1 ST. JOSEPH'S
Matt Guokas Jr., a 6-foot-5½ guard and the best passer on campus, bounced the ball through a collage of hands, and Cliff Anderson, a 6-foot-4 center, snared it, reached over the rim and laid it in. Matt Guokas Sr., watching the practice session, smiled at the display. "When Matty was young," he said, "he always played with kids a lot older. That's when he learned to pass." His son found Forward Tom Duff clear on the side. "Matty knew the older kids would let him play with them if he kept passing. You let the kid play who is feeding you," said Guokas Sr. And Matty Jr., an All-America although he averaged only 13 points a game last year, is still passing. He passes so much that no less an authority on selflessness than Bill Bradley once suggested that Guokas should work more for his own shots.
Guokas (pronounced goo-cass) is "the key," according to St. Joe's Coach Jack Ramsay, to the most cohesive team in the country. After a full season together and a 17-game summer State Department tour in South America, the team also appears to be the best. There was not a senior among the regulars last year when the Hawks surprised everybody (Ramsay, particularly) with a 26-3 record. This year Ramsay, an articulate doctor of education, says they are the best he has ever had. There is not much height and little bench, but the Hawk—as they scream it at the Palestra—looks as if it will come flying in.
"This is the same kind of team as the-Mighty Mites," Guokas Sr. said as Matty hooked the ball to Forward Marty Ford. "On a graduated scale, of course." The Mighty Mites were the most famous of the early St. Joe's teams, a combination that included Matt Guokas Sr. as a 6-foot-3 center and four itty-bitty Hawks, only one as tall as 6 feet, scooting all around him. A few years later Guokas Sr. was a member of the first championship team, the 1946-47 Philadelphia Warriors, in what is now the NBA. After that season he lost his left leg in an auto accident. He has, however, maintained a close association with athletics, and still gives basketball clinics in playgrounds all over Philadelphia. He was also the radio play-by-play man for the Warriors for six years, and is now the P.A. announcer for both the Eagles and Phillies. For a long time he worked the broadcasts of the Big Five basketball games, but had to give that up because no matter how objective he sought to be, suspicious fans said Matt Guokas Sr. was 1) too complimentary to Matt Guokas Jr., or 2) too critical of same.
December 6, 1965
Matty used to keep score for his father on Warrior broadcasts and is still his best spotter for the Eagle games. "Most people follow the ball," Guokas Sr. said as Matty flipped over to Billy Oakes on a fast break. "So you get a spotter and tell him to check the defense for tackles. But Matty can follow the ball and still pick up the line play and give me three tacklers on every play." Although he has started wearing contacts for farsightedness, Matty still spots his basketball teammates with the same visual agility. "If we can get Matty around the free-throw line with the ball," Ramsay says, "something is going to happen for us."
Matty originally went to the University of Miami. He still talks fondly of that school, but decided to come back home to his father's alma mater after his freshman year. That decision deprived Rick Barry, the country's top scorer at Miami last season, of two years of Matty's passing. Guokas and Anderson joined St. Joe's varsity last year and moved it up immediately. Anderson not only led the team in scoring, but despite his limited height was, amazingly, 10th in rebounds in the nation with 15 a game. All Hawk starters were well in double figures as scorers, with the two consistent forwards, Ford and Duff, both at 12, and Oakes, the scrappy 5-foot-11 guard, at 16.
Short of reserves, however, the Hawks peaked early and were worn down by the time they reached the NCAA. Ramsay, a master of switching defenses, had his team pressing hard and often all over the court. "We're so small that we have to make our defense control the game," he says. "We almost have to eliminate an opponent's favorite moves, so that our own weaknesses cannot be manifested. With our size, we simply can't let the other team work the ball inside." Capitalizing on Matty's ball handling, he had his team run more, too. "It was effort, effort, effort," Ramsay says. "And eventually, it just took its toll. We've got to try to compensate for that some way during this season."
"I remember," Matty says. "It was near the end of the first half of the Penn game. And that was just January, early in the season. All of a sudden, I felt it. I was just so tired. Well not tired, just"—he dropped his arms limply—"just blah. I thought, 'Oh, no, this can't be happening now.' "
The Hawks have not picked up any significant additions to the squad, but last year's sixth man, 6-foot-7 honor student Chuck McKenna, has improved considerably and will be used much more. In fact, in South America, Ramsay toyed with a lineup that had McKenna at center and Anderson at guard. There are not many center-guard types like Anderson around, but there are not many teams as disciplined as this one, either, or as versatile or as capable of making a game go its way. The St. Joe's defense dominates. Then Guokas passes, and everybody can score.
Riney Lochmann and Walt Wesley showed up at Lawrence as freshmen three years ago. Lochmann, a husky 6 feet 5 from downstate in Wichita, was all the rave. A two-time high school All-America, he cannot even estimate the number of colleges that fought over him. It is so silly, the way things have worked out, that Riney blushes when he admits they called him "Superman" then. This kid was going to put Kansas basketball back on top.
Wesley, 6 feet 11 worth of legs and dreams, came from a segregated high school in Fort Myers, Fla. He had had maybe five colleges interested in him. After all, he had averaged hardly a dozen points a game. He often tumbled over his own legs on court. For laughs, at Kansas they like to bring out films of his freshman play. "You can't believe the improvement," Lochmann says. "I mean, it is incredible."
Wesley averaged 23 points last year, Lochmann 7. These things happen to high school All-Americas. They particularly happen to All-Americas like Lochmann, a kid who matured early and could overpower his prep opposition. At Kansas he found out soon enough that he was not quite fast enough or quick enough, not quite that good a shooter or that powerful a re-bounder. The thing about Lochmann, however, is that he could adjust. "I have never seen a boy put out like this one," Coach Ted Owens says. "We've got a lot of forwards fighting to start, but none of them can ever begrudge Riney anything he accomplishes." Last year Lochmann managed to piece together such an all-round performance in the Big Eight tournament that, although he was not picked on the all-star team, he was voted the co-MVP of the tournament. "I've never heard of that before," Owens says.
