So many new faces are to be found among the coaches of this conference that the handshakes at midcourt will not always be for propriety's sake. The two men may just be introducing themselves. Veterans Doc Hayes (SMU), Buster Brannon (TCU) and Harold Bradley (Texas) all decided to step down at the same moment after last season. Glen Rose (Arkansas) and George Carlisle (Rice) left the year before last. Perhaps they were tired of all the years of vying for attention and crowds in a land where the only ball that counts is the one that has points on each end. Or perhaps they were just tired. Whatever the reason, there went 81 years of coaching experience and some good stories into retirement. (Harry Bostic, a 6'6" transfer student who moves to Texas A&M from Tyler Junior College, is indicative of the transformation. Harry is 26 years old and, says one league observer, "has more experience than most of the coaches.")
The loss of all this seniority has made Gene Gibson of Texas Tech (in his seventh year and at age 43) the "dean" of conference coaches. Coincidentally, his team looks like the class of the league, too. Texas Tech is in Lubbock, out there on the plains of west Texas. Out there on the "Caprock." A neat, clean town. There are very few trees but a whole lot of mesquite bushes. Bobby Layne likes to play dominoes in one of the general stores. But neither he—nor anybody else—can get any legal beer in town to wash down all the chili and enchiladas. In recent years Lubbock and Texas Tech have sent out two of pro football's biggest stars, Dave Parks and Donny Anderson, a lodge full of skiers (who learned and trained in the Taos, N. Mex. area 300 miles away) and hundreds of the most beautiful coeds in America. You would think basketball didn't have much of a chance in Lubbock. But, in fact, Texas Tech decided to go after a big-time program more than a decade ago. The administration okayed a bright 10,000-seat field house in 1956, and it's been filled a few times. Basketball has become the wintertime thing in Lubbock.
Last season the Red Raiders sat squarely in the middle of the league race. They defeated every team in the conference except Baylor, and that included a surprising late-season victory over champion SMU. It was a typical season for Tech; during the 10 years the school has been an SWC member the Raiders have been at .500 or better against everyone in the conference. In 1965 Gibson's best team finished two games ahead in the SWC but lost its championship when one man's semester hours were not added up correctly and he was declared ineligible. The jokes about Tech's math program have been accumulating since. Such arithmetic problems can be turned over, with confidence, to Gibson's three returning starters: 6'5" Joe Dobbs, an accounting major; 5'10" Jerry Haggard, a finance major; and 6'7" Vernon Paul, a business-education student. Paul, who averaged 14 points a game, had more than arithmetic on his mind last year. At one time or another during the season, he suffered through mononucleosis, an elbow operation, an auto wreck, an appendectomy and cuts requiring 17 stitches. Despite all this, he missed just four games and earned all-conference honors. The Raiders also have lettermen Benny Wiggins, 6'7", and Jim Nelson, 6'4", and add Wayne Schneider, 6'7", a promising JC transfer. But all of Gibson's sophomore help will be up front, and he may be weak at guard.
Two of the teams with new coaches should give Texas Tech the most trouble. Johnny Swaim takes over for Brannon at TCU and inherits a veteran team led by 6'5", 240-pound Mickey McCarty. The Horned Frogs tied for second place last season and are capable up front with 6'6" James Cash and 6'3" John Ed White to help McCarty. Their problem is the backcourt, also. SMU upset Louisville in the NCAA Midwest Regional last season, but new Coach Bob Prewitt gels back only two starters, 6'7" Lynn Phillips (SWC sophomore of the year) and 6'3" Bill Voight. The Mustangs' chances hinge on Prewitt's search for a quarterback to replace Denny Holman, a skilled playmaker for three winning seasons who graduated to the Dallas Chaparrals. Holman's replacement probably will be Gary Sibley, a junior who is quick but inexperienced.
Texas A&M finished sixth in the conference last season and, though Randy Matson has finally left to go put his shot somewhere else, the Aggies have seven returning lettermen plus the highly regarded Bostic, and they are a good dark-horse challenger. Coach Shelby Metcalf shocked the rest of the league when he led Texas A&M to the championship in his first season four years ago, and he is still surprising them with his tongue-in-cheek remarks. He had a lot of married players last year who, he said, were "go-getters. Their wives all have jobs downtown, and when it's 5 o'clock they go get them." Despite his returning talent, Metcalf refuses to be serious about his chances. "We'll be small," he says, "but nobody will notice because we'll overshadow that with our poor shooting and lack of speed."