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Friday, May 27, 2011

Did Seattle University In One Game Change Basketball History?

As I have written before, (WCC, What You Waiting For?), it is a complete joke that the Seattle University Redhawks are not part of the WCC yet and have not been invited to join the league.

What is not a JOKE, is the history of Seattle University basketball. The history has some fascinating stories to say the least.

Over its history, the Redhwawks, who in their heyday were known as the Chieftains, have produced 27 players who were drafted into the NBA, nine of those players had careers in the NBA which lasted at least six years. From 1953 to 1967, Seattle played in the NCAA tournament 11 times during that time span and in 1958 played in the championship game, losing to the Kentucky Wildcats.

The great Elgin Baylor was the first player drafted into the NBA from Seattle U. in 1959 and the last player drafted was Clint Richardson in 1980. That will change as the Redhawks establish themselves in D-1 basketball after a long absence of playing on the D-1 level. In addition, Johnny O'Brien, in the early 50s was the first NCAA player to score 1,000 points in a career.

There are lots of the 335 D-1 teams that would love to have the above history of Seattle U., but there is more, much MORE.

In 1952, Seattle U. played the world famous Harlem Globetrotters in Hec Edmondson Pavilion, the homecourt of the Washington Huskies. The game was sold out months in advance. The Globetrotters were so talented in those days that two of their players, Marques Haynes and Goose Tatum, were the highest paid players in basketball, making $25,000 per year. (Are you listening and reading, NFL and NBA).

The game was such a big deal in Seattle that Louie Armstrong, the greatest trumpet player EVER was brought in to perform at halftime. Courtside seats were being scalped outside for $12.50 and three people were arrested for scalping tickets.

In those days, Abe Saperstein, the longtime owner of the Globetrotters constantly bragged that he had the best basketball team in the world and while always entertaining, the Trotters played to win and played a very competitive schedule.

The game was close throughout the entire contest, with Seattle U, pulling out the victory in the final minutes, 84-81. The victory was actually cinched in the final minute when the Trotters called a time-out while not having one left, giving the Chieftains a technical foul shot and  ball back in the final seconds. (Michigan Fab Five, your not the only ones who ever made this mistake).

Not only was the Seattle U. victory a monumental upset, but Johnny O'Brien scored 43 points in the game, the most points ever scored on a Globetrotter team up to that point.

But wait, it gets more interesting.

After the game, owner Saperstein was so incensed by the defeat, he canceled the rest of the Trotters benefit games for the rest of the year (this game was played for the benefit of the United State Olympic Committee). Within a week, Saperstein was on the phone to his buddy, Louis Klotz, who was always wanting to be part of the Globetrotters management, but Saperstein would never budge.

Although reports of their conversation differ slightly, the bottom line was that Saperstein and Klotz worked a deal, for Klotz to form a team that the Globetrotters would defeat for many years to come, although to this day, Klotz says the games were never fixed and his team played to win (I guess they were not cause Congress has never held a hearing on the subject) and play on a regular basis and although the Globetrotters would remain competitive, they also would become much, much more entertaining.

Klotz was huge fan of President Dwight Eisenhower, thus he named his team the WASHINGTON GENERALS. Little did he know at that time that his team would be forever part of world basketball history and little did Seattle U. know through one big victory, they might have changed the entire history of the Harlem Globetrotters.

For the record, the original  Washington Generals stopped playing the Globetrotters in 1995, their career record against them from 1953-1995 was 6 wins and 13,033 defeats. By my count, in today's standards the Generals with as horrendous a record as there ever has been in sports would have gone through close to 100 coaches who would have lost their jobs. In actuality, only three men coached the Generals in their 42 year history.

Yes, west coast college basketball does have lots of history and interesting history.

emails always welcome,, or comments as well


  1. I do want to point out that the Washington Generals who did change their name to the New York Nationals in 1995, returned to playing as the Washington Generals since 2008.