Wesley represents the other extreme—the long-legged kid who grew up and gained coordination late. "Yes, I guess I did shoot up," he says, straight-faced. "Why, I was only 6 feet 6 in my freshman year in high school, and I was 6 feet 10 when I graduated." Wesley, unlike Lochmann, must be pushed all the time, and Owens keeps at him. "I just want him to be great," Owens says with feeling.
The Jayhawkers start off as much the best in the Big Eight. On the freshman team they have a terrific 6-foot-2 guard named Jo Jo White who will be eligible for the varsity at midyear. Next to UCLA, and with or without White, Kansas has the best freshman team in the country, so White is almost sure to be called up to replace one of the starting guards—Al Lopes or Del Lewis. Wesley, of course, is set in a very low post—almost begging the opposition to play in front of him. The Jayhawkers work hard at special lob drills. At the forwards Rod Franz, a junior, Rod Bohnenstiehl, a sophomore, and Bob Wilson, a transfer, are all better than Lochmann. "O.K.," says Lochmann. "If they beat me out, it's going to mean we'll have an awfully good team, and that's all right with me."
Connected to the phone in Vic Bubas' office is an efficient-looking gadget on which two rows of lights flash silently, not interfering at all with the soft music piped into the speaker above the desk. If you know Vic Bubas you know the lights represent calls—long-distance calls—and that they are all being efficiently channeled to various assistant coaches by a battery of blonde secretaries. And you know that none of the calls are frivolous. No, sir. Vic Bubas does not work that way. Trivia is not tolerated in the wood-paneled offices at the northeast end of Duke's Indoor Stadium; if a call gets as far as an assistant coach, you know it concerns a tall, agile lad in Albuquerque, or the character flaw in the hotshot guard from California that Duke may meet in a tournament later this year. All such information will be brought to the attention of Bubas later in the board of directors room, recorded in triplicate and carefully filed. And that is one way to run a basketball team.
So what, you ask? So Duke has won more games (115) than any other major-college team in the country over the last five years, and when you figure who is going to be the best you always consider Duke. Ask any outstanding white player in the country (Duke has not recruited Negro athletes) what colleges he seriously considered attending and the odds are he will tell you they were Duke and the college he is attending—which may be Duke also. Once a player gets to Duke he is fed, counseled and prepared to play basketball as few students are fed, counseled and prepared to do anything anywhere. Practice sessions are preceded by staff meetings that would make a Cabinet session appear spontaneous. When the sweep-second hand hits 4:30, the whistle blows. There are no last shots at the basket, no banter, no horseplay—just an immediate dash to assigned places. If the initial drill calls for hopping up and down the length of the floor, that is exactly what happens. Not before the whistle, of course.
Most of Duke's assets return this year, meaning Jack Marin, a 6-foot-6 senior who scored 19 points a game; 6-foot-1 Steve Vacendak (16), who, once in motion at practice, has to be tackled by his teammates to be brought to rest; and Bob Verga, a shortish, frail-looking boy who is short (6 feet) but is not frail and who can score 21 points a game with an amazing variety of shots. Duke gets the points all right, though last season the shooters hardly ever had more than one crack at the basket. This season Bubas has 6-foot-7 Mike Lewis from Montana, and if that isn't enough, there is Warren Chapman, an inch taller, from Texas. They should get the rebounds.
In the Atlantic Coast Conference 29 of the top 40 scorers are back. Duke will win anyway, but not without bleeding a few times.
It was a routine practice session last year until Clyde Lee said a naughty word. Everyone froze. While the hush rang off the sides of the empty Vanderbilt field house, Lee began to turn rose-pink, starting at the tip of his scalp and spreading nonstop over his 6 feet 9 inches. Eventually the silence was broken by a giggle that led to genuine guffaws and, with Lee still blushing violently, practice continued. Clyde Lee, as all Nashville will tell you, is the finest player Vanderbilt has ever had, and he is also shy, devout, almost never loses his temper and never, never says naughty words. Until last year, when an opponent stuck an elbow in his ear, Lee usually apologized for getting in the way. A lot of this has to do with the long, skinny legs that inevitably assemble under gangly ninth-graders. Lee, at age 15, was almost 6 feet 4 and hated it. "I didn't play basketball then," he recalls, "because I wouldn't be caught dead in those short pants." Eventually his high school coach convinced Lee that no one was going to laugh at him because he was tall for his age and as a concession allowed him to practice in sweat pants. But even when his long skinny legs became long sturdy ones Lee remained half a foot taller than his opponents and determined not to take advantage of such an asset.
Last year Lee turned up for fall practice dead tired after playing 49 games in 40 days on a summer tour of the Far East. Still, Vanderbilt won the SEC, because Roy Skinner is a coach who can blend all kinds of talent and because Lee can do more while hardly trying than most players can going full tilt. But, thought Skinner, if he could only get Lee to snap, crackle and pop! Just before the game with Miami of Ohio, Skinner showed Lee an opposing team's scouting report. Lee read that he was a poor defender and an indifferent rebounder and that he was easy to push around. He was wide-eyed and shocked. Then came 1) the naughty word, 2) a school rebound record against Miami (26) which he broke again several nights later, and 3) enough points and blocked shots the rest of the season to make him an All-America.
Along with Lee, Skinner has Keith Thomas, who shoots so accurately that the coach called a press conference this fall when the 6-foot-3 guard missed one in practice. Bo Wyenandt and Bob Warren are sophomores but they are also 6 feet 5 and quick, and the only problem is whether to use them as forwards or guards. To get the ball in to Lee in the pivot, Jerry Southwood, an excellent floorman, is back after missing a semester. All Skinner needs is another provocative scouting report.
Kenny Washington, fresh from Beaufort, S.C., sat in Hollis Johnson's soda fountain in Westwood Village in Los Angeles, having lunch with a white boy from Kentucky. It was the fall of 1962, and they were freshmen at UCLA. "I'd never spoken much to white people in Beaufort," Washington says, remembering his nervousness. "Why, I'd never even been in a restaurant before. When they asked me what kind of salad dressing I wanted, I didn't say a thing. I didn't know about salad dressing." This year Washington and the Kentucky boy, Doug McIntosh, have the chance to accomplish what no one else ever has—to play on the maximum possible number (three) of national championship basketball teams.
