Anyway, does it matter, this winning of games? Of course, for the moment, for the glory, for the fun of it, it is somewhat better than losing games. But does it count in the way that coaches—most of them, at least—swear that it does? Does it add to the quality of life, make for better Americans? Should we get bumper stickers made up saying: WINNERS MAKE BETTER.... What? What exactly do winners do besides win? This is not an original puzzlement. As far back as 22 centuries ago, one of the wiser Greeks concluded, "Those who know how to win are much more numerous than those who know how to make proper use of their victories." Which is to say that sometimes the AP and UPI polls cannot agree on who, much less what, is No. 1.
Surely, winning must be more delicate, less crucial than it is made to seem in the pernicious credo of Vince Lombardi. If the necessity of winning were that critical, it would be too burdensome; we'd have to drop it by the wayside and forget about it altogether. And that doesn't seem to be the case. It appears that both the joy and the value of winning endure. Curiously, it might be that this is even more dear to those who only stood and watched others take up the challenge. "It's embarrassing," says Kenny Washington, who helped UCLA win a lot of games, "but oftentimes, still, people come up and tell you how your accomplishments give them fond memories. That's the hardest part of the hero thing."
For those who were in the fray, it seems that if you do win, victory itself does not remain as cherished as the trying. But when you do try and don't win, then what you have failed to achieve looms more imposingly than how valiantly you tried. This means, if it is true, that nobody ever really wins. You win only as a way to validate effort, to justify the foolishness of that grand contradiction, playing hard. Anyway...
Anybody who has a long career—even just high school and college, that's long—would have a gap if they never won a championship. No one could feel complete as an athlete.
—JEFF MULLINS, All-America, Duke '64
March 26, 1979
UCLA basketball is now synonymous with victory. In the fall of 1963, however, UCLA had never won a national title, and John Wooden was an unassuming fellow who had been kicking around for years. The team had a center who stood just 6'5". There was only one bona fide star, but he was a passer, not a big man or a big scorer. There were no JC transfers, and the sophomores read that "no help was expected" from the freshman team. The Bruins were unranked.
Then they went undefeated, 30-0, whipping Duke in the NCAA championship game. That started the whole business. UCLA repeated the next year, and then Lew Alcindor came across the country and enrolled. Very quickly the Bruins became what is called a dynasty and Wooden a legend in his own time. UCLA won 10 titles in the last dozen years Wooden coached, through 1975, and no doubt it will win more, such being the bent of dynasties.
There were seven regulars on that '64 club. It is 15 years later, and they're all grown men, in their mid-30s, old enough to look back with maturity and perspective, yet not so old as to get all soupy and sentimental. They are a good bunch to talk to, too, because there was no dominant player. They all figured in the action. They pressed all over the court, and needed each other to get the job done. The '64 Bruins were as good at playing as a team as any club you'll ever see.
They were, too, quite different from one another. "They really didn't get along that well except on the court," Wooden recalls. Doug McIntosh, the backup center, is a minister near Atlanta now, and he has sometimes gone to Hawks' games when Gail Goodrich, the leading scorer for the '64 Bruins, has come to town with the opposition. McIntosh is married to one of Goodrich's old girl friends. "I saw Gail play a few games, and I thought about going down to see him after the game, but...." McIntosh shrugs. The connection was the team.
They came from all over. Goodrich was the only one who had spent his whole life in Southern California. One was a high school star in Kansas, although he was a native Californian; a couple were country boys from Kentucky and South Carolina; there was a Jewish kid who grew up in Brooklyn; and there was Walt Hazzard, the leader, the street-smart reverend's son from Philly. One was married. Two or three drank beer. There were three seniors, two juniors, two sophs; three blacks, four whites. Only a couple of them had been heavily recruited. None had ever heard of Madame Nhu or Ho Chi Minh. One of them fell in love with a cheerleader that winter.
