Blessings on the youth of our land. Some will no doubt do wonderful things. Hopefully, some will find time to catch up with what they missed.
A young reader, very aware of what Auburn did to Tennessee on Saturday, sent a message loaded with Bruce Pearl overtones – as if he might have invented basketball or, at the very least, introduced the game at the University of Tennessee.
Why did this colorful and capable coach go away?
I gave back the short version of the infamous cookout, NCAA investigation, a few little white lies, termination and punishment.
Because I still find time to respond to every e-mail, we exchanged another. Christopher said I sure am smart. I said I sure am old.
He asked what else I know about Tennessee basketball. I took the bait.
I gave the young man briefings on Ray Mears and Stu Aberdeen and dropped in a few local favorites – A.W. Davis, Danny Schultz, Ron Widby, Bill Justus and Jimmy England. I shared two paragraphs about the Ernie and Bernie show. I mentioned Dale Ellis and Chris Lofton. Without looking it up, I said Allan Houston scored 2,801 career points.
Christopher said wow!
I said I could go back to Ed Wiener and Carl Widseth, a 6-2 thin man who weighed all of 155 and was called Spook. I tossed in a thought about rugged Gene Tormohlen, record rebounder because there were a lot of missed shots and those around didn’t want to be too close to the big Bumper.
Questions and answers could have gone into Round 4, but another challenge stopped the exchange. Later, I thought of many memories that are more fun than crying over the milk spilled at Auburn.
The greatest game in the history of Stokely Athletics Center happened in 1975. Mears’ Tennessee defeated Joe B. Hall’s Kentucky, 103-98. That one started at fever pitch and got faster.
Ernie Grunfeld had 29 points and made four pressure-packed free throws down the stretch. Bernard King had 24 points and 20 rebounds. Mike Jackson scored 24. Both teams hit better than 50 percent.
Mears, often accused of holding the ball to slow opposing offenses, said the score might have been higher had the Wildcats not been so deliberate.
Tennessee opened 1960 with a daring double-header, Chattanooga at 7 p.m. and East Tennessee State at 9. A moderately curious gathering of 2,500 came to see the Vols win the first game, 81-51, and escape the late one, 71-68. UT sold out of hot dogs.
Unranked Tennessee opened the 1969-70 season at South Carolina with a stunning upset of the top-ranked Gamecocks, thanks to 20 points from England and double-doubles by Don Johnson and Bobby Croft. The 24-point underdogs won by one.
Justus had the clincher in 1969 against Florida, much to the consternation of former Vol and Gator coach Tommy Bartlett.
Justus hadn’t scored all night, but when the Gators switched from a zone, Bill drove the lane for the winning basket. Film study did show that Justus took a few steps, a hop, skip and NBA jump, without the ball hitting the floor.
Bartlett told Mears: “Your man ran four steps!”
Mears had a ready response: “Our film showed only three.”
Kentucky was up by one point in the closing seconds when Kevin Grevey committed a violation while out of bounds on the baseline (running when he should have held his position). The Vols were awarded the ball. Rodney Woods, a great Kentuckian playing for Tennessee, won the game.
American U. was leading and all it had to do to win the 1981 Vol Classic was get the ball inbounds. Gary Carter picked off the errant pass and lofted a prayer. There was a faint swish of the net. The Vols won, 59-58.
Weird ending at LSU in 1982. Failure to start the clock promptly allowed Dan Federmann time to score the winning basket for Tennessee. Tigers coach Dale Brown went apoplectic. He demanded a replay of the closing seconds.
Don DeVoe was much too smart for that. He led the Vols off the floor in a fast break. They gathered street clothes, boarded the team bus and departed for the airport while others argued what to do. John Ward went along. There was no post-game radio show.
Brown was still calling for a do-over when everybody gathered for the SEC tournament. In all seriousness, he asked that eight seconds be set aside before the first game for an appropriate settlement. Most of the league laughed.
Amazing development in 1993: The Vols, under Wade Houston, went 4-12 in SEC games but shocked Rick Pitino’s second-ranked Kentucky team, 78-77.
One night belongs to believe it or not. On Dec. 15, 1973, final of the holiday tournament at UT, Temple held the ball. No matter how ugly or boring it was, or how loudly the fans booed, the Owls desecrated the game by just standing there. Tennessee did not chase. Tennessee won, 11-6.
Parting shot: Tennessee played in El Paso. Coaches allowed the team to venture across the border to Juarez for a Mexican educational experience. Players were briefed about re-entry to the United States, that all they had to tell border guards was they were American citizens and everything would be fine.
Orbie Lee Bowling, natural entertainer, “Hee Haw”-style, said he was a Russian. A very large mess developed. It took a while, but coaches eventually rescued Orb. They advised him to thereafter act as if he had learned a few things since leaving Sandy Hook, Ky.
The youth of our land, being late arrivals, missed so much.
Marvin West invites reader comments or questions. His address is firstname.lastname@example.org