Ironically, this distinction may fall upon two players who have yet to become recognized stars. McIntosh did start last year, but his talents are the unobtrusive sort, and he has never been a big scorer. Washington, a fast, springy 6 feet 2, has seldom started a game, but he has already become the most famous sixth man in college basketball history. He came off the bench in the title game against Duke in 1964 to score 26 points and snare 12 rebounds; last season, in the finals, he went in earlier than usual and scored 17 to lead the surge over Michigan.
Washington arrived in L.A. by a devious route whose last stage was a three-day Greyhound ride from Beaufort. Turned down at many schools because he was too small, Kenny went to live for a summer with a married sister in Philadelphia so that he could meet and play with UCLA star Walt Hazzard. Hazzard was impressed enough to call UCLA and tell Coach John Wooden that Washington was 6 feet 5 and 210 pounds. Wooden said to send him along, and Assistant Coach Jerry Norman went to meet the Beaufort bus. "I kept looking for this giant Hazzard said could jump over the basket," Norman says, "but all I saw was this rather scrawny kid, scared to death. When no one else got off, I knew it was Kenny." Kenny was scared, and not just of coaches who thought he was going to be 6 feet 5. "I had no background for UCLA," he recalls. "I didn't know how to study. I was lost in that huge library. But this was paradise, and I wanted to stay. I was going to stay." His father, a career Marine sergeant, traveled to Kansas City to see Kenny star against Duke. Last December his mother and a sister came out from Beaufort. They flew, and the trip was on Kenny. He had saved up so they could travel all that way to see him come off the bench.
This year Kenny will start, along with All-America Ed Lacey, Mike Lynn, Fred Goss and either Mike Warren or McIntosh. But the spark of Gail Goodrich and the superb safety-man play of Keith Erickson are gone. Though best in the West, UCLA will have trouble earning more than regional top ranking.
Coach Dave Strack is happiest when Cazzie Russell's name comes up. Coach Strack actually is not averse to bringing Cazzie's name up himself, whereupon his enthusiasm for his star gushes forth mightily. Strack finally arrives at the belief that mere dialogue can no longer do Cazzie justice. Then, overwhelmed by his own words, he says simply: "He continuously amazes me." Last year, when people would suggest that there might be a better player around, Strack, in exasperation, would protest that they just did not "understand" Cazzie—as if he were somehow playing on a different level from all the rest. There is considerable testimony from less-biased observers to support such a contention, and this year, anyway, there is no doubt at all that the best player in college is Cazzie Lee Russell Jr. of Michigan.
"His greatest ability is to perform 150% in clutch situations," Strack says, in one sample of the harmless error into which his enthusiasm leads him. "Russell is just better when there's tenseness out there. I know it's a cliché, but notice the games when we're 25 points ahead. Cazzie will stand back there and pass, and he's more just like any other player." Then, having caught his own unintentional blasphemy, Strack corrects himself: "Well, now, not like any other player, but well, not like he is in the clutch. He continuously amazes me."
Strack says Russell is better than last year and that his vision has improved. It is difficult to grasp this, since Cazzie said a year ago that his peripheral vision enabled him to see all nine other players as he crossed the midcourt line. Maybe now he can see both benches as well. Improving on his pressure performances of last season will be just as difficult. All he did then was:
•Twice hit baskets to win games at the buzzer.
•Score eight points in an overtime, as Michigan won by five.
•Sink two free throws in the last minute of double overtime to give Michigan a one-point victory.
•Get five points in the last 33 seconds as Michigan came from behind to win by one.
•Make 11 points in the last four and a half as Michigan came from behind, then went ahead on his basket with 1:35 left, finally won by two.
Cazzie gets a new supporting cast, as three starters have graduated from the team that was second in the NCAA last year. Bill Buntin's rebounding, especially, will be missed. The new team is hardly as hefty as last year's Anvil Chorus, but it is just as tall and considerably quicker. This speed may bring out the best in Cazzie. "I love to pass to a man going in and watch him score," Cazzie says. "Besides, it boosts his morale." Eligible morale boostees include 6-foot-10 Craig Dill at center, John Thompson in the backcourt with Cazzie, and John Claw-son or Jim Myers at one forward. Oliver Darden is the arm and hammer (6 feet 7, 225) still left in the forecourt. Russell, Darden and Myers are all working out in the post as subs for Dill.
Strack will not have as much as usual on the bench this year, but he will have just as good a view of his favorite, and there seems to be no reason why he won't be continuously amazed.
7 SAN FRANCISCO
Now that Coach Pete Peletta's ulcers are acting up again, the doctors and his pretty wife Ginny have laid down a few laws. For one, Peletta must cut out his usual pregame diet of coffee and cigarettes. In their place, food, of all things, has been prescribed. Unfortunately, this may cause a problem for Peletta's new center, 6-foot-8, 225-pound Erwin Mueller. Mueller, who is moving over from forward, also used to move over at pre-game meals and polish off Peletta's plate after he was through with his own. Obviously, now, what is sauce for the coach cannot be sauce for the center.
Mueller's dietary exploits have long been more consistent than his play, which has varied from very good to, well, the sort of things that cause coaches to get ulcers. He has, however, always been amazingly accurate within a few feet of a Pepsi. A group of entrepreneurs on campus were shrewd enough to reconnoiter his room after school closed one year, and recovered 240 empty quarts. However bottomless, Mueller is nevertheless inclined toward thinness, and when he went down to 205 near the end of last season he was put on a food supplement, a thick, milk shakelike substance. Mueller had no problems in switching. On a dare, he chug-a-lugged a double-sized glass in five seconds, which teammates promote as the world record. This past summer the Foremost Dairy plant—presumably on a dare also—hired Mueller, and his weight went up 15 pounds. Then school started, and Foremost Dairy stockholders breathed easily again. The unlimited milk supply and a daily quart of ice cream apparently arrested Mueller's weight loss, but, as teammate Joe Ellis reveals, Erwin will burp every so often, "and then we know he's been hitting the Pepsi again."
