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TGS HOOPS SPECIAL REPORT...THE OLD CHICAGO DOUBLEHEADERS, AND WCC UPDATE
by Bruce Marshall, Goldsheet.com Editor


In this issue of TGS Basketball, we continue our recurring updates on hoop leagues across the land, this time featuring the West Coast Conference, to be followed by the Horizon League in our next edition. We'll get to those reviews in just a moment.

First, however, we wanted to recall a golden era in Chicagoland sports when high-profile college hoops doubleheaders would be staged at the old Chicago Stadium, promoted by the legendary Arthur Morse, who would bring schools from across the country to be featured in twin bills almost always involving current Horizon rep Loyola-Chicago and, usually, Illinois.

Morse was a character straight out of central casting, a local lawyer who also held the title of Assistant to the Director of Athletics at Loyola University. "I never saw Arthur without a jacket, shirt and tie," UCLA Heisman Trophy winner Gary Beban told us two summers ago as were doing research on our upcoming book, Ramblers and Bearcats.

Among other things, Morse was also a player's agent, with Dick Butkus, Gale Sayers, Donnie Anderson, and Jim Grabowski among his high-profile clients of the day. As well as Beban, who, upon a recommendation from UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan, used Morse to negotiate his pro football contract upon his graduation from college. Morse also proved very instrumental in steering Beban into a highly-successful career in the commercial real estate business.

Morse was also a promoter extraordinaire, although not in the flamboyant style of a Don King. Instead, Morse was almost the polar opposite, staying behind the scenes, always working in the background. He was a confidante of the powerful Wirtz family that ran the Chicago Blackhawks and a close acquaintance of George Halas. Morse was an influential athletics power-broker in his era and went to great lengths to showcase college basketball at the Stadium.

Short in stature, balding, with horn-rimmed glasses and an ever-present cigar, and, as Beban noted, always dressed in a suit, Morse was the sort of throw-back character that hasn't graced the sporting scene in decades.

Morse's enduring legend from the early 60s, however, involved the college hoop doubleheaders at the Stadium. Morse would line up as many as six of those each winter, drawing from a deep pool of regional entries who were always happy to showcase their programs in the hub city of the midwest. Aside from Loyola, involved in all of those promotions, and Illinois, the doubleheaders would also often feature Iowa, Notre Dame, Bradley, Wichita State, UCLA, and other regional powerhouses while also drawing high-profile entries from across the country.

The zenith of Morse's doubleheader magic, however, was almost 49 years ago to the day, on January 26, 1963. That Saturday night at the Stadium, Morse had lured the top three teams in the country (defending national champion Cincinnati, Illinois, and Loyola) to participate in the twin bill. The fourth wheel in the quartet wasn't exactly chopped liver, either. In fact, it was just the sort of situation that appealed to west coast invader Santa Clara, Loyola's foe that night and itself no stranger to the land of big-time college athletics.

Following is Part I of our excerpt from Ramblers and Bearcats dealing with the first half of that night's doublehader, featuring the Broncos. We'll continue with Part II and an update of the Horizon League in our next issue.

And, if those who ran Loyola were looking to draw inspiration from another Jesuit program, Santa Clara wouldn't have been a bad choice. Indeed, there were times in the preceding decades when Santa Clara displayed potential to become a West Coast version of Notre Dame, a topic often broached down the peninsula, about 50 miles south of San Francisco.

Ironically, it was on the gridiron where the Broncos first gained national attention, emerging as one of the powerhouse programs on the West Coast in the late 30s under coach Buck Shaw, who would later lead the Philadelphia Eagles to an NFL title and become the only coach to defeat a Vince Lombardi Green Bay team in a postseason game. In the late 30s, Shaw's Santa Clara teams were good enough to secure invitations to back-to-back Sugar Bowls, beating LSU in both the 1937 (by a 21-14 score) and 1938 (by a 6-0 count) New Year's festivals in New Orleans. Twelve years later, another Bronco team, this one mentored by future Oregon Hall of Fame coach Len Casanova, defeated a Bear Bryant-coached Kentucky team, quarterbacked by Babe Parilli, in the 1950 Orange Bowl.

