By Pete Arbogast
The screaming DJ and the loud music and PA system did not rattle around in the building, instead was actually commensurate with the crowd size.
And the team was better, clearly better than the opponents from across town. Not really a game so much as a coronation, even if a year ahead of time.
I spent some early time downstairs saying hi to some old friends, then headed up to sit with Jenny and my son KC and his girl, who just happens to be carrying my first grandson, due July 4 of this year.
Every time we got out in front, the bruins would try to come back, but unlike so many years, we actually came back down and hit the big jumper, made the big play and kept them back….way back.
Halftime and we retire Gus Williams jersey. Many of the guys from the teams on which he played were there. John Lambert looks like he could model. Stan Morrison, the great Westphal, Bill Boyd….all told about 20 guys including Steve Umemoto, with whom I attended Franklin Elementary, King Jr. and Marshall Highs.
He was a good high school player, not nearly our best, but managed a walk on spot for four years at SC and even got into games now and then. He is the last Marshallite to play basketball at SC. Tim Ireland preceded him by a decade or so. Before that, I don’t think there were any. There have been scant few footballer, the last I think was in the mid-70’s a little known walk on who did not play high school ball at all, but somehow got to practice with SC, Clayton Hovivian.
Steve still has, for those of us of a certain age, a record long shot at Franklin Avenue School from the handball court to the basketball rim (never a net in sight). I matched it once on a hot summer day a few years later. We called it then, and still, a “Umo shot”.
But I digress.
Little know lore: When I was a student at LACC, I began my basketball play by play career practicing at USC games at the Sports Arena. It was 1973 through 75 before I got to SC proper (another long story, and a good one) and so those guys on the court last night were really the first team I “called” games for. I still have some of the tapes, too, buried in storage in a bin somewhere.
The treated me like royalty at SC. The SID Jim Perry, who reportedly was there too last night would give me a credential. Valery, who is STILL working press row, would come and take my order for food and beverage and bring it right to me like I was some big wheel. Now she’s one of my dearest friends.
What I’m trying to say I guess is that it was pretty cool to see Gus get honored, and to see those guys, if only from the second row of the second deck.
I love chanting “Just like football” and “hurry up and lose”. The small gaggle of bruins fans (maybe 25 of them) just stood there and took it. When Tusk started up, they finally trudged down the stairway.
Coach Helton and wife got the loudest ovation of the night when shown on the big screen.
We stuck around to listen to the coach and players be interviewed over the PA system with about 200 fans. Something that NEVER happened as far back as I can recall.
I saw two high school friends, Gail Sakane and William Quan, big bruins honks who love to rub it in when they win. They were leaving, and I shouted down and waved. They were married maybe five minutes after high school graduation in 1972. She was in my homeroom for 6 years. Great people other than their choice of college. I did not rub it in. Didn’t really need to.
On the drive home, I though to myself that if they still showed replays like they used to late at night, I would have stayed up and watched it all again. Maybe it’ll be on today.
The photo in the Times of our guys smiling and joyous and their big palooka head down walking away filled my heart with joy.
And I get to carry that around with me, we ALL do, for the rest of the year, not to mention how the future looks. Next year, I think this team opens in the top 15 in the nation and as one of the favorites for the conference title.
For now we need at least a split in Arizona.
Congrats to Pat Haden form coming to SC and doing what he set out to do….right the ship. He’s retiring from active duty as our AD on June 30. I hear Steve Lopes and Mark Jackson are the two most mentioned candidates to replace him. I like them both very much and each would do an outstanding job, no doubt in my mind. JK would be a good choice, too.
Pat is a Trojan through and through. Dedicated to THE university and not just in athletics. And while not everything went perfectly during his tenure, I challenge anyone to find others in the same position that don’t have their own peaks and valleys. In my mind, he came in to clean things up and turn things around and did just that.
Pat—a big, BIG How do you do, man. Fight On!