, I guess, was my one shining moment, if you want to put it that way,” the 1996 Lewis and Clark graduate said. “My career went downhill from there. The team got better but I didn’t improve.”
The former All-Greater Spokane League pick, who teamed with Paul Mencke to help the Tigers end a three- decade absence from the state tournament, was also part of Leopard history.
Homer started 22 games in his career, 18 his freshman season when he averaged 11.6 points a game, a number that dropped to 1.0 as a senior. However, Lafayette won the Patriot League his junior and senior years to earn a spot in the NCAA tournament and won a school-record 24 games his senior year.
“I got play in the Big Dance. It was awesome,” Homer said. “I stuck it out and it was a great experience all around. Playing basketball was a real honor.”
And he is convinced that lessons from the hardwood are serving him well now.
Homer is a dealer’s assistant at PaceWildenstein, which has three art galleries in New York and just opened a space in Beijing.
“It’s a huge operation as far as art galleries go,” Homer said. “We have more than 100 people, which is unusual. Most galleries are pretty small. It’s pretty corporate but it’s a great place to learn the business. It’s a good place to get exposure to all types of different people in the art world.”
Homer, who would like to have his own gallery, has a multitude of tasks.
“My gallery represents more than 50 artists so we have a huge inventory of art work,” he said. “Our job is to know what art work is available, what’s reserved, where the art work is. When my boss snaps his fingers … I have to know.”
When Homer graduated from Lafayette in 2000 he considered a future in architecture. He moved to San Francisco and to test the vocation got a job with an architecture firm. Even though his job was in human resources, he learned enough to know that wasn’t his future.
He decided to put his art degree to work and moved to New York shortly after 9/11. There wasn’t much work and he soon blew through his savings. He took an HR job with Saks Fifth Avenue, which he called a complete catastrophe because it wasn’t what he wanted to do. So he moved home – his parents had relocated to Lancaster, Pa. – and applied to graduate schools. He was accepted at Pratt, in Brooklyn, where he spent two years.
“It was an incredible experience. I learned a lot,” Homer said. “And it’s incredibly expensive. I’m going to be paying for it the rest of my life.”
And about those life lessons in basketball?
He told the Lafayette alumni magazine, “Coach Fran O’Hanlon used to say 50 times a day, ‘Pay attention to detail.’ It became lodged in my brain. Now my attention to detail is a skill I use every day.”
Then there was something from then LC coach Glenn Williams, which used to make Homer mutter under his breath.
“He used to scream every morning at the 7 a.m. practice,” Homer recalled. “He’d yell, ‘It’s great to be alive, Homer, great to be alive!’
“That’s something that stuck with me. No matter what’s going on in my life, how stressful things become or if things are just going bad, it’s something I think about. It really is important to treasure your health, treasure the present moment. That’s something he helped me understand.”
Homer has fond memories of Spokane and hopes to revive his old Hoopfest team, but it is unlikely he’ll return.
“I’ll always think of Spokane as my first home; always think of it fondly. I loved growing up there but I really feel like New York is my home now,” he said. “I love the city, love the energy, love the culture. Art is what I’m most interested in, what moves me, and New York is really the art capital of the world. Being here is very important to me.”