For Newell, engagement with the game proved to be its own reward
Upon hearing the news of
I hadn't realized that a single call with Newell had cost hundreds of dollars.
At the old coach's request I'd called him at 5 a.m.. ("Call me early. I'm an early riser.") And for three hours Newell had expounded on the game he loved. He pinballed from subject to subject: How to restore U.S. supremacy internationally. How to revive the lost art of post play. How to hammer home to a generation reared on
How good was Newell during his time on the bench? (Almost unimaginably, that career lasted only 14 seasons: at San Francisco, Michigan State and ultimately Cal, where he won an NCAA championship in 1959 and a year later lost to Ohio State in the final -- beaten by a defense that Newell himself had taught Buckeyes coach
Newell was the
During his dotage the man who had made an NCAA champion of 6-foot-10 plodder
Former NBA star
There's one final detail from that epic, triple-digit phone bill, and it tells you all you need to know about the man. I'd placed the call to East Lansing. The Spartans had gone 4-18 in 1949-50, the season before Newell arrived. And though they never placed better than third in the Big Ten during his four seasons there, the men who played for Newell found the experience so profound that they make a point of staging a reunion every year. That's where Newell was.
A 13-year coaching career. Retired at age 44. And the reason a bunch of ex-ballplayers have gotten together annually for more than a half-century.
Pete Newell, R.I.P.