Mueller moves to center in place of the graduated All-America, Ollie Johnson, and how he manages there will greatly determine how USF does this year. In each of the last two seasons UCLA's toughest games on the way to the title were against the Dons, and Johnson is about all USF has lost. Ellis, a slender 6 feet 6, who can play forward or guard, will again handle the opponents' best man. Ellis played on the U.S. team this summer in Europe with the likes of Bill Bradley, Fred Hetzel and Lou Hudson. He learned, Peletta says, how good he really is. The Dons have a weak spot up front, but two good guards in Russ Gumina and Larry Blum. And the team plays defense in the best USF tradition. If coach and center eat well enough, San Francisco should win another WCAC title and again be a big worry for UCLA.
8 OHIO STATE
Ron Sepic is 6 feet 4 and 215 pounds, which is a good start for a man called on to be a backcourt bullyboy. With his wavy black hair and deep-set, dark eyes, however, Sepic looks more like the leading man than the bad guy. He was a high school All-America football end, but he gave up head-cracking for the slightly more delicate pursuit of basketball—a decision that sent OSU Football Coach Woody Hayes into a personal display of three yards and a cloud of dust. Now Sepic plans to pass up pro basketball for medical school or microbiology. When he was younger, Sepic gave up playing the saxophone. "I got so embarrassed," he says, "because I was so big and everybody else playing instruments was small"—a notion that, considering the likes of Fats Domino and Al Hirt, is quite original. Last year, as a sophomore, Sepic was at peace as a forward, looking up at bigger opponents, and then cutting by them and jumping over them to average 15 points and lead the team in rebounds. But Coach Fred Taylor was ruminating. He had two others from his strong front line—Andy Ahijevych and Bob Dove—coming back, and moving up from the freshmen was the eagerly awaited Bill Hosket. Frequently and favorably compared to Jerry Lucas and to his own late father, a former OSU center, the 6-foot-7 Hosket averaged 32 points and 17 rebounds with the freshmen. But back-court prospects lacked size, so Taylor decided to make the bold switch and send Sepic to guard. There Taylor envisions Sepic providing firm leadership and, when he can pull his small back-court opponents inside, working off a little of the saxophone complex on them.
Sepic had never really played guard until the final week of last season, when Taylor previewed him in the job. This summer, back home in Uniontown, Pa., Sepic worked out at guard with the former West Virginia All-America, Rod Thorn. "I still can't dribble," he admits, "and I guess I'm having even more trouble adjusting to defense, staying with the quick little guys. I know I've got to learn to shoot more on the move, too, and not fade away. But I think it will come."
The move supplies even more spice to an anticipated five-way battle in the Big Ten among Michigan, Iowa, Michigan State, Minnesota and the Buckeyes. "I'll tell you this," Taylor says. "We've got to beat Michigan in that first one [the league opener for both teams, January 8 in Columbus] to prove to the rest of the Big Ten they can be beaten, or it's curtains." And that, incidentally, is when Sepic will match up against an even bigger guard, a 6-foot-5 230-pounder named Cazzie Russell.
Westley Unseld of Louisville, Ky. and the University of Louisville is probably the best big man among the sophomores. "Unseld is better by far than Lew Alcindor," one pro scout says, referring to UCLA's touted freshman. Westley shudders at such talk. He is a modest, sensitive youngster who seems surprised by his new position in his own community. Ticket sales have already set a record at Louisville. Peck Hickman, the pudgy athletic director, was rumored to be thinking of retiring himself as basketball coach, but such talk fades a little more each time Unseld gets the ball. As he rambles across the tree-lined city campus, Unseld is already a 6-foot-8 ambulatory landmark; people point him out and wave, and he always responds. Johnny Unitas snuck in and out of Louisville pretty quietly, but Louisville is not going to let that happen to Unseld. Fortunately, he seems able to handle all the hoopla that will surround him for the next three years. On the court he is an unselfish team man. Last year's Louisville freshmen averaged 112 points per game against the likes of Sue Bennett JC and the Louisville All-Stars, and Unseld was plain embarrassed by a lot of what went on. His average was 35 points and 23 rebounds, but he always turned to passing as soon as things were settled. Off the court, he suffered no delusions of grandeur either. The equipment department, for instance, once issued him a pair of shorts that were too tight. Rather than complain, he simply took them home and had his mother let them out to fit.
But the tension surrounding this young man is already brimming and he knows it. "I'd like to think that the pressure doesn't worry me," he said, choosing the words. "But it does. We won two straight state titles in high school, but it was nothing like this." Adding to the burden is the fact that the Cardinals will depend on sophomores a great deal and Unseld will have to be the leader. Guard Fred Holden, wildly unpredictable but good enough in any other year to get all the notices, is a certain sophomore starter, and yet another, Ellis Bryant, may also open in the backcourt. The regulars up front are upperclassmen—6-foot-7 junior Joe Liedtke and 6-foot-4 seniors Eddie Whitehead and Wade Houston—but the newcomers are the good ones.
However modest Unseld is, he is also so good that the team will be going to him on offense. If he gets help up front so that defenses cannot concentrate on him, Louisville should win its first Missouri Valley championship and Athletic Director Hickman will be terribly tempted to keep Coach Hickman on for another year. Or two.
10 NEW MEXICO
When Coach Bob King cautiously revealed that the Lobos might speed up their tempo this season, the fans in Albuquerque, Tucumcari, Socorro and Truth or Consequences just grinned in disbelief. "The response," King himself admitted, "was a quiet snigger." King's teams are known for a slow, deliberate ball-control style that at times looks like the CBS stop-action reruns. In this age of basketball a Go-Go, King has been the sport's answer to the siesta. Though agonizing to watch, this style has won games. In King's three years at New Mexico the once lowly Lobos have had three winning seasons and have been no worse than fourth in defense in the nation.
