Scheduling a basketball game against Santa Clara is like walking into an Irish pub on St. Patrick's Day and loudly insulting the Virgin Mary. The Broncos are what coaches euphemistically call a physical team. They do not lob in 30-foot mortar shots, and their speed is such that if they were playing five sumo wrestlers they still would not fast break. They are not particularly tall and they do not have much depth. What they do have is a brawling, stubborn defense with lots of pro-style jostling, a fanatical desire for rebounds and a senior forward named Carlos (Bud) Ogden, whose father won the Congressional Medal of Honor in World War II and obviously passed on his tough qualities. Last weekend Ogden and his teammates put their muscle and hustle on display in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium. They stomped on highly rated Houston and the University of San Francisco and they won their second straight—forgive the expression—Cable Car Classic.
Basketball tournaments have a way of becoming classical in a hurry, like in the first annual year. The Cable Car is in its second year, and if the name sounds somewhat grandiose, the tournament itself is not. It is a friendly little two-night affair. The host, officially, is USF. The hosts in reality are two improbable basketball fans, Harry Jupiter and Arturo Santo Domingo, part owners of a little cocktails-and-luncheon sports hangout called the Templebar. Their office is reached by winding through cases of beer and racks of booze in three consecutive Templebar storerooms.
Jupiter is an ex-baseball writer for the San Francisco Examiner, and Santo Domingo is a statistician for the Giants, but on road trips, when their minds should have been on Willie Mays' batting average, Jupiter and Santo Domingo kept talking about how great it would be to have a good college basketball tournament in San Francisco. Since nobody else volunteered, they decided to promote one themselves, and if they had known then the trouble ahead they would have settled instead for the bacon and ham concession in Israel.
"Our first tournament was an experience," said Jupiter. "We decided to go first class—generous expenses, sterling silver trophies, things like that—and we soon realized there was no way we could break even, even if we filled the house both nights. It got so that each of us was afraid to tell the other fellow that we were spending money on little things like a cup of coffee for a friend, or a taxi ride. We knew it wasn't in our budget. Hell, we didn't even get our statistics handled free, because Art, who could have done the job, was busy watching the empty seats with me. I'll level with you. We lost a bundle."
Hardly anyone showed up either night last year, and the poor partners could not even mourn the loss of their money in peace on Sunday. Western Kentucky, which had lost in the finals to Santa Clara, flew east with the keys to their two borrowed station wagons, and Harry and Art had to spend most of the day chasing down duplicates so they could return the cars.
There was some encouragement, however. Franklin Mieuli, president of the San Francisco Warriors, had made sure his team was scheduled out of town at tournament time and chipped in to help the sponsors' Cable Car Enterprises, Inc. pay some of its debts. USF and Santa Clara volunteered to take $1,500 less than they were guaranteed.
So last weekend Jupiter and Santo Domingo gave it another try, cutting costs by again doing practically everything themselves—ticket sales (the Warriors' staff helped), publicity, hospitality, the whole deal. They did not offer courtesy cars to the teams and they cut the program from 36 pages to eight. But, as they did the year before, they had four interesting teams, most notably Santa Clara and Houston.
The San Francisco Chronicle was so unimpressed by the Classic that on the day of the first round its big sports story was the mailing of invitations for the Crosby Pro-Amateur golf tournament, more than 41 days off, and its second big piece of news was a defense of eastern football by Penn State Coach Joe Paterno. The basketball doubleheader was buried.
Still, the Santa Clara-Houston main event was enough to draw more than 5,000 people into the Civic Auditorium Friday night. That was not exactly an overwhelming horde, but still it was the best crowd in the Classic's short history and enough to make cosponsor Jupiter so heady that he sent the entire Brigham Young band out for a free meal at a nearby restaurant. It is pretty certain Madison Square Garden never did anything like that.
The Broncos did their usual shillelagh job on Houston, a team that was expected to be one of the country's best despite the loss of Elvin Hayes and Guard Don Chaney, who led the memorable upset of UCLA in the Astrodome last January. To replace them, Houston Coach Guy Lewis had some good sophomores and a 6'2" junior college transfer, Ollie Taylor, who jumps center against anybody up to 7 feet tall, plus three returning starters.
Santa Clara, with Ogden, his younger brother, Ralph, and 6'9½" Center Dennis Awtrey, is pretty much the same bunch that had to open the NCAA Western Regional last season against sixth-ranked New Mexico in the Lobos' own desert-pit of a field house. They won by 13 points that night, but lost the next night to UCLA. Last weekend, the first half against Houston was as close as expected. Neither team shot well, but Bud Ogden, glued to jumping jack Taylor, and Awtrey, on Houston's 6'9" Ken Spain, were playing superlative defense. The Broncos went into the locker room at the half leading 27-24. They came back out and proceeded to blow the Cougars right into the bay.
For one thing, Houston could not have thrown a beach ball into the ocean. Forward Theodis Lee was 2 for 12 from the floor and was seldom even close. Santa Clara opened up a 10-point lead and, with Awtrey and Bud Ogden dominating the backboards, stretched it to 20 near the end of the game, when a massive fistfight almost erupted. Two players got in a wrestling match over a loose ball, and before you could say, "It's just a game, fellas," both benches had emptied, with Santa Clara Coach Dick Garibaldi leading the Bronco charge. According to Bay Area rivals, Santa Clara believes in winning the fight even if it does not win the game, but in this case it very likely would have won both. Officials managed to prevent a riot, and when the snarling died down Santa Clara continued its rugged work and won going away, 75-50.Bud Ogden finished with 22 points and Awtrey had 19, plus 20 rebounds. Houston, badly missing Hayes' turnaround jumper, made only 19 out of 68 shots.
USF edged Brigham Young in the other prelim to move into the finals with Santa Clara. USF has had a long and tightly contested rivalry with Santa Clara but on Saturday night, before a smaller crowd, the Dons were hardly in the game after the first five minutes. In one stretch, when Santa Clara went from one point ahead to nine points ahead, Bud Ogden scored all eight points, stole the ball three times and blocked one shot. He ended with 20 points and little brother Ralph had 24. On their family's garage on Walnut Grove Ave. in San Jose, there is a hoop nailed up. All the Ogden boys' one-on-one games through the years obviously have paid off. Bud was the unanimous choice for the tournament's Most Valuable Player. Even at 6'6" he should make some pro team a good forward.
"The team last year had the best record in the school's history—22 and four," said Warriors General Manager Bob Feerick, an ex-Santa Clara player and coach. "They epitomize their coach, Garibaldi—all defense, all hustle and, some of them, the hands of blacksmiths. What they could do if their three guards could shoot."
Late Saturday night everybody was about as pleased as could be expected. Santa Clara had won its second straight Classic, was 5-0 for the season and had proved its right to be among the top ten teams in the country.
And if each participating player did not have a win or a trophy to warm his heart, he at least had the official tournament souvenir, a wooden cable car lamp put together by the inmates at San Quentin. Entrepreneurs Jupiter and Santo Domingo had spent a good part of Saturday afternoon unwrapping the lamps and affixing "Cable Car Classic" metal plates on the sides.
Now, as the last spectators drifted out of Civic Auditorium and the last stat sheet was cranked out of the mimeograph machine, Harry Jupiter and Art Santo Domingo were wandering around the empty court in a kind of happy daze. Heck, they just might have made a little money, and soon it would be time to sweep out the place.