In the 15 years that have rushed by, here is what has happened to them. Three played pro ball and four didn't. One of the seven served in the Army. The one who was married got divorced and remarried, and five of the other six have married and remain so. There is one bachelor. The two who would seem to have accomplished the most outside basketball are the two centers, who were the least accomplished as players. They are also the only two who are overweight. Six have graduated, one only last year, and another is now finishing law school at night. One is "semiretired." One smokes little cigars. Two underwent religious conversions. Only one left Southern California. All told, they have 18 children, ages 14 to two. By and large they don't care much for competition, having had quite enough, and by and large they are happy. They don't think winning the national championship has meant much to their lives in the long run. They say it has had nothing to do with their being happy. Much more than the title, they remember each other and the coach, and when they were brought back to UCLA the other day to pose for the group picture on pages 70-71, they all acted much the way they had 15 years ago, which is to say that the quiet ones were silent, the leader took charge, the cynic looked askance, the observers observed, and, in the end, they all worked it out.
A lot of people thought we were cocky, but Wooden told us: be confident, not cocky. We knew we were going to win, and I think that carried over—because we did win—and gave me confidence in making decisions in life. But you have to experience defeat to really understand victory. The year before, when I was a sophomore, we lost seven games by something like 20 points. Having had that year made the winning experience better. I learned a lot of things at that time. People say: but they were just games. And they were. But they were satisfying. After a while, you knew exactly what you were going to do and what everybody around you was going to do. And that's a real accomplishment. As a team, we affected the whole game of basketball, and what made us good as a team carried on over into the rest of my life.
—GAIL GOODRICH, Shooter
Goodrich will be 36 next month, but he still plays, now with the New Orleans Jazz. He's the oldest player in the NBA, the last of the war babies in satin shorts. He could always shoot it, he's a lefty, durable. He grew late. He was barely five feet tall in junior high, and he was only 5'8", 120 pounds when he finally became a starter midway through his junior season in high school. He didn't really get to become a teen-ager until he was 20 or 21 years old, and that saves a lot of emotional wear and tear. Over the long haul, the best way to mature is to catch on early but grow up late. Because Goodrich was always little, he never had to play anything but guard. "I can't drive to the basket anymore," he says, "but I never was fast, and I've always tried to play with an understanding of my limits. I still prepare for a game the same way as ever, napping in the afternoon. This goes back to UCLA. My contract is up after this season, but I don't know, we'll see. I still like to play the game. I still like to bounce the ball."
The other two Bruins who made the pros also played for many seasons, and they remain the most involved in basketball. Hazzard, who converted to Islam and is known as Mahdi Abdul-Rahman, wants terribly to get a shot at coaching. He coaches kids' teams in L.A. just to work at it, stay in the game. Keith Erickson, the classic fraternity man who has become an evangelical Christian, is a TV announcer, doing the NBA on CBS and local games in Los Angeles.
It might seem surprising, but the three players' prolonged involvement with the pros does not appear to have diminished their feelings about their college championship. Goodrich is the only one of the seven who acknowledges that something concrete devolved from winning—one word: "publicity"—but neither he nor Erickson nor Abdul-Rahman feels the value of the NCAA title has been lessened by their having subsequently played hundreds of games for a livelihood.
Like first love, it seems that if any memorable moment of youth is precious enough, it retains its special value, no matter how much what follows may duplicate it. The nature of the person, not the fact that he did or did not continue to play, seems to have determined how deeply, how affectionately he treasures the triumphs of his college years. For example, if you could weigh it on a scale, it would seem that Goodrich, who has played more than a thousand games since college, and McIntosh, who has played exactly none, both hold the '64 championship in the same regard. But McIntosh says that his greatest thrill in basketball was going to the state tournament in high school, and Goodrich's "basketball high" was playing on the '72 Laker team that won 33 in a row. But neither Lily (Ky.) High nor the Lakers intrudes on the memory of UCLA '64—or the other way round, either. It's all just games.
What Erickson remembers most fondly about the pros was the Phoenix team he played on in 1976, the one that finished the regular season barely above .500 and then went all the way to the finals before losing a magnificent struggle to the Celtics. "Phoenix was just as good an experience as UCLA," Erickson says. Just as good? "Yeah, sure."
But you didn't win at Phoenix, you got beat in the finals. You won at UCLA. "Well, it was just as good, because we all gave the best we could, and that's what you love about it."
