The death on Christmas Day of K.C. Jones, the 88-year-old Basketball Hall of Famer, evoked fond memories from December 1967, when the eight-time NBA champion had just retired from the Boston Celtics and transitioned to the varsity coach for Brandeis University.
His team was playing at Brooklyn College, and my City College of New York (CCNY) freshman team was playing the preliminary game.
During the 1960s, unlike today, freshmen were not eligible to play on the varsity.
After trouncing the Brooklyn College team, we stayed to watch the first half of the varsity game, in which the home team had built a huge lead, and I remarked to teammates that I didn't understand why K.C. was bothering to coach a bunch of "nons," which was hoops lingo for guys who couldn't play.
It didn't then dawn on this 17-year-old hoopster that only a few major universities, outside the historically Black colleges, were hiring Black coaches in the late 1960s.
In February 1964, when I was a 13-year-old ninth grader being recruited by national powerhouse DeWitt Clinton, I attended a Public Schools Athletic League (PSAL) playoff game at the high school in the northwest Bronx.
Clinton's star was Willie Worsley, who two years later, with two other Bronx hoopsters, Nevil Shed and Willie Cager from Morris High School, were three of the six Black players for Texas Western, now the University of Texas at El Paso, who defeated an all-white Kentucky team, led by Pat Riley, in the NCAA championship game.
Other DeWitt Clinton hoopsters who won NCAA titles are Eddie Warner, CCNY, '50; Jerry Harkness, Loyola of Chicago, '63; and Butch Lee, Marquette, '77.
Two other Clinton graduates, Dolph Schayes ('44) and Nate "Tiny" Archibald ('66), were chosen among the 50 Greatest NBA players in the league's first half-century between 1946 and 1996.
Four other players from NYC – Bob Cousy, Queens' Andrew Jackson High School, '46; Billy Cunningham, Brooklyn's Erasmus Hall High School, '61; Lenny Wilkens, Brooklyn Boys' High School, '56; and Kareem-Abdul-Jabbar – were chosen among the NBA's 50 Greatest Players.
In 1996, the NBA also selected the Top 10 coaches in the league's first half-century, and three played their high school ball in the nation's largest city: Wilkens, who coached four pro teams; Red Auerbach of the Boston Celtics and Brooklyn Eastern District High School, '36; and the NY Knicks' Red Holtzman, Brooklyn's Franklin K. Lane High School, '38.
In March 1966, the day after Texas Western's historic victory, many administrators and coaches at Southern universities, including North Carolina, Duke and Wake Forest, woke up like Rip Van Winkle, and the coaches rushed out to recruit Black players.
Indeed, North Carolina's first Black scholarship player was Harlem-reared Charlie Scott, the future Hall of Famer, who attended Manhattan's elite Stuyvesant High School, before transferring to Laurinburg Institute in North Carolina.
In January or February 1965, Bobby Cremins, a basketball buddy in our Bronx neighborhood near Yankee Stadium, invited me to his home game against Manhattan's Power Memorial High School, whose star was 7-foot Lew Alcindor Jr.
Bobby played for All Hallows in the city's excellent Catholic High School League, and he then played at South Carolina, for Hall of Fame coach Frank McGuire, an alumnus of Manhattan's Xavier High School and St. John's.
After graduating from college, Cremins embarked on a successful four-decade coaching career, including two decades at Georgia Tech.
Alcindor would lead UCLA to three national titles between 1967 and 1969, and then would win six NBA titles, five with the Lakers. For Newsmax's "bewitched, bothered and bewildered" readers, google "Kareem Abdul Jabbar."
During 1965-66, I vividly recall the home game between my school, Bronx Science, and DeWitt Clinton. During my sophomore year, I got kicked-off the team for not showing the requisite homage to upperclassmen, most of whom were "nons."
Anyway, in a gym packed with clueless Bronx Science students, the Clinton players, with the noteworthy exception of Tiny Archibald, who would eventually become the undefeated city champions that season, were impersonating the Harlem Globetrotters, while we were the hapless Washington Generals.
Bronx Science finished the season at 1-15, and was demoted from the nationally-renowned Bronx "A" Division to the "B" Division. "Demotion" and "Relegation" are humiliations not normally experienced by my alma mater's highly-intelligent graduates.
When Norman Lefkowitz, the Bronx Science coach in the '60s and '70s, died last year, Steve Lappas ('72), the former college coach and current CBS commentator, penned the following egregiously fake eulogy for his former coach:
"Playing for him at Science taught me so much. We could play with any one of the big teams in the city because of him. City champs 2 yrs in a row."
First, players in PSAL "B" Division, whose nondescript title Bronx Science won in 1971 and 1972, attracted little if any interest from NCAA Division I coaches in 1960s or 1970s.
Moreover, that Lappas can mind-bogglingly claim his Bronx Science squad could compete with PSAL "A" Division powerhouses, including Clinton, Taft, Boys, Franklin, Erasmus Hall, Jefferson and a few dozen others, marks him as delusional as my fellow students were at the infamous Clinton game in 1966.
Finally, NYC's legendary NYC high school basketball coaches include: Jack Curran, Archbishop Molloy; Ron Naciero, Cardozo; Chuck Granby, Andrew Jackson/Campus Magnet; Tom Murray, Cardinal Hayes; Bob Oliva, Christ The King; Jammy Moskowitz, Madison; Dwayne "Tiny" Morton, Lincoln; Hank Jacobson, Clinton; and Mickey Fisher, Boys.
Mark Schulte is a retired New York City schoolteacher and mathematician who has written extensively about science and the history of science. Read Mark Schulte's Report's — More Here.
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