But the Santa Clara branch of the Jesuits were uncomfortable with the resources the small school had to commit to sustain a big-time football program; among other inconveniences, home games were played 50 miles away, at San Francisco's Kezar Stadium. In the early '50s, there was still talk of making a sustained run at the big time and building a Bronco gridiron palace in one of the many prune orchards nearby campus. But when those plans fizzled, so did hopes of maintaining any high-profile football glory. Casanova thus departed for Oregon, and a few years after that Orange Bowl triumph, the Jesuits who ran Santa Clara decided to abandon football entirely. Though the program was resurfaced in 1959, and a tidy, on-campus stadium named after Shaw was built (and nowadays the home to the San Jose MLS franchise), the Broncos were never again a big-time football power, and by 1993 the program was shut down for good.

Santa Clara's basketball program, however, was able to maintain a prominent position on the college hoop landscape, almost from the outset of the sport's ability to generate serious national interest. That coincided with a major rules change in the '30s, when a center jump was still contested after every basket. The elimination of that archaic rule opened up the game, and among the first to take advantage were the Broncos of the day, coached by SCU grad George Barsi on a team that featured, among others, future Bronco coach Bob Feerick and another coach-in-waiting, Bruce Hale, who would later become coach at Miami (Florida) as well as with the Oakland Oaks in the early days of the ABA. His presence with the Oaks would help convince one of his former Miami Hurricane charges, Rick Barry (who also happened to be his son-in-law), to make the jump from the NBA to the ABA.

Barsi's Santa Clara teams were among the first to take advantage of the new rules and develop a fast-break style, which was next to impossible with the former rule restrictions. One of Barsi's teams, in 1939 (featuring Feerick and Hale), was even nicknamed the "Magicians of the Maplewood" and traveled to New York's Madison Square Garden, where two powerhouse teams of the day, City College of New York and Philadelphia-based La Salle, were each defeated by more than 20 points. The Jesuits, however, were not keen on their Bronco team being invited to the first NCAA Championship Tournament, so they passed on an invitation to compete in the 4-team West Regional, ironically played in nearby San Francisco. Coach Howard Hobson's Oregon "Tall Firs" instead swept through the West region and became the first official NCAA champ (a distinction that well could have been Santa Clara) when beating Harold Olsen's Ohio State Buckeyes, 46-33, in the title game on the campus of Northwestern in Evanston, Illinois.

Feerick, a star player on those late '30s Broncos teams, eventually became the Santa Clara coach, and in 1952 led Santa Clara to a surprise berth in what would be the first "official" Final Four, that year contested at the University of Washington's Hec Edmundson Pavilion in Seattle. (Previously, national semifinals were held at two regional sites; the 1952 tourney divided the 16 teams into four regional sites, with those winners advancing for the first time to a single site for the national semifinal, third place, and championship games.) After surprising John Wooden' UCLA and Wyoming in the West Regional at Corvallis, Oregon, Santa Clara joined Kansas, Illinois, and St. John's in the first true Final Four. One of the Broncos' younger stars, 6'9 frosh forward Ken Sears, would eventually earn All-American honors and a handful of Player of the Year awards in 1955 before embarking upon a successful NBA career with the Knicks and Warriors. Along the way, Sears was also the first basketball player at any level to be featured on the cover of a fledgling sports publication called Sports Illustrated in December of 1954.

The ballyhooed event the Final Four would eventually become, however, was a far cry from it in 1952, especially for Santa Clara. Forget any trappings of glamour; heck, forget any glamour at all. One of the young Bronco players, a freshman guard named Dick Garibaldi, has no problem recollecting those long-ago events, even if they weren't much fun. "Well, the darned Jesuits didn't want us to miss any more classes," recounted Garibaldi to us not long ago, "so they made an arrangement with the priests at Seattle U (a sister Jesuit school) for us to go to class there during the week. We probably worked harder for the days we spent up there than we did a normal week at home."

