With the 1964 & 1965 title squads being saluted yesterday at Pauley, it seems fitting to share a little about the Stars of '64. I did not know any of them at that time -- too young -- but was fortunate enough to meet three of them later.
It may be a foreign term to some of our younger readers, but in Coach's time, and not just at UCLA, there really were student-athletes. This meant they would study hard and earn a degree that was meaningful for future life opportunities.
Attending UCLA Law School in the Seventies, I had the privilege to take a course in "Sports Law" taught by one of these student-athletes, Fred Slaughter. People may not know that the 1964 champs are known as, comparatively, the shortest team to win it all. Fred was the center, at a whopping 6'5". But he was fast (a high school track star) and smart (would graduate from an Ivy League law school, Columbia), characteristic of the Bruin squad that year. Fred was a very engaging professor and after class he and I enjoyed sharing Wooden ball stories.
Fred was also a sports agent, and for one of the class sessions he brought in his fellow star of '64, Hall of Famer Walt Hazzard (then going by Mahdi Abdul-Rahman). Walt, retired from the NBA, brought in his pro contract and walked us through its key provisions. He was considering going into coaching, so he was spending a lot of time with Coach; as he explained to us, "learning at the feet of the master." Of course Walt would go on to coach at UCLA, not memorably, but capable enough to beat Bobby Knight for the NIT one year. He certainly was a delight to listen to.
A decade later I would meet a third star of '64, probably unknown to most of Bruins Nation because he wasn't one of ours. One day at work I got a call from one of the top brass telling me to come up to the executive area, because there were some important visitors from GE Astrospace. After the presentation, I went up to the company's Chief Scientist, who towered over me at 6'10", and asked him, "Did you play basketball for Duke?" Indeed he did, answered Dr.Jay Buckley, the Duke center whom Fred had to defend against. I told him I was from UCLA and he had very kind things to say about our team which had beat his for the title. Duke had never won the NCAA at that time, and Jay was looking forward to the upcoming tournament, because his son was a Blue Devils reserve and they had a chance to go all the way. (They would not, getting crushed by the non-student-athletes of UNLV, but the following year they ended UNLV's long winning streak and Laettner, young Buckley, et. al. brought home a banner.)
UCLA and Duke. Two academic powerhouses. A title game with an attorney, a college coach, and a rocket scientist -- and these are just the ones I met. Clearly Coach did not recruit "one and done" players.