Trinity-Pawling Bruce Birns

Bruce Birns ’70 has spent the past 48 years trying to prove to Miles Hubbard that he should have seen more playing time.

He recalls his senior year: “1969, all hell was breaking loose with Cambodia, Kent State, Vietnam. My biggest concern? Making varsity basketball. The team was ranked second in the Tri State League but I convinced Miles to keep me anyways.” Birns slid to the far end of the bench and joined the 30-30-200 Club. “Miles would play us for the last 30 seconds if we were 30 points ahead or behind, and our parents had traveled for 200 miles or more to see the game.”

Birns’ love for basketball has never waned. He plays hoops weekly in an intense Manhattan lawyers’ league and holds season tickets to the Knicks. Birns had a 30-year career as an assistant district attorney in the Bronx and now works on the other side of the courtroom as a criminal defense lawyer. He also has developed a credible side gig acting in television crime dramas including Law & Order. Birns is currently working on a TV pilot and writes courtroom scenes for a movie project with Chris Noth.

But his best career move? “I married Rachel in 2012. She’s 25 years my junior and we have two amazing sons, Josh and Matty, 5 and 3. I’m in the gym five days a week so I can keep up with them. I figure I’ll be 100 when they graduate from T-P.”

Every February, Birns returns for the last game of the season. “Miles sets me up with a rack of balls before the game and I shoot free throws and three pointers.” In 2010, that morphed into a contest where Birns became the ‘celebrity shooter’ at halftime. For every three-pointer he made, he would donate $25 to the annual fund.

“Shooting in an empty gym is one thing. Standing at the line in front of a packed raucous house is another. Each ball felt 500 pounds!” The first year, he went 0 for 6. “In an attempt to save face, I stepped up my pledge to 50 bucks a pop and incredibly, I made the next four, swishing the last three. It was the best 200 bucks I ever spent.”

The tradition now involves 20 free throws at $25 each and 5 three-pointers at $100 apiece. In 2016, Birns went 19 for 20. Hubbard couldn’t believe it. This past September, with Hubbard as witness, Birns hit 14 free throws and 4 shots from the top of the key. “I turned to him expectantly and said, ‘So what d’ya think?’ Miles smiled and said, ‘I think you write a check for 750 bucks. And, I still wouldn’t have played you.’ ”

Birns figures he’s dished out $4500 to the annual fund since 2010. “50 years later, I’m still driven by a desperate need to convince Miles he overlooked my prowess back in 1969. This is getting expensive but I’m not giving up.”

Keep the faith, Bruce. Josh and Matty may secure the Birns basketball legacy in a few years…

by Maria Buteux Reade