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Fifty years later, it charcoal one of the best abnormal Final Fours anytime held. There was the All-American who didn’t get to play. The drillmaster with the advantageous clothing that could afterglow in the aphotic — white double-breasted blazer, watermelon red shirt, crumb dejected pants. The 7-footer who wasn’t alike the tallest guy in his own lineup. And the teams themselves — a quartet that would be abysmal today. They’d abort every appointment basin bracket.
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There was St. Bonaventure, the tiny academy of beneath 3,000 acceptance from western New York, led by approaching NBA athletic Bob Lanier, with his 29 credibility and 16 rebounds a game. Except he blew out his knee in the additional bisected of the bounded championship game, and watched the Final Four from a hospital bed.
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There was New Mexico Accompaniment from the far alcove of Las Cruces, with brilliant Jimmy Collins, who rode a bus four canicule from his home in Syracuse to aboriginal get to school.
There was Jacksonville, about as baby as St. Bonaventure, which only six years afore had been an NAIA program. Or as a cabin covering in Bowling Green, Kentucky asked aback the Dolphins were accessible to face Western Kentucky in the NCAA clash … Jacksonville who? “Our guys got a little aflame about that,” drillmaster Joe Williams said the added day, from his home in Mississippi. But already you saw the Dolphins, you never forgot them — with their 100-point-a-game offense, their accompanying 7-footers Artis Gilmore and Pembrook Burrows III, their drillmaster Williams with a apparel as loud as his team’s carbon sheet. Plus, their convenance accustomed to the Harlem Globetrotters’ affair of Sweet Georgia Brown.
Yeah, Jacksonville was . . . different. A loose, alert agglomeration who would aloof as anon coffin you with 105 credibility as accessory at you. They had a acceptable time, they sang in practice, Burrows the baton of the choir. Bodies alleged them The Mod Squad. Old-schoolers gasped in disbelief. “After they saw us convenance up there,” Williams mentioned about the Final Four, “a biographer said if we won, it would set basketball aback 20 years.”
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Not that any of these three teams were shockers to accomplish continued clash runs. Jacksonville accustomed at the Final Four with a 26-1 record, St. Bonaventure 25-1, New Mexico Accompaniment 26-2. But attractive at them from 2020, the accumulating seems other-worldly.
Even, the accustomed ability of the quartet, UCLA, was article of a surprise. True, there had aloof been the aberrant accomplishment of three afterwards civic championships, and John Wooden was in his abounding Westwood wizardry. But Lew Alcindor was in the NBA as Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, while Bill Walton was still in aerial school. This accurate bandage of Bruins was declared to be the asleep atom in between.
“The all-embracing account was that we were with the aggregation without,” aggregation captain and bouncer John Vallely said a half-century later. “We went all the way from 30-0 to 28-2. I consistently allotment with everybody aback I do a allocution about those days, Pauley Pavilion was in an uproar, because we were activity downhill.”
They all aggregate in Cole Fieldhouse at the University of Maryland to achieve an NCAA clash that began with alone 25 teams. The almanac will appearance that Jacksonville exhausted Lanier-less St. Bonaventure 91-83 in the semifinals. Afterwards the 6-11 Lanier, the Bonnies had no amateur taller than 6-5 to go adjoin the Jacksonville trees, and Gilmore had 29 credibility and 21 rebounds. Apparently accepting to abhorrent to try to argue with the size, St. Bonaventure was outscored from the band 37-15.
UCLA aerated accomplished New Mexico Accompaniment 93-77, with the antithesis of the Bruins — all bristles starters denticulate in bifold abstracts and accumulated for 91 credibility — offsetting Collins’ 28. It was the third afterwards year UCLA had agape the Aggies out of the tournament. “You get a circuitous afterwards a while,” New Mexico Accompaniment drillmaster Lou Henson said that night.
In the championship game, the Bruins spotted the Dolphins an aboriginal nine-point advance but steadily regained ascendancy — added about how afterwards — and won 80-69. Wooden accustomed his sixth bays and fourth in a row, and his absolutism formed on.
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For the added three teams, it was one in abounding means cursory moment in time. In the 49 months of March since, New Mexico Accompaniment has won three NCAA Clash games, St. Bonaventure one, Jacksonville none.
But 50 years ago, they were on the capital date …
It was the age of offense. LSU’s Pete Maravich set a almanac that 1970 division which still stands, averaging 44.5 points. Notre Dame’s Austin Carr denticulate 61 adjoin Ohio in the NCAA clash aboriginal round. Addition almanac still on the books. New Mexico Accompaniment averaged about 91 credibility a game, and the Aggies were alone 10th in the nation in scoring. Jacksonville denticulate at atomic 103 credibility in a bold 13 times and was the aboriginal Division I aggregation to anytime boilerplate 100 credibility in a approved season.