That was hardly proper preparation for the semifinal opponent, Phog Allen's Kansas Jayhawks, who featured a rugged frontline force in 6'10 Clyde Lovellette. Big Clyde was too much for Santa Clara in the semifinals, pouring in 44 points in a 74-55 Jayhawk win, almost the same margin as KU's win over St. John in the finale the next night, 80-63. The Broncos knocked on the door of the Final Four the next two years as well, but fell just short when losing West Regional finals in both 1953 & '54. Soon afterward, Phil Woolpert's San Francisco teams, featuring Bill Russell and K.C. Jones, began to dominate the West Coast Athletic Conference, not to mention the entire college hoops world, but Santa Clara remained a formdable presence on the hardwood scene.

The aforementioned Garibaldi, whose younger brother Bob was one of the first baseball "bonus babies" when signed by the San Francisco Giants, would eventually succeed his old coach, Feerick (who took the job as the GM of the recently-relocated San Francisco Warriors), as Santa Clara's hoops supremo in 1962. And Garibaldi's first SCU team wasn't bad. Already in that initial season for Garibaldi, the Broncos had beaten powerful Wichita State, a legitimate Top Ten entry, by a 72-63 count on December 11, and entered the Chicago doubleheader with a more than respectable 9-4 record. Garibaldi had inherited an experienced roster that featured a trio of three-year starters on the frontline, 6'5 forwards Gene Shields and Joe Weiss and 6'6 center LeRoy Jackson, the latter the Broncos' top scoring threat.

Santa Clara, figured Arthur Morse, was a proper opponent for Loyola because the style contrast between the two might make for interesting viewing. The Broncos' deliberate style might prove an effective foil for the go-go Ramblers. Santa Clara had also done Morse favors in the past, and he reckoned that an invitation to play Loyola in the first half of the doubleheader properly returned the favor.

It was no surprise that Santa Clara's size up front had Loyola HC George Ireland justifiably concerned, as did a sudden spate of Rambler injuries. Ron Miller (twisted ankle) and top backcourt reserve Pablo Robertson (sprained wrist) were both injured in Monday night's 80-72 win in Athens against Ohio University. Temptations to go big against the taller Broncos and start 6'5 Billy Smith in place of Miller, moving Jerry Harkness back to a guard position, had crossed Ireland's mind. Now, with Miller's ankle slow to heal, Ireland could more easily justify his lineup switch.

The buildup to the doubleheader had created such interest in Chicagoland that not even brutal weather conditions could keep the crowds away from the Stadium. Traffic clogged the streets around the Stadium while scalpers found plenty of takers for seats that were going for as much as five or ten times face value. The old Stadium, with a seating capacity of 18,000 but able to accommodate 20,000 with standing-room only seats, swelled to more than 24,000 inhabitants that night as fans not only took up all the seats, but jammed every aisle, stood on ramps, and held onto girders for a look. Fire marshals looked the other way because they, too, were interested in the proceedings on the court.

And as the crowd filtered into the Stadium for the 7:45 PM tipoff between the Ramblers and Broncos, they would have noticed that change in George Ireland's Ramblers lineup. Indeed, Loyola had gone to its version of a "big" starting five, with Billy Smith starting in the place of the hurting Ron Miller. While the big crowd began to fill the seats and patiently awaited the main event between Cincy and Illinois, they had reason to pay attention to the first game of the twin bill, because Santa Clara was proving a handful for George Ireland's go-go troops.

As for Billy Smith, he certainly proved up to the challenge, and then some, scoring 18 points and snaring 14 rebounds, although for a long while it didn't appear as if the Ramblers could shake the stubborn Broncos. Santa Clara's defensive pressure rattled Loyola, and the explosive Jackson, demonstrating fine shooting range, helped the Broncos lead for parts of the first half and stay within 4 at the half, down just 43-39. The game was level at 59 not long after action resumed following the break, and past the midway point of the second half, Santa Clara was still within earshot, down only 70-64.

At that point, however, the Ramblers once again shifted gears to deliver a quick knockout blow. In rapid-fire succession, Les Hunter connected on a short-range jumper, Smith tipped in a missed shot, and Hunter followed with his own tip-in, and suddenly the lead was 12 points. Ireland, perhaps hoping to influence pollsters who would be paying attention, kept the press on the entirety of the game and Loyola never looked back when rolling to a 92-72 triumph. Harkness and Hunter both scored 23, and with help from Smith paced a dominating second half rebound performance in which the Ramblers controlled the glass by a 38-18 margin, which compensated for Loyola's rather lackluster 40% field goal shooting for the evening. The quick-jumping Ramblers had also gobbled an astounding 64 rebounds on the night!

