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Those were the days – reminiscing
Those polite, disbelieving smiles
By Richard Linde, Updated 23 March 2005

I’ve seen a lot of Washington Husky basketball greats: Sammy White and his leaping, underhanded lay-up shot; there was Joe Cipriano, who could go coast-to-coast with anybody. How about Bob Houbregs (left) and his graceful hook shot? Captain Hook led the Dawgs to the final four in 1953, their only appearance.

In earlier days (1947), I watched "Hec" Edmundson’s Washington Huskies battle "Slats" Gill’s Oregon State Beavers, along with 12,000 other fans packed into the Washington Pavilion. Sitting in bleachers far behind the basket on the east side, we might as well have been watching Hec's crew from the fourth green on the old University golf course. The papers said there were 14,000 fans present, but I'll go along with the UW's figures.

We all came to watch UW's Jack Nichols battle OSC's "Red" Rocha. In those days, the centers were the big draws in college basketball -- kind of like a couple of heavyweight fighters going for the crown today.

The UW lost that night, 59-37, but won the next night, 60-44.

Right after the war, OSC and Washington were the head honchos in Pacific Coast Conference basketball. In fact, the Huskies have played the Beavers more games than any other opponent in their basketball history. (*)

If it's not worth saying, it's not worth saying, I like to say.

The legendary "Hec" Edmundson (488-195) is to Washington as the legendary John Wooden is to UCLA. Same for "Slats" Gill and OSU. In fact, the Beavers' 1947 "Thrill Kids" is the team that built Gill Coliseum. "Slats" was a building builder as was "Hec" in a way. The reverse is arguably true for Wooden and Pauley Pavilion, where the building may have built the builder. Did the then state-of-the art Pauley lure "Lewis," as Wooden affectionately called Alcindor, out west?

How about Frank Guisness, who led the Huskies to the ’51 PCC title over UCLA. UCLA and USC played in cracker-box gyms in those days, and their fans would maul our players when they fell into their laps.

"John Wooden gave me the highest compliment," the 73-year old Guisness was recently quoted as saying, referring to the UCLA coach. "He said, 'One guy can't check Guisness.'”

I remember Elgin Baylor and “Sweet Charlie" Brown over at Seattle University. In 1958, when the Chiefs played Kansas and Kentucky in the Final Four, the Super Chief and the Sweetness astounded college basketball with their exhibition of dribbling and behind the back passing -- a legerdemain never before seen, and never since seen, in a final-four party. The two of them were the Harlem Globe Trotters, for real, those two nights.

Baylor, now 70, laughed about those two games when I reminded him of them not too long ago, his glory days as a Laker notwithstanding.

At Seattle U, the six-foot-five-inch Baylor authored the most incredible slam dunk I've ever seen, taking off from the free-throw line, soaring high in the air, then hurling the ball one-handed so cleanly through the hoop that it bounced higher than the basket on its return from the hardwood.

Which brings up UW point guard Nate Robinson; how best do you describe him?

Now writing for the Celestial Times, Royal Brougham, formerly of the Seattle Post-Intelligencer, has this to say about Robinson,

  • “Nate is the human fire plug that sparks the Huskies. One second he is a tree stump, the next he’s a Sequoia.

  • "He’s a high-wire act without a wire. He can pick a guy’s pocket faster than Oliver Twist.

  • "Take the ‘E’ away from his given name and it spells ‘Gnat,’ with an ‘eeee-normous heart.’

  • "He’s liable to turn the ‘Sweet Sixteen’ into the ‘Bitter Fifteen.’ Nate has the full run of the court because he owns the court.

  • "He’s UW footballer Donnie Moore squashed into five-feet-seven.

  • "Nate has put the ‘W’ back in the ‘W,’ where ‘W’ now stands for WEE-spect.

  • "Rumor has it that Lorenzo Romar has signed Nate's four-month-old son to a letter of intent.”

Well, the transmission got garbled a bit, but you get the gist. Maybe, Brougham is playing too much golf with Jim Murray.

I mean, thank God Rick Neuheisel didn’t use Robinson as a running back, for he would still be playing football.

These same people who say that the Huskies don’t deserve a number-one seeding will continue to say that after they reach the final four 

Lorenzo Romar is a no non-sense coach, as are his assistants, Jim Shaw, Cameron Dollar and Ken Bone. Romar is a bit playful too. Didn’t he mess up Lute Olson’s perfect hair in the Pac-10 tournament?

The Huskies are one of the most unselfish teams in college basketball today. Being second in the nation in assists says a lot about Romar’s and Dollar’s experience at UCLA. Your team had better pass the ball around, looking for the open man, with John Wooden sitting right behind your bench at Pauley. Under Wooden, when the mustard came off the hotdog that meant you picked bench splinters out of your bum the next day.

But I'm digressing.

Did I ever tell you about Bob Houbreg’s hook shot? Do you know he set the UW single-game scoring record with 49 points against Idaho in 1953. How about Jack Nichols, Steve Hawes, Doug McClary, Jim Mallory (I caddied for him once at Rainier), and Bruno Boin?

Do you know that Lew Alicindor’s back-handed dunk is the reason why the east-coast mafia took the slam dunk out of college basketball?

I mean, those were the days. You know, you’ll be telling your grandchildren about Robinson some day, and they’ll give you this polite, disbelieving smile. They should know if it's not worth saying, it's not worth saying, which makes something worth saying, worth saying, if you say it.

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* Photo of "Red" Rocha taken from the following link: "Carry Me Back," Clips of the OSU Alumni Association, story by Alex Peterson. OSC? In those days, OSU was known as Oregon State College.

Richard Linde (a.k.a., Malamute) can be reached at malamute@4malamute.com

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