Tag Archives: Basketball

Texas Western vs Kentucky

The 1966 Texas Western ( now known as The University of Texas at El Paso -UTEP)- Kentucky NCAA Championship. Certainly the most significant game ever played in the history of basketball. Simply because of the segregated nature of basketball in the south during the sixties. This game and this game alone served to remove the barriers and unwritten rules that college coaches observed in the failure to sign the black athletes to a four year scholarship in the segregated south . After this game, the barriers were lifted and southern schools began in earnest to recruit the black athlete.

Adolph Rupp, The head basketball coach at the University of Kentucky, went to great lengths to refrain from diligently  recruiting  black basketball players.  He did recruit Wes Unseld a graduate of Louisville Seneca High School and he also recruited Butch Beard from Breckenridge County High School in Kentucky, but both players felt  that Kentucky would not be a welcoming environment and they chose to attend the University of Louisville.  Rupp did pay a visit to Ron King in his home in 1969.  King along with Otto Petty led  Louisville Central to the 1969 Kentucky State Championship.  The same year King was named Kentucky’s Mr. Basketball. King decided to attend Florida State, where Hugh Durham, a Louisville native was the head coach.
Adolph Rupp won 4 national Championships at Kentucky during his career. He wanted to win just one more championship before he retired and 1966, he felt this was his year to do it. Rupp had a team, featuring five undersized players, led by Pat Riley, current Miami  GM, Louie Dampier, Tommy Kron, Thad Jarez and Larry Conley. They were known as Rupp’s Runts( no player was over 6’5 inches tall) and they terrorized the Southeastern Conference. They were a great team and they played an exciting brand of basketball.

Texas Western had one of the best point guards ever in Bobby Joe Hill from Detroit. Don  Haskins recruited five black players and he promoted that he would flaunt it doing warm ups. He would encourage his players to dunk to create intimidation. Haskins was a con-man, and a pool shark, he transferred those characteristic to the basketball floor.
A white basketball player on Texas Western team, said he grew up hating opposing white players, because of the despicable things that they said to the Texas Western’s black players. Pat Forde, a reporter for the Louisville Courier Journal, said they brought a street game with them. It started with Don Haskins’ Texas Western team.
Kentucky won a number one ranking by beating nearly everyone, with a unrelenting defense and fast break offense, Rupp’ s team was a well oiled team. Texas Western survived Kansas by one point in double overtime. The other semifinal game over shadowed the Texas Western-Kansas game. The general consensus was that the Kentucky – Duke winner would be the national champions. Texas Western was furious. They wanted to beat Kentucky not because they had the possibility of being the first all black team. They wanted to beat them because they were being overlooked.

Haskins made a crucial strategic decision prior to the game. He played three guards to keep up with Kentucky’s speed. Haskins, rolled out five black players to start the NCAA championship game. Just understand there was an unwritten rule by white college basketball coaches in the south; never start five black players at one time. Haskins did it. It was on. One undefeated team in Kentucky and one once defeated team in Texas Western.

Haskins was a gambler and he would do anything possible to win the gamble; beat Adolph Rupp. Haskins did ,more in this one game to further the cause of integration than Martin Luther King. This game was the defining game of the century for College basketball.
It had tremendous social implications. I remember seeing the game myself . I was only 11 years old, but this game is sealed in my memory as the most exciting and significant game ever in NCAA finals history. There was the notion that if you had five black players that they were not as intelligent as the white players. If you put pressure on them they would crack. Texas Western proved this to be unfounded.
At the start of the game Big Daddy Latin rejected Pat Riley’s shot and the next time he dunked over Pat Riley. Later, point guard, Bobby Joe Hill made two consecutive steals in the game. Kentucky was down 34-31 at the half. Kentucky kept it close they felt they could still win.  Texas Western won the NCAA Championship 74-65.

The Texas Western players, as always took it in stride, Haskins hoped his players would be a little excited about the win. Coach Haskins smiled. Don Haskins begin to realized the impact of the victory. He would later received basketball cans filled with hate mail for coaching all black players. He even received a letter from black leaders who called him an exploiter. Haskins, a white coach, paid a price for his courage.

But if it were not for his courage, college basketball would not be where it is today. Adolph Rupp fought the memory of that game for the rest of his life. In a time when our country was in turmoil, fighting for equality for blacks in the south The Texas Western- Kentucky NCAA championship played a significant role in breaking the chains of integration. After this game, southern white coaches started recruiting the black athlete, one by one the ban was lifted. Adolph Rupp coached five more years before his retirement. He finally successfully recruited and signed to a scholarship, his first black player, Tom Payne, out of Louisville Shawnee High School in 1969. Rupp died of cancer in 1977. In 1998 Kentucky won the National Championship, ironically, with a team coach by Tubby Smith, a black man.


Rick Pitino Needs To Step up In order to Reach Coaching Elite

First of all I am a life long Louisville Cardinal basketball fan. I am not a big fan of Rick Pitino. I am right there cheering for the Cardinals each and every game. However, I believe Rick Pitino has definitely worn out his welcome at Louisville. Pitino is not a great bench coach, he is not a great game manager and he has a definite habit of leaning on the wrong players to be leaders on his teams. Yet the athletic Director just gave Pitino a new ten year contract, despite the fact that he is 62 years old.