Garibaldi was suitably impressed by Loyola, and even told Ireland after the game that he was sorry his Broncos hadn't put up a better fight, but years later said he learned a valuable lesson from that trip to Chicago.

"I decided that night to, if possible, try and avoid scheduling independent teams on the road in the future," said the Santa Clara coach. "It was better to play in a game where a conference would supply the refs. I don't remember us getting a lot of calls that night vs. Loyola. Of course, I think George (Ireland) was saying the same thing about our refs when we got him at our place in the Cable Car Classic a few years later."

Indeed, Garibaldi would get his revenge vs. Loyola, but would have to wait almost five years until his 1967-68 team beat the Ramblers in San Francisco's Civic Auditorium, 91-88, a matchup between what would be two NCAA-bound squads. By that time, however, Santa Clara was a stronger team, with ample star power in 6'10 center Dennis Awtrey and the combative Ogden twins, Bud and Ralph, at the forward spots. The Broncos were twice denied Final Four berths by UCLA in 1968 & '69, the latter a year in which Santa Clara ascended to as high as the second spot in the national rankings. Garibaldi again made it back to the Big Dance in 1970, but a bitter 1-point loss in the Sweet 16 vs. Utah State prevented another shot at UCLA. At that point, Garibaldi, just 38, became one of the early "burnout" coaching victims and relocated to the Stockton area to take a less-stressful job as an athletic shoe rep, where he never had to worry about a referee's call again.

The Broncos, however, didn't have much time to waste after the Loyola game. Their itinerary called for a quick departure from the Stadium so they could make their way 300 miles southeast to Cincinnati, where they would be facing Big Jim McCafferty's capable Xavier squad the following night. Cincy scribes made note of the Broncos' wanderlust, labeling them as "the touring Santa Clara five" in the recap of the game vs. the Musketeers.

Years later, Garibaldi would remember the Xavier win just as clearly as the Loyola loss. "That was a pretty good Xavier team we beat," said Garibaldi of the Broncos' 69-66 win in, as the Cincinnati Post described, the "igloo atmosphere" of the old and mostly empty (only 1028 showed up on a frigid winter night) Xavier Fieldhouse. "They had a great record at home back then, too," said Garibaldi. Indeed, the Musketeers would go on to their own postseason glory, eventually winning the national Catholic schools tourney in St. Louis.

Next issue: Part II of Arthur Morse's Great Chicago Doubleheader of '63 featuring the Cincinnati-Illinois showdown!

Following are brief in-season progress updates for Santa Clara's West Coast Conference. Straight-up and pointspread records are thru January 15.

BYU (15-4 straight up, 8-7 against the spread)...There's life post-Jimmer Fredette at BYU, as the Cougs adapt to their new hoop surroundings in the WCC. Fredette's loss has been felt, although the Cougs have filled in adequately thanks in part to frosh G Mark Carlino, a transfer from UCLA who hit the ground running when gaining eligibility in mid-December and is scoring 14.7 ppg (including hitting 47% beyond the arc). Along with 6-5 sr. swingman Charles Abouo, who is hitting 43% of his triples, and 6-6 jr. Brock Zylstra, canning 44% of his shots beyond the arc, the Cougs can still stretch enemy defenses, though not quite as far as they could when Fredette was firing his bombs from 25-28 feet. Those sharpshooters, mobile 6-8 F Noah Hartsock (17.3 ppg), and slithery 6-9 F Brandon Davies, who was suspended for only-at-BYU infractions late last season but has returned to provide a valuable frontline presence, offer a fairly compelling lineup that should be able to get BYU back into the Big Dance. An early pattern to watch has been the homecourt edges involved in BYU's WCC games, as the host team has covered in all five Cougar league matchups thru Jan. 15. Sources say WCC foes could have trouble adjusting to the massive Marriott Center, far bigger than any other league venue, while conversely BYU might find it difficult to adjust to many of the smaller WCC venues after playing mostly in big arenas during days in the Mountain West.