King is a defense specialist. His conference is noted for fast-rampaging Injun-raid techniques, but he favors the discipline of the outnumbered cavalry: overpower 'em at the stockade first, and then carefully counterattack, making every shot count. Even when the Lobos launched an offensive, the ball handling was so careful that King rightfully described it as a "defensive offense." Last year's point man, Skip Kruzich, would nurse the ball through the midcourt, and then play catch with Dick Ellis—back and forth, never taking any chances—until the moment of the sure thing came. It got so that the home folks would groan and King would wring his familiar red towel whenever the scoring, by either team, seemed to be occurring too fast. Kruzich and Ellis are gone now, but King has had lots of other players learning the same pace.
So why speed up now? Maybe because last year's Lobos started with 19 wins in their first 22 games and then finished with five straight defeats? "Not at all," says King. "It's a matter of personnel." Like the old cavalry colonel with his first full complement of experienced troops, King feels he now has the depth to attack. There are eight regulars and only one is a sophomore.
Leading an all-junior starting five are Mel Daniels, 6 feet 9, and Ben Monroe. They started every game as sophomores and led the team in rebounding. Daniels was also the team's top scorer. Point Man Don Hoover and Wingmen Bill Morgan and Ed Burwitz feel like crafty old combat sergeants this year too. "Deep down inside we are all runners," Monroe says, "but Coach King taught us that a good slow team will beat a fast-break team. We'll increase the pace this year but not lose what we had. We have the potential for a breaking team, and our opponents will know it. Last year, when they were sure we weren't going to break out, they could bring up every man and hit the boards with all they had."
The last two New Mexico teams went to the NIT; this year it looks like the NCAA for the Lobos.
Dec and K were Coach Joe Mullaney's centers and that would have made Providence one of the very best teams in the country. Unfortunately, Dec had this thing about going to class, and K had this thing about going to practice. So here is what Mullaney has now: he has Dec ineligible, and he has K, back off his ineligibility, but also fat. K is so fat that it appears now a new father named Bill Lasher will have to be the Friars' center. Lasher is only 6 feet 6. (His new son is only 1 foot 7, "but," Lasher says hopefully, "he has big feet.") Lasher was counted on as the Friars' bench; after him there is not much. "It would have been fun," Mullaney says, wistfully recalling his happy prospects at center. "We would really have enjoyed the chance to see if we were as good as they said we were."
Last year with Dec—who is Dexter Westbrook—as a sensational sophomore pivotman, Providence won its first 19, finished at 24-2, and looked forward to having the whole team back. Dec, however, skipped so many classes that he finally had to skip them officially and drop out. He is unable to compete this season, but is back in school and works out diligently against the four holdovers that he was supposed to anchor: senior Forwards and Co-captains Jim Benedict and Bill Blair and junior Guards Mike Riordan and Jim Walker. To join this fine quartet in place of Dexter Westbrook, Mullaney had, riding out of Hatfield, Mass. at 6 feet 8, 210 pounds, K—Bob Kovalski in the box scores. Kovalski had started for Providence two years ago, before he became ineligible. "When we knew we weren't going to have Dec," Mullaney says, "it wasn't that bad, because we had K coming back. And then you think of K"—and Mullaney did, squinting to find him in his memory, and then smiling—"you think of the K of two years ago, and you think, well, everything will be all right. Maybe not quite so many variations of defense, maybe not quite so much speed. But if K's ready to play, ah, it will be all right."
So riding out of Hatfield, Mass. here came K: 6 feet 8, 250 pounds. Oops. Kovalski could not move or shoot. "If he remains like this, he isn't even going to play," says Mullaney. K himself is not worried. "I'm getting down there," he says. "I've been waiting a long time, a whole year, for this, and I don't want to miss it."
Waiting, however, was the trouble. During the year Kovalski never showed up to work out with the team, a fact which particularly confused the coaches, since basketball had been such a large part of his life. K says that it was just a matter of concentrating on the books, but he did find time to go courting, and he got married last summer. He admits, with a plump smile, that his bride is a very good cook. That is one thing there is no dispute about in Providence.
More and more, coaching is a game for young men, and Joe Stowell is one of them. There are four such rookies in the Missouri Valley alone this year. For the most part, these Young Turks are a humorless and technical lot, dedicated to detail, discipline and diagnosis, and Stowell is no exception. His first season has not yet begun, and already people at Bradley are concerned for his health. "I don't know how many times I've played this season over already," he says. "All summer, over and over."
Stowell had been an assistant at Bradley for nine years under Chuck Ors-born, who moved up to athletic director after compiling an amazing 195-56 record in nine years. Orsborn is only 48, just nine years older than Stowell, but they are a generation removed in basketball. The new A.D. came to the field house the other day to watch his old assistant run his own practice. Stowell had players stationed all over the court, passing balls to another group which was dribbling and running and shooting at three baskets. "Uh-oh, Joe's been to another clinic," Orsborn said in his dry way. "If I had known all this stuff, I guess I never would have lost." Ron Harris, Stowell's own new bright-eyed assistant, was sitting next to Orsborn. "I guess you use all those medicine balls and everything with the freshmen?" Orsborn asked him.
"Of course we do," Harris said.
"Can you put those things in the basket?" Orsborn asked. Harris shook his head. "Well, why use them if you can't put them in the basket? That's still the game, isn't it?" he asked, strictly rhetorically. "You don't have to just scrimmage," Orsborn added, "but the only drill I ever had where we did not use the ball was at the start of a season. It was called Running Around the Court. I blew the whistle, and the players ran—around the court. The last five still going became my first team."
Stowell and Orsborn disagreed often when they worked together. Orsborn got so mad at Stowell once when Joe was in his class that he made him leave. But when he needed an assistant, he picked Stowell. "What did I want, a yes-man?" he asked, again rhetorically. Some differences, though, were never resolved. "He always wanted those damn high socks that I can't stand," Orsborn said. "Every year he would try to get me to order those silly things." Orsborn always said no. About the first thing Stowell did after he got the job was order high socks. Still, Orsborn says flatly, "He hasn't even coached his first college varsity game, but Joe Stowell is already one of the five best coaches in the country. I mean that."
