Another day, another Golden Anniversaries of something. Today, November 27, 2015, is the fiftieth anniversary of the first basketball game in Pauley. The opening celebrated the return of the two-time NCAA champion Bruins. The Bruins lost starters Gail Goodrich and Keith Erickson to the NBA, but they still returned four solid guys, juniors Edgar Lacey (Ed. Note: As good under the basket as anyone ever, in my opinion) and Mike Lynn at forwards, senior Doug McIntosh at center, and super-sixth man senior Kenny Washington at guard. Joining those four was super sophomore Mike Warren.
The freshmen - the BruBabes as they were known in the fishwrap - were pretty good. The lineup was Lynn Shackleford and Kenny Heitz at forwards, Lucius Allen (Ed. Note: The best guard I have ever seen anywhere) and Kent Taylor at guard, and Ferdinand Lewis Alcindor, Jr. at center.
Many of us had watched pickup games in the B.O. Barn (aka the Men's Gym) involving these new guys. Remember that up to then, it was an accepted fact that no one over 6'2" could possibly dribble the ball. In those pickup games, we got used to seeing this skinny center grab a rebound and dribble the length of the court to lay the ball in.
We weren't surprised by the way the game went. The varsity was solid and well-coached. (Ya think?) The freshmen team was also well-coached by Gary Cunningham, who went on to coach the varsity for two years. (Oh, yeah, Coach Cunningham happened to have the best winning percentage of any UCLA coach, going 50-8 (.862).) Doug McIntosh was good enough to contain most everyone else he played against (Coach said he thought McIntosh came the closest of any player he had to achieving his full potential), but no one could contain Alcindor, who had 31 points and 21 rebounds. (Bear in mind that the varsity was coached by Coach, who knew a thing or two about coaching. But there was nothing and nobody who could stop "Lewis-Kareem," as Coach sometime called him.)
I confess that I don't remember a lot of the details of the game, but you can read those details here, in a fishwrap story. (Ed. Note: Go ahead and read it - this was written when the ‘wrap still had a couple of writers.) The fishwrap story has some very interesting quotes from Mike Warren, which alone are worth the read.
What I remember most was that I had to buy reserved seats when I got to the window to make sure of a seat, so I bought my playoff seats at the same time. Yeah, that's the one year in the entire history of mankind that the Bruins didn't make the playoffs. We got some injuries that we couldn't recover from, and a disastrous trip to Oregon that we couldn't recover from, and the bottom line is that we went 18-8 and didn't make the playoffs. I ended up watching Oregon State play, the same team I had watched us beat 79-35. That's what I remember.
Here's what Mike Warren remembers, from the fishwrap article:
"I remember sitting there with head bowed, not knowing where to look and, all of a sudden, what sounded like 2,000 feet came running past our locker room yelling, 'We're No. 1! We're No. 1!'
"It was the frosh."
That subject was never again broached, Warren said.
"They knew they were better," he said. "There was not much argument. It was not a situation where we could play three out of five or four out of seven. It would have ended up the same way.
"They were just better. Now, without Kareem, we would have killed them. And without the supporting players, we would have beaten him. But, collectively, they were just awesome."
And that's the way it was, November 27, 1965. And YOU WERE THERE (said in Walter Cronkite's voice.)