40 years on

  • Over the weekend I picked up this season’s copy of the Street & Smith basketball annual. Some interesting articles as usual, including one that notes the success of teams with lots of upperclassmen in the era of one-and-dones.

    Just for grins, I dug through my collection of back issues until I found the first issue I bought 40 years ago in 1979.

    The feature article was a 14-page preview of the upcoming 1980 Olympics in Moscow, and the USA team coached by Dave Gavitt, the Providence coach who would later become commissioner of the Big East. Of course, that team never made it to Moscow after we decided to boycott the games over the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

    Another featured 30 blue chip high schoolers. Hidden among all the “can’t-miss” players (most of whom did), were three guys named Glenn “Doc” Rivers, Matt Doherty and Pat Ewing.

    The big name that year, Earl Jones of Washington DC, stayed in town to play for D-2 school University Of DC. Drafted by the Lakers, he was a bust as a pro and was out of the league after two years.

    The pre-season pick to win the NCAA title: Indiana, followed by Kentucky, Duke, Notre Dame and Ohio State. KU was nowhere to be found in that poll.

    As it turned out, the Hoosiers would have to wait another year, as Louisville beat UCLA to win the 1980 tournament. As for the Jayhawks, they muddled through a 15-14 season, going 7 and 7 in the Big Eight.

    The pre-season All-America first team: Danny Ainge (BYU), Kevin McHale (Minnesota), Mike Gminski (Duke), Mike O’Koren (UNC) and Michael Brooks (LaSalle). KU’s Darnell Valentine made the second team.

    No three-point shots back then…that was for the NBA only. The NCAA was a few years away from adopting the rule and standardizing the distance.

    Leafing thru the yellowed pages, I noted the long-departed conferences like the Metro, Southwest, Eastern 8, Trans-America, PCAA, Lone Star, SUNY…not to mention the large number of Independents.

    But the most interesting part (to me, anyway) was when I looked at the list of college transfers…a half-page of just 45 names.

    Then I looked at this year’s list. Two pages with hundreds of names (in very small print), squeezed into three columns per page. And that was just the players eligible this season. Plus two more pages with hundreds more who’ll be eligible next year.

    And toward the back of that 1979-80 book, a photo of the NBC college basketball play-by-play crew for its Game Of The Week (yep, kids, back then there was just one televised network game a week): Dick Enberg, Al McGuire and Billy Packer. Still my all-time favorites.

  • @nwhawkfan I’m a geek, too. Which reminds me, I need to go out and buy my Street & Smith’s and Athlon yearbooks (for real) - thanks for the reminder. I’ve always enjoyed the yearbooks.

  • @nwhawkfan I’ve got the issues going back to around 1990. I lost a bunch before that in a move. Street and Smiths has always been the best to me. But the print keeps getting smaller, and in a dim gray font on the many lists of various players and stats. Very frustrating as my eye capabilities have diminished quite a bit over the years.

    First thing I always look at is the top 20 hs seniors. Todays internet age makes most of them more recognizable, but back then it was always surprising to see a kid from Wyoming or wherever. I like looking back at my saved copies and seeing who their top 20 was and how many actually make it. Usually 5 or less per issue. Which of course means a lot of guys do make it who were totally under the radar when they were in HS.

    I too need to pick up an issue before the season starts…tonight!

  • Remember when there were actually freshmen who were academically ineligible? All the kids today say athletes are bigger stronger and faster, so Im sure they think smarter too. It is obvious that the only thing that’s changed is how prevalent cheating is.

Log in to reply