What I missed in the pros was playing with a coherent philosophy, as we did for Coach Wooden. And then I missed never getting a championship. I regret that because I liked winning a championship, being considered a champion. But looking back, back at UCLA, I'm even prouder of the attitude we established there. And I think I had as much to do with that as any player. I was the passer and, when you have one player passing, it becomes contagious. Nobody ever expected us to win, but we knew we were never out of it if we stayed together. That was the attitude. We were so sharp, so determined. You knew everybody would be there. I guess you spend your whole life looking to be covered like we were that year.
—MAHDI ABDUL-RAHMAN, Playmaker
Hazzard was the star, the captain, the catalyst. He was also the only senior who planned to make basketball his career. "Basketball was Abdul-Rahman," Washington says. "He knew what he wanted, and he was sufficiently sophisticated to obtain it. But he was also willing to help anyone he could." And the unique experience was to mean the most to him. Four of the other regulars would win a second championship the next year, and Goodrich and Erickson would also play on that 1971-72 Laker title team. But, as Abdul-Rahman recounts in his smoky voice, he was never to win again; '64 was the only season it all came together, everything. "All-American wins championship, marries cheerleader," he says. "I did it all that year."
By contrast, Abdul-Rahman's pro career was seldom very gratifying, attitude and passing being viewed as superfluous commodities in the NBA, and at the end, when he should have gotten some kind of coaching job, he is sure that he was blackballed because of his new religion. He became a social worker and then last year went back to UCLA full time to complete his degree. Now he is involved in various projects, but all he really wants to do is coach. Abdul-Rahman would seem to be a natural: smart at basketball, good with people. But the Moslem thing aside, he never played for a champion in the pros, and people who hire look to winners for coaches. For years the NBA has been stocked with bad coaches who played for the Celtics.
This is especially ironic because Abdul-Rahman is the player most responsible for triggering the greatest winning tradition in college basketball. The system had always been there under Wooden. Abdul-Rahman brought the attitude onto the floor and bequeathed it to his successors. And it wasn't just that he passed the ball, gave it up. He was a glib city trick, a black getting a lot of attention as a personality at a time when that was still pretty rare. Hazzard could easily have remained unselfish on the court, played the altruistic bit for all it was worth, but off the court milked everything, played himself up. He didn't.
In fact, none of the teammates got a swelled head. "I was so crazy I didn't give anybody a chance to spoil me," Abdul-Rahman says, drawing on one of his little cigars. "All I thought about was the team. I mean, I used to love to go to practice. And when we got to be No. 1, I liked it even better. You got to pay the cost to be the boss."
It has been only 15 years since these seven won their title, but Southern California was less defiled then, more glamorous and innocent. And UCLA itself: they filmed all the college movies there. It was the nation's fantasy campus, a perennial Good News: star athletes and stacked coeds singing and dancing in letter sweaters. UCLA was already a large campus, but nothing like the separate nation it is today. People still referred to Westwood, the UCLA section of Los Angeles, as a "village," and the students at Southern Cal put the whole place down as a "high school." It was so very uncomplicated. The ROTC thrived, and blacks were viewed as, well, guests. There were only about a hundred on campus, and once Hazzard was accosted and reprimanded by an assistant football coach for daring to stroll along in the company of a white girl.
UCLA didn't even have an arena. The Bruins had to play downtown, next to the USC campus, in the city's sports center. The champs-to-be practiced in an old gym that had no air conditioning. Wooden called off workouts twice that year, once because the smog got so bad inside the gym that the players couldn't make out the far basket. But nobody had heard much about emission standards and irritating things like that. It would soon be 1964, but temperamentally it was still the '50s, and for the Bruins, life, like oil, would go on forever. That is not to say that some of the players didn't live off that land of honey and honey. Washington, the bashful sophomore from South Carolina, remembers that he was absolutely undone when he learned that Erickson, God's great athlete, soiled the temple of his body by consuming beer. Jack Hirsch, the other starting forward, was even more adult, being wealthy and married, and Wooden tolerated Hirsch calling him J.W. instead of Coach—or, as McIntosh recalls, so long as Hirsch kept a smile on his face. But winning didn't transform any of them. In team sports, it doesn't really matter whether the individuals are monks or barbarians, sweethearts or sybarites. What counts is that everybody's character stays the same, that a pattern is maintained. On the Bruins, things did stay the same.