He is not a great recruiter, nor is he a superior evaluator of talent. This is my biggest problem with Pitino. He is terrible at recruiting the state of Kentucky, preferring to recruit elsewhere. This has been his strategy since he took over as Head Basketball coach at Louisville.

Make no mistake, Pitino is likeable and has achieved nearly all there’s is to achieve, in that respect it is a love hate relationship. I know Pitino has a great relationship with Louisville’s Athletic Director and his charisma level is off the charts. He is funny and can talk his way out of any situation, typical of many New Yorkers. At Louisville Pitino is a big fish in a small pond. And believe me, this characteristic has served him well at Louisville. Pitino has had many off the court incidents, however that is not the focus of this article. The fact is Rick Pitino has a great deal at Louisville and apparently everyone is pleased. Pitino is a Hall of Fame coach.

The trouble with Pitino is that he is not a great recruiter. He settles for mediocre players rather than put in the hard work to recruit the best. I believe he does notenjoy recruiting. In this day and time if you do not enjoy recruiting how can you possibly succeed? Yet Pitino just received a lucrative contract extension. Apparently the Athletic Director is pleased with his performance. One national championship in 12 years is quite enough for Rick Pitino to keep his job.

For the record Pitino has won two national championship. One at Kentucky and one at Louisville. He has coached at seven final fours.

LeBron James Is The Greatest Player To Ever Play The Game

imageThe conversation has been on a variety of topics, Mount Rushmore, 5 championships, the greatest player of all time…..you’ve heard the pundants and the experts name the greatest NBA players and  the conversation over the last few days has been interesting. My opinion is that LeBron James is without a doubt the greatest basketball player of all time, even exceeding the exploits of one Michael Jordan. I know that is crossing the line, but I believe the time in which an NBA player actually played has a tremendous impact in determining who is in fact the greatest NBA player of all time. LeBron James has done it all and I  believe that the measure of a basketball player cannot be dictated by how many NBA titles said player actually won. There are two many factors involved in determining the greatest NBA player of all time and the way the modern game is played and administrated has an impact as well. First of all the game has changed, today’s  players are certainly more stronger and athletic today vs 10, 20 or even 30 years ago. In my opinion there has never been a player with the strength, endurance, basketball IQ, and bravery as LeBron James.  James won two NBA championships in Miami and I would venture to say he would have probably won at least three more had he elected to stay in Miami. It took per guts to leave Miami and to go back to Cleveland. The conversation changed when LeBron opted to return home to Cleveland. Suddenly it is not about the greatest clutch shooter, it is not about how many NBA titles Michael Jordan delivered or How many titles LeBron James delivered. The conversation is suddenly about how much better did LeBron James make the players around him….. Jordan was not an expert at making players around him better. He was simply interested in securing the wins in NBA title games. Jordan had endurance, however he was not interested in getting stronger, he was more interested in securing NBA titles. Nothing is wrong with that. However,  I have never seen a player with the physical skills set attention to detail and the ability to make each and every player the best they can be, Jordan did not have that skill set, LeBron James does.  James can score, he can rebound, he can run the floor and he could probably play all  5 positions on the basketball floor, Michael Jordan could not do this. What makes LeBron James so good, he is a student of the game, knows every play ahead of time and knows where his teammates  are in at any given time. What he has put together in Cleveland is remarkable. LeBron James  molded and shaped this team. Jordon never had this much influence, LeBron James is the greatest basketball player and the greatest facilitator, personnel administrator and teammate that anyone would want if they want to get better as basketball players. For these reasons LeBron James will go down as the greatest NBA player of all time, That is how good he is.   ,

LeBron James is “All IN” In Delivering The First Championship In 50 Years for Cleveland

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No Sports story can be more exciting than the Cleveland Cavs quest to achieve a title the first in over 50 years. This is the story of a sports starved city, who have dreamed  of bringing home a championship in any sport. This time it is LeBron James who has taken it upon himself to deliver the much elusive championship. It is the stuff  that movies are made of and LeBron James is right in the middle of the historic drama. If you ask anyone they will tell you that LeBron James will be a living legend if He can pull this off.   It is exciting to watch.

There are so many angles to this quest to win a championship and all of it carried by one man, LeBron James. This guy is intriguing and his life story is in a word unique. Not only is James carrying  the weight of a city, he is carrying the weight of generations of families who just want to win a championship ……… any championship. When LeBron James promised to deliver an NBA title no one thought that he would be two wins away from making good on his promise. The reality right now is he is so close he can feel it. We will watch with excitement as the greatest basketball player on the planet makes good on the “Promise”. Trust me generations of championship starved Cleveland sports fans will erupt when it happens.


Chane Behanan Dismissed From Team By Louisville


Chane Behanan was dismissed from the team by Louisville head coach Rick Pitino. Behanan was suspended previously and violated school policy once again. Pitino offered to sit down with Behanan to find a place that would be a good fit for him. Behanan also has the option of declaring for the NBA. Just looking at the situation and not knowing the particulars, Louisville did all it could to right the Behanan ship, apparently Behanan had a hard time cooperating.

This will most definitely be a blow for Louisville as they struggle to repeat as National Champions. We will need to see have Pitino revamps the line up to compensate for the loss of Behanan.