These are the sounds of college basketball coaches getting out of college basketball coaching:
•"I could feel myself little by little just kind of shrinking."—Ed Jucker, Cincinnati.
•"I've always been pretty wild at games, but I could always calm down. The last couple of years I found I was unable to calm down, to get control of myself."—Ray Eddy, Purdue.
•"The kids have changed. Each year they are less willing to make the sacrifice, to pay the price. I found myself being excessively critical."—Chuck Ors-born, Bradley.
March 22, 1965
•"All of a sudden it seemed that all the students began chanting, 'Jordan must go! Jordan must go!' That one incident clinched it. I decided that coaching wasn't worth it."—Johnny Jordan, Notre Dame.
•"The seasons seemed to get longer and longer and the summers shorter and shorter."—Branch McCracken, Indiana.
•"There's no such thing as time to a basketball coach. They don't consider you have a home. You are expected to go 24 hours a day. I've got four kids. They grew up too fast. I want them to know me."—Ed Jucker, Cincinnati.
The two coaches who joined the swelling tide of evacuees last week—Ray Eddy of Purdue and Presley Askew of New Mexico State—brought to 12 the number that have either resigned or submitted to resignation (it is not always so easy to tell which) since the regular season ended.
Four quit in one week, an all-time record for this kind of action, and there are fresh tremors to indicate more will follow. The total number may not be impressive when you consider that by the popular undergraduate technique you could get them all into a Volkswagen. But in proper context—the job being as glamorous, notably rewarding, challenging and coveted as it is supposed to be—the rush of resignations is at the very least, stunning.
The thread that ultimately draws them together—that occupational pressure peculiar to basketball—runs a twisting course in a study of the principals. They range from the sublimely successful Ed Jucker—two NCAA championships in his first two years at Cincinnati and runner-up in the third—and Chuck Orsborn of Bradley to consistent losers like Red Lawson of Georgia. The majority had won more than they had lost. Some had done poorly this season (Jim Williams was 4-19 at American University, Taps Gallagher 4-17 at Niagara), but some had had fine seasons (McCracken was 19-5 at Indiana). They are as old and experienced in their trade as Gallagher, who is 60 and has been at Niagara 31 years, and as young as Williams, 31, and Jim Nau of Idaho State, who has been at the job only two years.
Not all of them were physically bowled over by the pressure. Orsborn says, matter-of-factly, that coaching college basketball "is no more a pressure job than selling insurance or doing anything else these days." But Red Lawson broke under "physical and mental fatigue," Branch McCracken has been too ill to receive visitors for a week, Ed Jucker has been in and out of hospitals for three years, Taps Gallagher has a respiratory ailment and Pres Askew suffers from vertigo. Ray Mears of Tennessee, who has not quit, missed the 1962-63 season when he suffered a nervous breakdown.
Most of them claim they never experienced "traditional" pressures: scheming alumni, critical press, reactionary students and disloyal fans who write obscene letters and call at 4 in the morning. Orsborn was twice hanged in effigy and once burned at the stake the year he won 19 of 26 games, but he laughed it off. Still, Pres Askew was troubled when openly criticized by the Las Cruces, N.M. press. Harassing phone calls helped speed Eddie Melvin's resignation at Toledo. Gallagher was harassed by a sports-caster who regularly suggested ways to improve his team, and he could not always appreciate the perspective of Niagara's fans—"they are often intelligent, successful businessmen, even the reverend fathers, who cannot lose gracefully. Their philosophy is to be a good loser, but don't lose."
Though he is less shaken by such things, Chuck Orsborn remembers a day his daughter Carolyn came to him in tears and said, "Daddy, I'm glad you won last night. Now they won't be so hard on me at school." Orsborn reminded her of the time Bradley won the NIT and she rode into Peoria from the airport in an open car, waving and calling to her friends. "I told her she had to learn to take the good with the bad. But that didn't make me forget those tears."
Some are bitter over their experience. Nau, of New Mexico State, says he is out of the game for good at 34. Taps Gallagher, on the other hand, wishes he were starting all over. Many will stay on as professors at their schools; Orsborn would have coached another few years, had he not been offered the athletic directorship at Bradley. The majority felt, in one way or another, a growing weariness of the job, a kind of creeping despair they believed they had brought on themselves—what Ray Mears called "becoming a victim of the enthusiasm you create."
"I'm only 53," says Eddy of Purdue, "certainly not retirement age, but I've been coaching 31 years and, believe me, there were no pressures I did not cause myself." Orsborn says he had gotten out of touch, had found it more and more difficult to communicate with 20-year-old boys. He says what shocked him most was that he had begun to forget names. "I'd have five guys in front of me and I'd say, 'Now, Joe, you go here, Fred you go there and uh, uh, you, you go over there.' "
If they all agreed on anything, it was that recruiting became a misery. "It's dog-eat-dog," says Eddy. "It was distasteful," said Johnny Jordan when he quit at Notre Dame. "A rat race," says Orsborn. "I let my assistant do most of it."
Easily the most shocking resignation was Jucker's—he has had a continuing success, and he is only 47. But Jucker is a far more intense man than, say, Chuck Orsborn. He has suffered from a series of hospitalizing ailments: a cyst operation, an appendectomy, a kidney ailment. Worse, he is dead serious every waking minute.
"I coach the game like I'm playing it," he says. "After a bad game, I feel like I've gone through a wringer. I'm completely exhausted physically. There is no such thing as a clock in this job. If a coach could just coach, he'd be better off—but there's mail, boosters' meetings, luncheons, frequent visitors, nightly obligations, recruiting, plans for a particular game, screening of movies, and on and on. I'm not saying that's the way to coach. But that's the way I coached."
The conclusions to be drawn are at best fragmentary. Coaching college basketball has always been a little like eating spaghetti in a white shirt—rewarding if handled neatly, obvious when mistakes are made. The fans have always sat on the scruff of a coach, peering over his shoulder. No one has yet advanced a formula for low-pressure recruiting. And with it all, one thing is sure: for every coach who quit, there are five, 10, 20 ready to close the ranks. And for every coach getting old and tired there is an Adolph Rupp who, at 63, said the other day, "I'm going on until they carry me out." It is the particular nature of the business.