"As we traveled around," Erickson says, "as we kept on winning and getting to be a big deal, more and more people would come up and say how great it must be. People around us thought it was much greater than we did. I was just having a good time. It was perfect. We were naive on the one hand, and on the other we were kind of arrogant. There was the California mystique, the pretty girls, all that, the attention was all there, but I just wasn't keyed that way."
The other time Wooden called off practice that year was just before the season started, when the President was killed. Very quickly things were going to change, but through the first part of '64 it was still the good old days. It was, at least in California, the last season of the good old days. "You got to remember, times were so different then," Hirsch says. "I mean, you take basketball. Abdul was the greatest passer ever to come out of college, and the pros signed him for around $15,000. So I didn't have any aspirations about playing pro. Sports has deteriorated so since then. The owners are all greedy and monopolistic, the rich ones strangling the poor. The players are 100% better in talent, but it's all playground, nothing analytical. Who wants to see that? And all of them, owners and players, are completely egotistical and place winning above everything. I won't let my kids play organized sports—and they're good athletes, too.
"But everything has changed. It was so carefree then. Remember? The dissenters, the drugs, the war, all that hadn't come along yet. I was just having some fun and playing basketball. Life was fun. You've got to figure life is a joke, or it'll eat you up alive. I was just a screw-off. You could be a screw-off then. There was still a place for screw-offs."
I never gave a thought to the next day then. I was just a piece of balsa, floating. I played volleyball, surfed. The beach—it was my heaven on earth. Sure, I was an intense competitor, but I didn't need it. Once I stopped playing, I lost the edge. Competition is no longer my idea of fun. But the great thing now, looking back, is having played for John Wooden. Championships are no big deal. The NCAA, the NBA, you get a watch or something and after three, four years, nobody remembers. So to have been on an NCAA championship team really doesn't mean anything. But now I know that what was important was playing for Wooden, because he was a wise man, a great man. Of course, I didn 't know that at the time. He wasn't any big deal to me. I didn't listen to anything he said.
—KEITH ERICKSON, Safetyman
To take advantage of the team's agility and to compensate for its lack of height, Wooden utilized his 2-2-1 zone press, a tactic he had used extensively the year before, almost exclusively in 1964. Goodrich was assigned to the left front, with Fred Slaughter, the center, at the right. They would usually let the opponent throw the ball in unmolested. About 80% of the time the ball would go to the left, and Slaughter would pop over and double-team. Hazzard was stationed behind Goodrich, halfway between the foul lane and the sideline, with Hirsch alongside of him, and Erickson roved far back, playing safety. The idea was not to steal the ball. The idea was for the front men to harass the man with the ball sufficiently to make him stop his dribble in backcourt. Then he had to pass, and the 10-second clock was ticking. Hazzard would move up, cutting off any opponent who tried to come back and help out. Hirsch would pick up the next rival, usually a big man trying to double back. Stay in front, clog the outlets, make them throw it long.
Erickson was the keystone. He was a fantastic athlete, "almost surely the best I ever coached," according to Wooden. He made the Olympics in volleyball, and he might have become a major league shortstop. Long-legged, he could jump and run all day, and he was all the more effective because he did it so effortlessly, without expression. He doesn't play any games anymore, but he talks as he played, languidly, almost hypnotically. He is so pale and soft, so removed, it is almost as if he is not there. On the press, he swooped about like a specter.
Listen, you wouldn't believe that anyone could play a position, could do a single thing much better than Erickson played safety in the UCLA press. Name a specialty—putt, punt, volley, field grounders—nobody who saw him could ever imagine that any athlete was ever much better at his thing than Erickson was at backing up the press. As people like to remember it, he never made a mistake back there. He never gambled and went for a steal when he didn't pull it off. If he played it safe, if the opposition got the ball upcourt, he would singlehandedly hawk them to rest, holding them at bay until the other Bruins joined him.
UCLA had a certain way of winning; all of a sudden, using their press, the Bruins would crack you. It was an explosion. They beat Duke that way in the NCAA finals. Duke was ahead 30-27, and then—zap! the press got to the Blue Devils, UCLA scored 16 straight points in 2:40 and went on to win 98-83. The rest of the game was even. The epitome of team play was required, not only because everybody had to work together—that's self-evident—but also because everybody had to maintain patience and trust. Sometimes it would be late in the game before the press would detonate, and in the meantime any of the Bruins could have messed it all up by getting anxious, going one-on-one, falling out of character. The press could only work as an article of faith.