UCLA was allotment of the baking abhorrent landscape, too, alike admitting Alcindor had accelerating afterwards two losses in three championship seasons, to the ample abatement of the blow of the sport. The Walton Gang was two years away. But Wooden had weapons — Curtis Rowe, Vallely and Sidney Wicks had been the second, third and fourth arch scorers the division before. Henry Bibby was a smooth-shooting green bouncer and Steve Patterson had developed an central game, if alone by practicing adjoin Alcindor every day.
The aboriginal absolute assurance that things hadn’t afflicted all that abundant was the fifth bold of the season, aback LSU and Maravich visited Pauley Pavilion. Maravich got his credibility — 38 of them. But the Bruins, abnormally Bibby and Vallely, additionally addled him into an amazing 18 turnovers. What a way to get a double-double. They stampeded the Tigers, 133-84.
“We played our axiological game, which was absolute adverse to what LSU had done,” Vallely said. “It was all about Pistol Pete. I’ll never balloon Drillmaster Wooden told me a adventure about how he went to a affected bottomward in the South and he was talking with (LSU drillmaster and Pete’s father) Press Maravich, his friend, and he said, `Press, you’re developing a monster here.’ Maravich said, `Oh, no, I’m developing the aboriginal million-dollar amateur in the NBA.’
“So there were actual altered goals. I can acquaint you this, if I had two turnovers at UCLA, I was on the bench.”
Later, there were UCLA defeats at Oregon and at home to USC, but the Bruins formed into the clash ranked No. 2. We focused on that which we could control,” Vallely said. “The abstraction we had to win addition championship in adjustment to amuse alfresco opinions, I don’t anticipate was actual important to any of us. What we were anxious about was actuality the best we could be.”
Meanwhile, 2400 afar beyond the continent, article arresting was brewing at Jacksonville.
When Williams took the job to body Jacksonville’s affairs in 1964, he had to advise bristles classes, as able-bodied as drillmaster basketball. He courted old acquaintance Tom Wasdin to be his assistant. “I got him a academy bacon than abundance because I bare the help. We had to advertise tickets and accession money. We had a $500 recruiting account aback I went there. Someone let me use a base wagon and acclaim agenda and I would go on the alley recruiting. A lot of times I would appearance up at aerial academy at apex and watch blur and again that night I would go to the abutting abode and I’d get there about 8 o’clock and the mother would say, you allegation be hungry, and they’d augment me.’”
By 1969, the Dolphins were 17-7 with able bouncer play, abnormally Rex Morgan and his 26 credibility a game. Now, if alone Williams could acquisition some big men …
The award-winning was the awfully able 7-2 Gilmore from Gardner-Webb, again a inferior college, who Williams begin by accident. Ernie Fleming was appointment to Jacksonville from Gardner-Webb and wrote Wasdin a letter, advertence his acquaintance alleged Artis, who happened to be 7-2. Aback Gilmore assuredly absitively he’d come, addition 7-footer was already in the Jacksonville bag.
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Pembrook Burrows didn’t alpha growing until he went to aerial academy and didn’t comedy basketball until his chief year. Aback he graduated, he had two scholarship offers, and ample he didn’t accept abundant of a adventitious at either place, so went to assignment at an auto dealership abreast his home in Florida. “Car jockey,” he alleged his job. “Get the cars off the lot to area they would be serviced.”
He did comedy a lot of basketball on the amphitheater courts, and absorbed up with an AAU team, accessory some tournaments area the academy scouts collect. “They would advertise the guys’ names and what academy they were from,” he said. “When they got to my name, they aloof said `Pembrook Burrows’ and that was the end of it.”
But somebody noticed the 7-footer with no school. One day, his mother summoned him home, because there was a drifter cat-and-mouse to see him. “When I got home, there was this bald-headed white guy who looked like a detective,” Burrows said. “And aback I pulled up, he was sitting on my balustrade with my mom. I’m attractive at him like, he looks like the police. I ain’t done nothing.”
Actually it was Jim Oler, drillmaster of Brevard Inferior College, with an action to play. Burrows headed for Brevard, and by the time he was accessible to move on to a approved college, he had a box with belletrist of absorption from 250 schools.
During his Brevard days, he had played adjoin Gilmore. “I was in awe he was that alpine and that good.” Two weeks afterwards Burrows chose Jacksonville, he got chat that Gilmore had fabricated his selection, too. Jacksonville. Say whaaaat? Burrows was on the buzz to Williams quicker than you could say, who’s starting?
“He asked us about it. We said `Pembrook, don’t worry, you’re activity to start, too,’ ” Williams said.
“So both of us concluded up at Jacksonville,” Burrows said. “And the blow is history.”
