Starting today and once week from now until the start of the college basketball season, I will be bringing you a new feature, CRAWFACTS, which will entail for you great readers, some facts about west coast college basketball which hopefully always will be informative, entertaining, sometimes funny and rarely sad.
So here goes the first edition, all researched from craw's corner crack research staff of one, myself.
1. Long Beach State, a school which as of late barely hits the map when you think about west coast basketball has had some pretty famous people as their head coaches in the history of its basketball program.
How about these guys who coached the 49ers........ Lute Olson, Tex Winter and Jerry Tarkanian. All three of these great coaches should be in every Hall of Fame related to college basketball, end of story.
2. When the San Francisco Dons were winning back to back NCAA championships in 1955 and 56, they were not playing in the present home of the Dons. War Memorial Gym, was actually built because of the success of the championship teams and opened in 1957. If you can believe, War Memorial, which seats less than 5.000 was home to the San Francisco Warriors of the NBA in the 1966-67 season and is also famous for being the site of the first ever nationally televised basketball game by CBS, that taking place in 1982, Georgia visited the Dons. (Boy have we come a long way in all aspects of basketball, especially basketball on TV.)
3. When I didn't know the answer to this question, I turned to the great assistant assistant athletic director at New Mexico, Frank Mercogliano.
Question is, who is responsible for tagging the name of the Lobos home court arena, "The Pit"? Turns out, no one. The arena is named as such because the building goes straight down into the ground. Coach K can say all he wants about Cameron Indoor Arena being the greatest home court in college basketball, but no one in college basketball has a better home court atmosphere than Utah State and New Mexico. If you moved those arenas and settings to the east coast, they would be revered.
4. In the great basketball history of Pac-8, Pac-10 and now Pac-12, only three coaches have been the head coach at two different schools within the conference. Marv Harshman (Washington State, Washington), Mike Montgomery (Stanford,California) and George Raveling (Washington State, USC). The reason I am not coaching basketball is that I could never go to my in-state rival, such as Harshman and Montgomery did, loyalty would block me. I am sure it was never about the money. Wink, wink.
5. Until it ended its great run of being the home court for the Oregon Ducks in 2011, Mac Court was the second oldest used college basketball arena in the country. Built in 1926, it was only surpassed in longevity by Rose Hill Gym, home court of the Fordham Rams, which was built in 1925. For the record, I did not know this and neither did the five Duck alumni I asked this week. Where did Mac Court get its name? It was named after Clifton Nesmith McArthur, who was a United State representative in Congress from Oregon and also the first student body president at Oregon.
6. Everyone associates Elgin Baylor's college career with Seattle University. The Redhawks, rightfully so, have named their court where they play their home games at Key Arena, after him. But Baylor did not start his college career at Seattle, but instead started at College of Idaho, which is an NAIA school in Caldwell, Idaho, which at Baylor's time played in the Northwest Conference and now plays in the Cascade Conference.
Baylor was an unreal player in high school, but lacked a little on the academic side. C of I was in no way trying to become at the time the Reed College of the west (google Reed, to get the inside joke) so they brought on Baylor to play with another famous athlete, R.C. Owens. Of course Owens went on from C of I, to become a great pro football player, most notably with the 49ers.
In the 1954-55 season, the two great basketball players lead the team to a 23-4 record, but lost in the regional playoffs to Montana St. for chance to go on and play in the NAIA national tournament.
For the record, in the 1954-55 season at College of Idaho, Baylor averaged 31.3 points per game and 18 rebounds and Owens averaged 19 points and 21 rebounds. That still might be the the most potent duo to take the court ever in west coast basketball.
By the way, how did Baylor get his first name? His Dad was a big fan of Elgin watches, truly one of great brands of all time in the watch and clock industry.
7. Speaking of the San Francisco Dons, they have so much basketball history, but in an indirect way they changed the entire history of the NBA. After leading the Dons to their second straight NCAA championship in 1956, Bill Russell was the hottest player in the game. And in 1956, the money to be made professionally was not in the NBA, but playing for the Harlem Globetrotters.
Abe Saperstein, the renown owner of the Trotters was telling everyone that he could see and would listen, that he was going to offer Russell $50,000 to join his world famous team and Russell was telling people he liked the idea. But when Saperstein came to the San Francisco campus, he barely acknowledged Russell, but instead spent his entire time on campus talking to Dons head coach Phil Woolpert, figuring that was the best avenue to Russell.
Russell was so incensed, hurt by the way Saperstein "dissed" him on his visit that he refused for the next ten years to ever even mention the Trotters. Instead he put himself in the 1956 NBA draft and the history of Bill Russell not going to the Trotters, but instead being one of the top five players of all time in the NBA playing for the dominating Boston Celtics, still has an impact on the league to this day.
Perhaps in June of 2011 we might not be talking about the Celtics as much as we do, but instead talking about the St. Louis Hawks, Ft. Wayne Pistons or the Rochester/Cincinnati/Kansas City/Sacramento Royals.
Bill Russell you messed up the entire NBA forever by choosing the Celtics over the Trotters, but oh were you an awesome basketball player.
I hope you enjoyed the history making edition of the first ever CRAWFACTS.
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