The one who suffered most in the system was the only one who had been heavily recruited. That was Slaughter, the senior center. He had had 104 scholarship offers. In high school in Kansas and then with the UCLA freshmen, Slaughter was the high scorer. He was fed the ball. He was a real hotshot, a leading scorer on the freshman track team, too.
But he wasn't outstanding in any one event in track, and at 6'5" he was too small to be a center, so, as his career wore on, he was reduced more and more to staying in the high post, setting screens, doing the semiskilled labor. "Of all the players, I was the one who suffered most by the molding of strengths and weaknesses," Slaughter says. "And I'll tell you, it was hard to take. There's nobody who doesn't want to score, and it took the edge off it for me. But how could I question it? It was successful."
All right, be honest, was it better to win as a team or would it have been personally more rewarding to be the high-scoring star of a team that merely did O.K.? Slaughter looks away. He thinks about that. He is a sports attorney, assistant dean of the law school at UCLA and the most intellectual—probably the smartest—of the seven. He isn't going to give a Pollyanna answer. The scoring thing ate at him so that his teammates knew that he screened and picked so effectively, sometimes viciously (even in practice), out of frustration. Finally Slaughter speaks deliberately, as if he is giving a client a very considered opinion: "O.K., on balance, on balance, I would have preferred to have played on the winning team, like I did." But then, quickly leaning forward and speaking with more emphasis, he adds a large footnote, "But don't let that diminish what I said about wanting to score more."
I grew up in Beaufort, South Carolina, the sixth of seven children. My father was a Marine sergeant, and my parents preached dignity and integrity for all. The only offer I had was from South Carolina State, a black college, but I dreamed of competing against the best. Luckily, when I visited Philadelphia one summer, I played against Walt Hazzard, and he told UCLA about me, Sort of. He told them I was 6'5", 230. I was about 6'2½", 165. Abdul-Rahman, bless his heart, he didn't have to do it.
I was in absolute culture shock when I arrived at UCLA. I saw things that I didn't know existed. It was like turning on my television set. California! It was more than I ever could have dreamed. And the campus—it was bigger than my whole town. Smokin' Joe Frazier was from Beaufort, too, and he was just a country dude, just another guy. I had never talked to white people before, and my accent was so bad that when I said I came from South Carolina, they thought I meant South America. They couldn't believe I came from the United States.
And then, '64, that was just more of a Hollywood dream. It wasn't part of life. My senior year saved me. We worked harder, did more, but Zeus just decided that it wouldn't work out. That year was the great experience. Not the ones we won when I was a sophomore and a junior. The senior season, when we missed, that was the precious one. Otherwise, I might take myself too seriously.
—KENNY WASHINGTON, Fill-in
Around that time, when Washington came across the country on a bus, everybody was still pouring into California, and it looks like they were right to do so, because through last weekend neither an earthquake nor a vengeful Jehovah had split the place apart. And then as now, it's a wonderful land for games, so ideal, in fact, that the citizens often confuse their pastimes with the rest of life. Quickly now, which one of those nice men is coach of the Lakers and which one is coach of the taxpayers? Is that Jerry Brown or Jerry West? It seems that the people who work there identify themselves as being either in "the industry" or in "the business." One or the other. The former is films, the latter records. Everything else has to do with the weather.
UCLA had traditionally stocked its basketball team with Ozzie and Harriet extras until circumstances in '64 conspired to deliver a bunch of players from the East. Four showed up in Southern California to go to college; Hirsch, who had grown up in Brooklyn, where he went to an 80%-black school, had moved to L.A. when he was 14. Now he is probably the most California of the seven, laid back. He never wears a tie. What are you doing these days, Jack? "A little of everything."
If he hadn't lived in New York, Hirsch probably wouldn't have been worth a damn to the team. He was still early Gotham cynical. Timid little Washington could not believe him. They would sit down at the training table, Washington drooling over the athletes' special repast, and Hirsch would shove government-inspected prime beef and potatoes away, saying, "I don't want this slop."