Saint Mary's (17-2 SU, 8-6 ATS)...The Gaels are a bit better than expected as they make a strong case to return to the Big Dance Dance after last year's Selection Sunday snub. Remember, SMC made it to the Sweet 16 two years ago, and still retains a few key cogs from that team in Aussies G Matthew Dellavedova (15.4 ppg) and F Clint Steindl (8 ppg and 44% beyond arc, and just returned from an ankle injury). Dellavedova has made a mostly-seamless transition from off-guard to point guard duties that were manned last year by the graduated Mickey McConnell, averaging a solid 6.8 assists, and former USD transfer, slashing sr. F Rob Jones (14.4 ppg), rates as perhaps the league's best wing. Meanwhile, soph G Stephen Holt is now emerging as a major contributor after tying his season-best 21-point effort last Saturday vs. Portland. The Gaels have yet to lose in 12 games at Moraga, and their lack of imposing size is not too big of a problem in this league, and only Baylor's NBA-bound frontline has really exploited Randy Bennett's team in the paint to date. SMC already has lopsided home wins over BYU and Gonzaga on its ledger as well.

Gonzaga (14-3 SU, 9-8 ATS)...We weren't quite sure about the Zags in the first portion of the season, and their slowness on the perimeter created some defensive issues for HC Mark Few. But after early losses to Illinois and Michigan State, Gonzaga ran off 8 wins in a row, and non-conference successes vs. Notre Dame, Arizona and Xavier could help the Zags' NCAA at-large case immeasurably. The emergence of true frosh G Gary Bell as a valued defensive stopper has come in handy for Few, who has to do a lot of camouflaging on the stop end to compensate whenever sharpshooting (but slow) frosh G Kevin Pangos and/or backcourt mate David Stockton are on the floor. On the other hand, 7-0 sr. C Robert Sacre seems to be minimizing some of the inconsistencies that have plagued his career, while punishing 6-7 jr. wing Elias Harris (13.4 ppg & 7.7 rpg) has elevated his game from a somewhat disappointing sophomore season. Expect to see the Zags back in the Dance in March.

Loyola Marymount (10-8 SU, 10-6 ATS)...With wild man HC Max Good storming the sidelines (if you ever wonder why we label LMU's coach in such a way, just watch his sideline antics during the course of a game), the Lions are the league's sleeper. LMU has a history of scoring upsets for Good, already doing so a few times this season (vs. UCLA at the L.A. Sports Arena, and at home vs. Rick Majerus' Saint Louis) and having knocked off the likes of Gonzaga and an NCAA-bound Southern Cal side the past few years in Westchester. Though losing close home decisions vs. BYU and Gonzaga in recent weeks, the Lions covered both of those games and are unbeaten in their last five vs. the spread entering Thursday's game at BYU. The recent return to the lineup of Fs Drew Viney (15.2 ppg) and Ashley Hamilton (14.3 ppg) have increased LMU's firepower quotient, and Good's bench is the deepest in the WCC, with eleven players averaging 13 minutes or better. The Lions, who unlike some of the WCC's bottom-feeders have enough athelticsm on the floor not to get run off the court by the better teams in the loop, are also 5-2 as a dog this season, and we would definitely have them under consideration whenever receiving points.

San Francisco (12-8 SU, 6-9 ATS)...Rex Walters is hoping the Dons' uprising last week when routing Portland (104-70) and Pepperdine (78-63) at home in venerable War Memorial Gym signals an uptick for the previously-erratic Dons. USF was a combined 60% from the floor in those wipeout wins, and Walters' team owns good scoring balance with four starters tallying between 11-14 ppg. A key to maintaining the momentum will be sustaining instensity on the stop end (which has been a problem much of the season) and for the three-point shots to continue falling; long-range specialists Michael Williams & Cody Doolin have been inconsistent beyond the arc all season, each converting fewer than 29% of their triples. If USF can generate some more consistency from long range (and not go cold, as was the case when missing all 14 of its three-point attempts in the first half of an 81-56 loss at BYU on Jan. 7) it could pose a problem for the top league contenders.