He is also on the spot. His team is supposed to be the best in the Valley. Maybe it is—it has five starters back and two good sophs—but it lacks size. Last year's sophomore guards, Alex Mc-Nutt and Tom Campbell, came along slower than expected, only partly because the bad hands on the front line were no match for their passes. Scholastic problems threaten, too. Stowell's Braves should finish just where Orsborn usually had them—a close runner-up in the Valley, and then a real good shot in the NIT.
Adolph Rupp eats chili at The Wildcat, a luncheonette across the street from Memorial Coliseum in Lexington, almost every day. He wolfs it down in gulps with swift swipes of a tablespoon, staring at the chili all the way, actually looking the spoon into his mouth—approximately the way he instructs his players to look a passed basketball into their hands. In his more modest financial years Rupp took to chili for reasons of economy and taste—in that order. Now 64 and still frugal, though he has been a man of means for decades, Rupp was attacking his favorite food recently when a familiar question forced the suspension of a mound of chili in midair. "Get out of coaching?" he bellowed, more as a reprimand than an answer. "What would I do?" He held the chili long enough to answer that himself. "Don't tell me I ought to stay home and count my money. See the world? Hell, Uncle Sam sends me on all those trips to give clinics to the troops. I just got back from Germany, and I've been there several times. I've been to the Orient and lots of places." He snapped at the chili, then continued, "I don't have to retire until I'm 70. That's the mandatory university rule. And the way I feel, I won't retire till then." So saying, Rupp swept the chili bowl clean.
Just a couple of years ago a weary Rupp said he was ready to quit at 65 and was waiting till then only because—a dollar being what it is nowadays—retiring at 65 meant retiring with full benefits. Today, says Harry Lancaster, Adolph's shrewd assistant, "He's as alert as he ever has been. He's even more hard-nosed on the practice floor." The weariness gone, benefits deferred, Adolph wants another winner, and he is downright miffed that nearly everybody is writing off Kentucky, figuring the SEC to be a private duel between Vanderbilt and Tennessee. "Harrumph," The Baron replied to that. "We beat Tennessee in our last game last season, and Vanderbilt beat us at their place with only a few seconds to play."
More important, Rupp has four starters back—Forwards Larry Conley and Pat Riley and Guards Tommy Kron and Louie Dampier. All averaged in double figures last year. From the freshmen come a few hotshot guards and even some centers, something Kentucky has been trying to play basketball without for several years. There are two—Ted Jaracz, who is only 6 feet 5 but weighs 230, and Cliff Berger, who is 6 feet 8½. Berger is 18 and may be Chamberlain-size as a senior. Chances are Rupp will be coaching him. Assistant Coach Lancaster says he has made his own peace with the world; he doesn't expect Rupp to quit ever, and he now makes more money than most head coaches anyway. Pass the chili.
"You can teach anything if you believe in it and if you understand it," Iowa Coach Ralph Miller says. "I don't understand mathematics, so I'd never try to teach that. But I'll certainly teach pressure basketball, and go on teaching it." Miller has been doing that since 1949. When he came to Iowa from Wichita last year he installed his combination of fast break and full-court press and made the Hawkeyes a winner. Miller fits his players to his system, instead of the other way around, as many coaches say it is supposed to be done. "I know my system will work," he said shortly after he got to Iowa. "I can bring my system into the Big Ten or anywhere else and make it succeed."
Miller promptly put together a 14-10 season and, if possible, is now even more sold on pressure basketball. "I've seen all sorts of systems, but I'm convinced that what I'm doing is right," he says. "Pressure basketball satisfies the kids who play it, it satisfies the spectators who watch it and it satisfies me." As Miller sees it, pressure basketball is not the "gambling" game many call it. It is more like an endurance contest. "The fast break and the full-court press must be played together if each is to be at its most effective," he preaches. "We put the pressure on at all times; we never want the opposition to have a chance to rest. We figure we'll play our opponent even-Stephen for 36 minutes of any game, then beat him in the other four. And those four can come at the start, in the middle or at the end of a game. That's the way we beat UCLA last year, even though our styles are quite similar."
Since the pressure game has gained such popularity, mostly through UCLA's success, Iowa's opponents will be under no illusions this year. Few of them will be caught by surprise, but Miller figures he will still be ahead of the game because he has some bench this season. Miller has small, experienced men and big, inexperienced ones, but he also has a schedule which will allow him to bring the newcomers along slowly while the Hawkeyes build to something like 16-1 or 15-2 by the middle of February.
The leader is Guard Chris Pervall, who played a lot of 6-foot-2 forward and averaged 21 points last year. Up front is George Peeples, who can run like Kelso, which is good for pressure basketball centers and good for any center 6 feet 8 and weighing only 204. Two sophomores—Ben McGilmer, a 6-foot-7 guard, and Huston Breedlove, a 6-foot-6 forward—will break in when they learn the way Miller plays the game. "I can teach anyone to play pressure basketball," the man says.
Squatting in front of the library at the University of Maryland is a large, bronze terrapin with its nose in the air like a snooty dowager—probably because of the annual successes in wrestling, soccer, lacrosse and other sports most schools consider "minor." In basketball Maryland has won just one Atlantic Coast Conference title in the last 12 years. Next March the NCAA tournament championship rounds will be held in the William P. Cole Jr. Student Activities Building, a huge blimp hangar of a gymnasium just a few hundred yards from the metal turtle. And it is not unreasonable to suggest that maybe, just maybe, the Terrapins themselves will be involved in the last two nights' activities—though they may be difficult to recognize without lacrosse sticks in their hands.