Hirsch had to play with enthusiasm, because he was a 6'3½" forward who couldn't jump and, according to the graceful Erickson, "ran like a duck." Hirsch absolutely confounded Washington, who thought he could take away Hirsch's starting spot. "I found out that Jack was as much a genius, ounce for ounce, as I ever saw," Washington says. "He could take everything he wanted away from you, and you never even knew it. He played so you couldn't have your habits."
This is the kind of player that doesn't exist anymore; possibly, this kind of person doesn't exist anymore. It's guaranteed they don't exist in Southern California. You know what the trouble is? The trouble with growing up in California is that the instant you step off the curb, the traffic has to stop. That's the law. Kids grow up thinking they're inviolable when they cross streets. It's eerie: nobody walking around the UCLA campus ever looks to the side. Children who don't have to look around are a different breed.
Hirsch had company. Hazzard, his friend, made it a pair—"East Coast," they called him, slick not smooth, always coming down on somebody's case, razzing them, making them aware of human traffic. Then, at the other end of the spectrum, there were the backwoods kids, McIntosh and Washington, staggered by California, but properly respectful, though never awed on the court. It was a perfect mix.
This is not to say that Californians can't win. After a while, after the first five titles—Hazzard and Hirsch through Alcindor and Lucius Allen—UCLA started winning with local boys, just as USC dominates football and baseball with California players. Apparently, the seduction is not complete until after college. Eventually it sucks everybody down. The other day Abdul-Rahman was lamenting that he had put a few extra pounds on. Why? Because there's been more rain than usual. So what? Well, I can't play tennis if it rains. It's like a shaggy-dog story: take the carrot out of your ear. What?
No wonder then that though the collegians in L.A. are still disciplined enough to win, the pros cannot—not, it seems, at the end, in the crunch, when you have to look both ways. The Rams must have perfect weather, and the Dodgers cannot manage if mean things are said to them by nasty-poo fans. Except for one year, the Lakers have always given it away. But then, perhaps it's proper that Los Angeles has to depend on its children for championships, because it is such a children's city; it is so naughty when it rains.
It is different in other places. "I learned in the South you can't make mistakes," Washington says. "You got to learn to do it, to get respect. You can't cry. O.K., playing on a winner, it's great. The success of the team made people think I had achieved more. But the way I had grown up, I wanted to be great for myself, too. I wanted to go against the best, beat them and be great against them. That was my dream." In the championship, against Duke, Washington came off the bench and scored 26, his high for the season.
I just played basketball because it was something I did well, and I had fun. I hated practice. It was a bore, so I just fooled around a lot. I was the odd Jew boy on the team. I sure never had any competitive drive out there. If I was very competitive, I'd be a multimillionaire today. I shoot some golf. I shoot around 80. I could do better, but I'd just frustrate myself in the process.
It was a fluke that I came to UCLA at all. I was having a great time in junior college—one of those places, I forget which, where I held all the records—and the next year I figured I'd go have some fun at...what's that place, uh, Northridge State. But my father said, look, go to UCLA and I'll give up smoking. So I did, but he didn't quit, and he died of cancer.
I was 21 when he passed away, and I suddenly found myself with a lot of responsibility. For nine years I beat myself out. I was working too hard and jogging six miles a day on the beach. I got pneumonia and mono at the same time and almost died. Then a good friend of mine died in a fire. And about this time I got divorced, and I was playing around, drinking a lot, all that. But the one thing you can learn in college is to be organized. And what I got out of basketball was college. I got that. And I began to learn to cope with life better.
You can be more successful if you're organized and I consider myself successful now because I have peace of mind. It's like Mr. Wooden's famous quote, that success means you've done your best. That's peace of mind.
—JACK HIRSCH, Handyman
The most fascinating thing about the UCLA team was not that it fit together so perfectly but that it was formed out of such utter serendipity. Hirsch came because of a promise his father would break. Washington because Hazzard told a fib. Slaughter was unknown in California, but his mother lived out there and tipped off an alumnus she worked for. McIntosh was going to Tennessee, but the coach there lost his job, the school lost interest and an old friend called Wooden. Erickson was worth the gamble of only a half a basketball scholarship. Wooden was the only college coach to discern potential in little Goodrich.