Santa Clara (8-9 SU, 5-9 ATS)...The Broncos, last year's surprise CIT winner, appeared to be coping well in the early going after the devastating loss of Canadian sr. PF Marc Trasolini to a season-ending knee injury in preseason practice. Coach Kerry Keating mixed and matched his resources well for a while in Trasolini's absence as SCU claimed an impressive third-place finish in the Thanksgiving week 76 Classic at Anaheim. But the Broncos still rely heavily on their long-range shooting tandem of Gs Kevin Foster (who led the nation in converted triples last season) and Evan Roquemore, and their fortunes have waned over the past six weeks as foes have defended the perimeter and often schemed both Foster and Roquemore (each under 40% beyond the arc) out of the offensive flow. Without consistent interior scoring threats, SCU has now dropped 7 of its last 9 spread decisions. The Broncos are still one of the more athletic teams in the league with swingman Raymond Cowels III and F Niyi Harrison in the lineup, but Keating needs to develop some other scoring options in the paint in a hurry, or the SCU season could continue to flounder, and a return to the postseason unlikely. Look for promising 7-0 true frosh C Robert Garrett to get more minutes as the season progresses.

San Diego (6-10 SU, 5-7 ATS)...With rumors that his job might be in jeopardy, HC Bill Grier (former Mark Few aide at Gonzaga) has forged a modest recovery at the Jenny Craig Pavilion, but league sources aren't sure it will be enough to save Grier unless the Toreros (who have fallen upon hard times since Grier's first USD made the Big Dance in the 2007-08 campaign) make a run at the .500 mark. USD has lost 9 of its last 11 SU (thru Jan. 15) after a rather encouraging beginning to the season, although there is hope that the frosh G combo of Johnny Dee (15.2 ppg) & 5-8 sparkplug Christopher Anderson (who scored 16 in a recent close loss vs. Saint Mary's) could evolve into something special. With a frosh-laden backcourt, USD can be expected to struggle on the road (where it is 1-4 SU), although it did recently win at Santa Clara. We advise picking spots carefully with the Toreros, and note their best efforts have generally come at home, where USD managed spread covers vs. San Diego State, UCSB, and Saint Mary's in the first half of the season.

Portland (5-13 SU, 6-10 ATS)...The Pilots have taken some serious lumps and remain prone to blowouts because of their limited offensive artillery. While holding their own in recent seasons for HC Eric Reveno because of several dangerous long-range shooting specialists, the current Portland edition is sorely lacking in marksmen, hitting just 31% beyond the arc, and with no consistent perimeter threat as the Pilots had a year ago with graduated Jared Stohl, who canned 43% of this triples while converting a whopping 91 beyond the arc. Case in point is sr. G Nemanja Mitrovic, who hit 46.3% of his treys last year but is at 32.6% beyond the arc this season. Still well-schooled under Reveno, but the Pilots are relatively slow and own only one double-digit scorer in F Ryan Nicholas (11.8 ppg); second-leading scorer Tim Douglas was recently shut out in a game vs. Pepperdine. Prone to blowout defeats, losing by 34 at USF, 29 at Gonzaga, 22 at Boise State, 20 at Saint Louis, and 30 at Washington.

Pepperdine (7-10 SU, 5-8 ATS)...Former Wave star Marty Wilson might be wondering what he got himself into in Malibu, as his first season as head coach has been a mostly-difficult one. The Waves enter Thursday's game at Saint Mary's on 5-game straight-up and spread losing streaks, betrayed by an offense that has been held under 50 points in three of its last five games and scoring just 58 ppg on the season. Moreover, Pep is only shooting 38% from the floor, so it's easy to see why the team is struggling. After last year's leading scorer Keion Bell transferred to Missouri, and early injuries claimed a pair of starters from last season, swingman Dane Suttle and G Lorne Jackson, no capable go-to scoring threats have emerged, although true frosh G Jordan Baker is hinting at a breakthrough with six straight DD scoring efforts (thru Jan. 18), including a season-best 26 points in the Jan. 14 loss at USF. But only G Taylor Darby (11.4 ppg) is averaging double-digit scoring, and the Waves' defense and slowness on the frontline have left a lot to be desired.


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