On paper and on the floor, Coach Bud Millikan's team looks like the best ever at College Park. Last season the Terrapins won 14 of their last 16 games, and the top seven men are returning. Before worrying about playing for the national crown in front of the home folks, however, they must first win the ACC tournament in Raleigh, and then shoot their way through the tough Eastern Regionals, again in Raleigh. The school has never reached the NCAA semifinals but, of course, it did not have a Phi Beta Kappa chapter either until a couple of years ago. Things are getting classier all over the grassy campus, where even the maintenance buildings boast lovely Georgian columns. One reason for the class of the basketball team, perhaps, is that the starting lineup comes from New Jersey, Ohio, Maine, Pennsylvania and Washington, D.C. The players are an interesting lot. Guard Neil Brayton, 6 feet 4, is senior class president and before that was junior class president and outstanding male sophomore. He wants to be a dentist. So does Jay McMillen, 6 feet 7, 225 pounds, a prematurely gray jump-shooting deadeye who averaged 20 points a game last season as a sophomore. He is now junior class president. Forward Gary Ward, 6 feet 5 and with bird legs, majors in journalism and jump shots, averaging 18 points a game when he was a junior. The center is an ambidextrous junior named Joe Harrington, a product of Phippsburg, Me. who ignored the wishes of Boston College Coach Bob Cousy and traveled south. The man he beat out, Rick Wise, is also back, and so is the other starting guard, Gary Williams. Obviously, the Terrapins are rich, but a difficult schedule could leave them just a mess of cold turtle soup, waiting for next season, when McMillen, Harrington and Williams will be back to heat them up.
16 BOSTON COLLEGE
Bob Cousy is a successful insurance man and TV announcer, an adviser to a dairy company, the operator of a prospering basketball camp and a popular after-dinner speaker. He also endorses basketballs, basketball shoes, bathing suits and sweaters. Enough activity for one man? No. Cousy gets in his car these chilly mornings and whips down the Massachusetts Turnpike from Worcester to Boston, where he coaches at Boston College. He directed the Eagles to their best record ever (22-7) last year, and from that team Cousy still has one All-America (John Austin), three other starters and six other lettermen, plus assorted bench warmers. He gets six new men from the frosh and he says they have "great potential." Obviously, he is also a good recruiter. And he hates it.
"It's a pain," he said as he signed a sheaf of letters at his desk recently. "It seems like coaching basketball these days is an anticlimax. Look at this correspondence, and this is just a sample. You write to these kids to see if they'd be interested in the school, then you follow it up by talking with the kid's coach, his mother and father. You take the family out to dinner. It takes a lot of time.
"Last year I chased one boy for months. Until January I thought I had him. He told everybody he was going to BC. I made two special trips to his home town to speak at banquets for him. This was a real top boy. He had the marks, everything. You can't even bother talking to kids if they don't have the marks. Anyway, I lost this boy. At the last minute he decided to go to one of the southern schools. This was just one case, but look at all the time I wasted on him.
"Some of the kids have their hands out. I tell them no deal. I suppose the parents tell the kids to ask for money. It becomes a problem, believe me. You have to live with yourself. You can't prostitute yourself or the school and you don't want to corrupt the kids, but some of these schools"—Cousy shook his head—"they really go all out if they want the top kid. The boy I told you about must have had 75 offers.
"We'll run this year," Cousy said. "We'll fast-break, and then play a tandem offense—some call it a double stack—with four men in close to the basket." He looked over the names. Austin, of course, would start in the backcourt with Captain Ed Hockenbury. Top sophomore Jim Kissane, Ted Carter and Willie Wolters would open up front. Then Cousy handed down the rest of the roster: Hice and Keller, Rossi, Kvancz and Pacynski, Rooney, Adleman.... It started sounding like an all-American platoon from a war movie. "I hate to do it, but six of these kids—well, the way it is now—six of them won't make the squad," Coach Cousy said.
17 WEST VIRGINIA
A UCLA recruiter was on the phone from Los Angeles trying to reach a prime prospect in Missoula, Mont. The boy could not answer the call, though there was really no mystery concerning his whereabouts. He was in one of the town's few large hotel rooms, with the furniture pushed against the wall, playing one-on-one against Duke Assistant Coach Bucky Waters. This was two years ago; Duke got the boy—and lots of others.
As befits his given name, Raymond Chevalier Waters is a charmer who helped Duke build a wide-ranging, vacuum-cleaner recruiting machine. Now, however, that charm is being used to help return national prestige to West Virginia, which hired Waters last April 30.
West Virginia's losses have increased in each of the last four seasons, and Bucky can be the next governor if he reverses the trend. The school now has Negroes on the varsity for the first time, following the example of its track and football teams, and one of them is Ron (Fritz) Williams. Some West Virginians look upon Williams' arrival as even more auspicious than Bucky's. The 6-foot 3-inch sophomore was first-team All-State for three years at Weirton (W. Va.) High School and was sought by 102 colleges. When Ron was just a 10th-grader, Georgia Tech Coach Whack Hyder said he could make the Tech varsity right then. For two years before Williams came, West Virginia tried to recruit other Negroes, because he did not want to be the first to play basketball at Morgantown. After he enrolled others joined him, and he averaged 31 points, 10 rebounds and seven assists a game on a 20-1 freshman team.
It is a habit in the glass factories and bars of Morgantown to hail every promising prospect as "another Jerry West" or "the best since West," descriptions that drive Bucky Waters to tears. If all the "Jerry Wests" who entered West Virginia were really that good the school could apply for an NBA franchise. Ron has been the subject of such talk, and may deserve it. "Everybody's chasing ghosts," Waters complained. "I just want him to be Ron Williams." That should be good enough, and the less-publicized boys are good, too. John Lesher, 6 feet 6, is the only returning starter and shoots well, but he needs to acquire aggressiveness. Junior-college star Carl Head, 6 feet 4, was on his way to Wake Forest when he somehow de-toured to West Virginia. And Bucky has two or three sets of hustling, speedy guards—none of them faster than Williams, however. "We're going to play it like the Celtics, bring it down fast," said Waters. "We're going to be exciting, but we're not going to be pretty. We may have to lock the windows so no balls get thrown out of the gym."
18 TEXAS TECH
In Texas, where football is next to godliness, rearing your boy to be a basketball player is about as useful as bringing him up to be a barber in Liverpool. Nevertheless, John Malaise, out there in Odessa, rigged up a basket on a doorknob for his son Dub when he was only 4. To maintain his Texas citizenship, Dub also learned tennis and golf, two sports that are tolerated if they don't interfere with the state religion. Dub says bravely, "At our house we ate, drank and slept basketball, and it never became boresome." Dub grew up over the doorknob, but only to 5 feet 11. Still, he became perhaps the best player Texas has produced. "I have films of Slater Martin when he was at Texas," says Tech Coach Gene Gibson, "and Dub makes him look like a country boy."