Hazzard was a high-scoring high school All-America, but he was a 6'2" forward, and UCLA was the only school outside of Philadelphia to pursue him. He went to an L.A. junior college for a year to get his grades up, but then he went back home, started hanging around with his old buddies again and decided to stay east. Jerry Norman, the UCLA assistant, phoned him: "School starts tomorrow, Walt." Hazzard said he'd think about it. His father, Walt Hazzard Sr., now the president of Philander Smith College, came home, heard about the call and said, "You told those people you'd be coming, didn't you, son?" And Hazzard said yes he had, and so that is why he went to UCLA and took along the attitude. It's nice to learn that a dynasty started in this way.
If ever there was an All-America team, this one was it. Nothing can match the maturation and camaraderie that I got from getting to know these guys. They're the same as ever, the ones I still see. I'm glad they're not complicated as individuals, but we were complicated as a team. We had a degree of toughness, but we also had poise. That's an unusual combination. Our success was based on acquiring an understanding of roles. There's something in that for us all, anywhere in society. That's not just what politicians talk about.
But I had had enough of basketball. I was a senior, and I knew it was time for me to leave sports. Sports is such a temporary thing. But I couldn't cut it right off completely. After college I'd go out to see Walt play with the Lakers. And when I got there I found I missed the action. Even though I didn't get the glory, I missed the action, and I'd find myself thinking, "Gee, I wonder if...."
—FRED SLAUGHTER, High-post Screen
On any team, the members are all coming from different directions, will all soon be going different ways. They are only together for an instant. It is not just personalities and abilities that must mesh; the time must be right, too. Had all seven Bruins come back the next fall, it might not have worked. Washington would have had to get more playing time. McIntosh was ready to replace Slaughter as the starter. Could Goodrich have tolerated another year as the second banana in the backcourt? On a team, the time has to come together, too.
Slaughter and Goodrich characterized this most graphically. They had roomed together, the black senior and the white junior, but that season they passed each other like ships in the night—Slaughter going out of games, Goodrich evermore into them.
Goodrich's career is so patterned, so repetitive, that it appears to have been charted. At each stage he started tentatively, being skeptically viewed as too small, but went on to great heights. It was that way in school, in college, in the pros—Twig, Stumpy, Goody. There is talk now that, at his price, he may be over the hill. But really, can Gail Goodrich end his career with the dreadful Jazz, just drift away after the Milwaukee game on April 6? Impossible. There is something inexorable about little Goodrich. McIntosh says with some awe, "Gail is a guy who, to this day, has survived mostly on intensity." And he is, after all, still in double figures.
Double figures! For any kid who has ever played the game, no matter how old he is now, there is no more magic place to be than in double figures. Seriously now, if you had a choice, wouldn't you rather be in double figures than even in California?
Slaughter was the opposite of Goodrich. He was the early-maturing high school hero whose star progressively dimmed until, at the last, he left the athletic stage as a tragic figure. Slaughter came from Kansas City, and the 1964 NCAAs were played there that March before his old friends and family. But Wooden yanked him less than three minutes into the game, and when McIntosh did the job. Slaughter never got back in.
On the court that night, Goodrich was high scorer with 27 and he assumed the mantle from Hazzard. But poor Slaughter. He started 59 halves that season, but not the most important one, the last one, his last one ever. At the very acme of his team's success, Slaughter reached his nadir as a player. Afterward, many people did not know how to approach him, because they did not know what to say to him. they did not know whether he felt like a real winner. The team flew back to L.A. "When we got in," Slaughter recalls, "I just got off the plane by myself. I remember all the people celebrating, going to Walt and Gail, and I just walked right on by and went home."
That was the way his athletic career ended. But, of course, it wasn't any sort of real tragedy, because Slaughter has gone on to success in the rest of his life. If he had been a big deal in K.C., maybe it would have encouraged him to waste a lot of time working out and scrounging after gee-if dreams. It's a good bet that more athletes have loused up their lives gee-iffing than they have chasing women or running restaurants. There was a certain poetic justice to what happened to Slaughter. Of them all, he sacrificed the most for the team, and at the end he didn't contribute a thing, but the team made him a winner.
