Each time a college basketball season officially ends, I am reminded that Knoxville owns a snippet of championship memories.
Knoxville, not Tennessee. There is no connection between the Volunteers and the main event. They’ve never been near cutting down the nets.
Paul Hogue, Wilson Avenue, Vine Junior High and Austin High School, did it twice. He was one of the big names in the glorious history of NCAA basketball. He was an all-American, player of the year in 1962 and MVP of that Final Four. He was a Bearcat at the University of Cincinnati because he was black.
Paul never considered the University of Tennessee and it didn’t consider him. Segregation was hurtful but Hogue understood the times. His father was principal at Austin. Paul had an adult perspective.
So did G.H. “Dusty” Lennon, Austin coach and athletics director. He knew what he had on his basketball team in the late 1950s and was troubled that most others didn’t know.
Dusty called the News-Sentinel sports desk.
“He sounded excited,” recalled former sports writer Roland Julian. “He wanted us to come out and see his boys.”
Coach Lennon introduced him to the team. Hogue was 6-9. Harvey Goolsby was 6-9. James Ivory was 6-8. Guards Pete Drew and Johnny Dean were guard-sized – well, Dean was 5-6 and quick as a blink.
“Coach Lennon ran them through some fast-break drills,” said Julian.
He remembers thinking “Wow!”
Somebody added inside information, that Hogue was third best on the team “but he has grades.”
Hogue didn’t know where he was going to college – just somewhere up North.
“When I graduated from high school, it was a time when you took things for granted. It was just the way things were back then.
“You dreamed, but you dreamed about faraway places. You looked beyond the South. You looked to places like Kansas, where Wilt Chamberlain had played, and New York.”
Paul provided insight.
“One Knoxville sports writer, Tom Siler, wrote an article that raised the question of why the University of Tennessee did not consider recruiting players from Austin High.
“I never heard a word from UT.’’
Paul hit the road. Cincinnati was first stop, first on highway 25-W after Kentucky, just across the Ohio River, going north.
He met sophomore Oscar Robertson, destined to be an all-time great who just happened to be from Tennessee (born in the community of Promise Land, near the town of Charlotte, not far from Nashville).
Hogue had heard of the Big O. The thought of playing with him ended the site search before it really started.
Freshmen were not eligible. In 1959-60, when Oscar was a senior and Paul was a sophomore, the Bearcats finished third in the Final Four. When Robertson was gone to the NBA and Hogue was a junior, Cincinnati defeated Ohio State in overtime for the championship.
When Hogue was a senior, Cincinnati went into the Final Four with four black starters and a 27-2 record. The Bearcats defeated UCLA in the national semifinals. Hogue scored 36.
In the finals, Cincinnati again put down Ohio State, led by Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek. This one wasn’t close. It was Paul Hogue’s crowning moment – 22 points, 19 rebounds, MVP honors.
Paul was the second pick in the NBA draft, to the New York Knicks. He had an OK rookie season but, for some reason, coaches said his game did not fit. He was traded to the Baltimore Bullets. He lasted nine games into his second season.
Hogue, college basketball star, became Hogue the working man. He had his degree from Cincinnati. He put in 21 years with the U.S. Postal Service. He eventually led the Employee Assistance Program and became an advocate for recovery from substance abuse.
Hogue was married to Patricia Brown Hogue for 43 years. They had four children – Eric, Paul Jr., Thomas and Melanie.
Education was always important. He served on the school board for Princeton city in suburban Cincinnati from 1988 to 2000. He was a village of Woodlawn council member.
Paul died at 69 on August 17, 2009. His wife blamed heart and kidney troubles. He is buried at Spring Grove Cemetery in Cincinnati.
He had retained minor celebrity status. The New York Times and Sports Illustrated acknowledged his death.
A couple of years later, the city of Knoxville renamed Union Square Park, near Hogue’s boyhood home, as Paul Hogue Park. Patti, other family members and old friends attended the dedication ceremony. Former UC teammates Tom Thacker, George Wilson and John Harshaw were there.
Then-Mayor Daniel Brown made a speech: “He’s done something that, to my knowledge, no one else from Knoxville has done. He’s the only native Knoxvillian to win MVP honors in the national championship game.
“He grew up in this neighborhood and played in that park.”
Marvin West welcomes reader comments or questions. His address is email@example.com.