Gibson has two other starters back from the team that would have won the Southwest Conference last year except for an administrative boo-boo concerning an ineligible player, and two good 6-foot-7 sophomores, Randy Glover and Vernon Paul. With the Midwest Regionals scheduled on its home court, Texas Tech has the best chance for a conference team to get out of Texas since the late Jimmy Krebs came down from Missouri and took SMU to fourth place in the NCAA a decade ago.
Malaise runs the team. More accurately, he hovers over it. "Dub's shooting is fantastic, and his passing is even more phenomenal," Gibson says, "but his thorough knowledge of the game is his greatest asset." Off the court Dub is just as valuable. Late last season it was discovered that Forward Norman Reuther was inadvertently short on credit hours, a revelation that kept Tech from winning the conference officially. Then Reuther broke some rules on his own and lost his scholarship. Malaise got him reinstated. "I will be personally responsible for his conduct," he told Gibson.
An intense athlete, Malaise plays golf because it permits him the pleasure of friendly association with the opposition. Tennis, however, is the game he believes best complements basketball. "You are on your toes in tennis," Malaise explains, "and in volleying you have one foot or the other forward, just as in basketball. It sharpens your reaction time, too. I got burned out playing tennis in high school one year and switched to golf. I wasn't too sharp the next year in my basketball." This fall Malaise played tennis. Last spring he picked up his golf clubs for the first time in months and fired a 77. He has shot a 67. "I like to be in a foursome best," he says. "You walk along and by 18 holes you're good buddies." Dub regrets that he cannot get to know his basketball opponents in the same fashion. But they certainly know who the little guy is that's doing everything for Texas Tech.
Sophomores are inconsistent, moody and excitable. They flunk courses. They fall in love with coeds at just the wrong time. Because of sophomores, coaches have had their stomachs operated on and have been sent away to rest homes. Nobody knows more about sophomores than Ray Mears, an exacting man who has a talent for getting to the heart of a problem. He got to the heart of this one by red-shirting most of the best freshman team Tennessee ever had two years ago. Last year, instead of throwing the ball out of bounds at crucial moments and losing a year of eligibility while they were at it, the youngsters were tucked safely in the stands during games and spent the rest of the week learning Mears's intricate patterns in the calm of an empty gym. This season the red shirts are ready.
Consider, for a start, Tom Boerwinkle; at 7 feet and 260 pounds, he is hard to ignore. An amiable sort whose left foot once tended to go in the opposite direction from his right foot, Boerwinkle spent a year skipping rope and mastering the moves of a pivotman. He may never remind you of Nijinsky, but he no longer runs in more than one direction at a time. Tom Hendrix was just shy. He is an agile 6 feet 5 and used to have fine rapport with the basket, but anyone who so much as set foot on the court awed him. Hendrix even began addressing the water boy as "sir," and while that may earn an A for deportment it doesn't do much for self-confidence. Mears spent last year urging Hendrix to snarl all over the place, apparently with good effect. It will take more than the red shirts to win in the SEC, however, and fortunately there is more. Ron Widby, 6 feet 4, 215, was the best sophomore in the conference last year; even Mears can put up with that kind. So can the Tennessee football coach, for that matter; he uses Widby as punter on Saturday afternoons. One of the best rebounders in the country is Howard Bayne, whose boardwork alarms even his own teammates. Bayne is only tall (6 feet 5), not towering, but he does weigh 234 pounds and he uses his weight so violently that several professional football teams have made discreet inquiries. But if Tennessee is to be consistent this season, Red Robbins, the 6-foot-9 center who plays low post in Mears's 1-3-1 offense, will have to pay attention when Mears tells him: "You're mean." Mears told him that last year and Robbins replied: "I am?" He has all the necessary skills, and if he will kindly put his elbows to good use Tennessee will win a lot more than it loses.
20 KANSAS STATE
Like any successful coach, Kansas State's Tex Winter is well organized. When he becomes interested in a high school player he fills out a card on the boy and places it in his files. Sometime in the early spring of 1963 Winter made this notation on a card bearing the name Nick Pino: "Spindly giant. Has good shot. Must gain aggressiveness." The card also noted that Pino was 7 feet½ inch tall and weighed 235 pounds.
Pino is still a giant but no longer spindly. He is 7 feet 1 and 270 pounds. He still has that good shot and lacks a certain boldness. Few men give the impression of hugeness that Pino does. Wilt Chamberlain first struck Kansans with his height, Clyde Lovellette with his bulk. Pino is a combination of the two. Nick is no great shakes as a jumper, but he doesn't need to be. He can reach 9 feet 3 inches without jumping. A laconic but pleasant giant, he grew up in Santa Fe, N. Mex., where Spanish was the family language. While he speaks perfectly good English, he gives the impression that he would prefer Spanish. Pino did not become a high school regular until his senior year, playing spasmodically and not very impressively as a junior. His high school coach, Dick Shelley, who was screening Nick's college offers, knew that Tex Winter had successfully developed another 7-footer, Roger Suttner, and that one reason for Suttner's success was the fact that Winter had red-shirted him. Shelley was convinced that if Pino was going to make it as a college player he would have to be red-shirted too. Winter agreed and got Pino.
Naturally, Kansas State's chances this year depend largely upon how Nick plays. He hooks with the same soft touch that made Lovellette so effective, and is almost as good with his left as with his right hand. But he does not move particularly well laterally, which hurts his defense. Nor does he run well. Winter has always liked a running offense and he is fearful of trying to fast-break with Pino in the game. "By the time he would get to midcourt," says Winter, "our opponents would probably meet him on their way back with the ball." So the chances are K-State will use a control style.
Behind Pino at center is 6-foot-10 Roy Smith. Earl Seyfert and Mike Williams are two big forwards. A dark-horse candidate up front is Galen Frick, who is smaller but a good ball handler. When Winter wants more speed he moves up Sammy Robinson from the backcourt, where Robinson normally teams with Playmaker Dennis Berkholtz. This squad has more muscle power than the Budweiser Clydesdales, but possibly no more finesse.