Besides being the assistant dean of the UCLA law school, Slaughter also represents several pro basketball and football players. Hirsch has put on muscles lifting weights, but Slaughter has gotten what you call "heavy-set," and McIntosh is taking on the prosperous look of an Episcopalian vicar, which he is not. He has an independent, evangelical parish, the Stone Mountain Community Church, outside Atlanta. "I always wanted to start a church from scratch," he says. There are 300 worshipers, and they just got a plot of land, and someday they may have their own building. For now, they must hold the services in the DeKalb Community College auditorium. But a church is not uppermost in the Rev. Mr. McIntosh's mind. He spends half his working life with his parishioners, half in preparation for his pastoral responsibilities.
"It's important for me to know who my people are," he says, "but I need the study time so I'll be sure to keep teaching them eternal things." He wears a gray suit, black shoes and brown socks, and of all the '64 Bruins he knows himself the best.
Washington, the other sophomore, had McIntosh's introspection and Goodrich's intensity; he found he could play against the best, beat the best, but he was not quite the best himself. It took him a while to get it out of his system. "You know what you miss?" he says. "You miss the tingling body." He played in Belgium after UCLA and then in the Army. Later he coached the UCLA women's team. But one day Washington decided that basketball could no longer fit into his life. "It's over," he thought. "Hey, this part is over." He is going to law school at night now, studying to be a tax lawyer. He is as lithe and baby-faced as ever, and he is also the only one who has never married.
As Washington embarks on a new phase of his life, Hirsch has already been what he calls "semiretired" for five years. His family had money from leading the bowling boom into Southern California. Now he and his wife run a couple of salons, named Hair Unlimited, and he invests in various enterprises. He also invented a device known as an air adapter, which is used to inflate the inside tires of trucks and recreational vehicles.
Hirsch, the iconoclast, the one who took it all the lightest, who screwed up at practice, is the one who dares speak of what they did as especially meaningful. "Of course, there's great self-satisfaction," he says. "Winning is a means to an end, it's an accomplishment, and I'm not afraid of accomplishment. I can look back and think: it was a success, wasn't it? We were successful."
None pretends that the victory did not matter. McIntosh could not sleep after UCLA beat Duke, so, finally, he got up and went down to the hotel lobby in Kansas City, where four or five of the other players were also sitting around, breathing it in. "It was a wonderful experience," McIntosh remembers, "but it's so hard to consider anything out of perspective. I mean, compare it to what I'm doing now, and it becomes absolutely insignificant. But is that fair? Never forget that I'm the answer to the trivia question: who preceded Abdul-Jabbar as the UCLA center?" He laughs. He has a pastor's manner, at once revealing and reassuring. "The great zone press. Do you know that after a while the second team could beat the press pretty regularly? That had a certain humbling effect. And Southern Cal—SC wasn't supposed to have a good coach, but they learned to split the press." He chuckles again, at the transparency of it all, at the folly of the flesh. "Anybody who got movies of our games with USC could have beaten the press."
From that championship, McIntosh has a set of tumblers, packed away somewhere, that were specially made up to celebrate the 30-0 season. His mother kept a scrapbook, and once in a blue moon he takes it out and skims it. "I can stand about 20 minutes," he says.
Goodrich played his 1,000th NBA game Jan. 13. He twisted his ankle and had to go out, but he was back in a couple of days for 1,001. In another time, when he and McIntosh were boys, they loved the same girl and learned something or other about victory.
I'm removed from California, and I certainly don't bring UCLA up, because it has no bearing on who I am now. I think I gained some self-control from being on a champion. That carries over. Once you've been in the public eye, you understand better that if you fail, you 're going to make a bigger splash. And no doubt the experience gave me an immeasurable amount of confidence in myself. But winning? Let me tell you something. I never heard Coach Wooden mention it. The word 'win' never escaped his lips. Literally. He just asked us to play to our potential.
But winning had to have something to do with it, because if you played to your potential, if you won when you did, then you could see what would result, and you could carry that over into the situations of life. You must be careful with winning. Athletes are too often not given a chance to grow or to make mistakes, and that puts them in a very vulnerable position for the rest of their lives.
—DOUG MCINTOSH, Backup Center