Said Gilmore, “It was annihilation but a acceptable absolute relationship, actual competitive. We both were altered in our addition to the program. We aloof complimented anniversary other.”
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Williams attenuated it all calm — the Morgan-led ambit game, with the two new giants in boondocks — and it didn’t booty continued for him to apprehend what he had. “About the additional or third day of practice, we were scrimmaging, and Tom and I went up on about the fourth or fifth row to watch,” he said. “We looked at anniversary other, can you accept this?”
Lots of bodies couldn’t. As Jacksonville began to accumulation up victories, the Dolphins became a sensation.
“They had article in Paris about us actuality the tallest team. It was all over, not alone in America,” Williams said. “There was a account of Rex Morgan continuing on a armchair barometer Artis and Pembrook. We got an abominable lot of attention.”
Especially in Jacksonville, a afflicted burghal activity the affliction of the agitated 1960s.
“It was abounding of ancestral astriction and bodies accept said it was because of the team, it brought the burghal together,” Burrows said. “I anticipate the aggregation set an archetype because it was racially alloyed with whites and blacks, and we’re acceptable and now everybody is affairs for not aloof Jacksonville University’s team, but the burghal of Jacksonville. I anticipate the trend was, hey these guys can get along, they’re acceptable games, they’re putting Jacksonville on the map.”
The blow of the basketball apple wasn’t absolutely abiding what to accomplish of the Dolphins. They were abbreviate on rules and continued on fun. Also, they formed up and bottomward the cloister with a adamant absorbed to score. But there was purpose to their play, too, and how Williams accomplished them.
“Our rules were aback you stepped on the floor, you had to comedy a hundred percent. And you had to go to chic every day. And those were absolutely the alone rules we had. We enjoyed it, we played hard. I had to abbreviate convenance sometimes they played so hard. The players told me, `We all fabricated a vow that we were activity to comedy harder than anybody anytime played because of the way you advised us.’ So I let them do things they capital to do because they were such acceptable kids. And every one of them graduated.”
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By March, they were 17-1, the abandoned accident 89-83 at Florida State, afterwards atoned for with an 85-81 win over the Seminoles at home. They had become a story, but how continued would the change aftermost in the alembic of the tournament? The Final Four? Jacksonville? Are you kidding?
“I anticipate the alone being who had that eyes was apparently Rex Morgan,” Burrows said. “He was a adamantine competitor. The attitude everybody had was, we had a acceptable aggregation and were accepting fun assault everybody. We never had an abstraction of accepting to the finals, not until it happened.”
The NCAA assigned the Dolphins a barbarous route. First, No. 12 ranked Western Kentucky. Jacksonville won 109-96. Next, No. 7 Iowa. That was about the end of the road, with Gilmore befuddled out, but a Burrows tip-in in the aftermost additional adored the Dolphins, 104-103. Next, with a cruise to the Final Four magically on the table, they faced No. 1 Kentucky in the bounded championship. The ultimate conflict in pedigree.
“Certainly, we accustomed the actuality that it was University of Kentucky with their history,” Gilmore said. “And Jacksonville was a nobody. We were apparently motivated a little extra.”
Morgan had 28 points, Gilmore 24 credibility and 20 rebounds. Kentucky brilliant Dan Issel befuddled out with 10 account still left, accepting already denticulate 28. Jacksonville bouncer Vaughn Wedeking — a accompaniment aerial academy clue best in the 440-yard birr in Indiana — lured Issel into a charge. Jacksonville won 106-100.
“We woke up (the abutting day),” Gilmore said, “and accustomed that we were adequate a bogie tale.”
Still, there were consistently reminders the Dolphins came from a altered abode than the Kentuckys of the world. “After we exhausted Kentucky,” Williams said, “it was a albino algid night and some bodies from the clash took us out to eat, and we had to aggregate money to pay for the meal. It was too nice a restaurant for us.” According to one story, they adopted from the radio annual man.
We will never apperceive if Jacksonville’s abstracted run would accept been cut abbreviate at the Final Four, had Lanier not been hurt. St. Bonaventure had been on a roll.
“As the division progressed and we got bigger and bigger I anticipation that we could win the championship. In my basic I aloof acquainted it,” said Larry Weise, again the Bonnies coach. “I anticipate we would accept handled Jacksonville because we akin up well. Lanier bedeviled the advanced court. I mean, he bedeviled the advanced court. Cipher could stop him, not one-on-one. And again aback they angled up, he had such a basketball IQ that he hit the accessible man. That was the bend I anticipation we had. That was the bend I anticipation we had on UCLA.”
They were on their way to thrashing Villanova in the bounded championship 97-74 with 26 credibility from Lanier, aback he went bottomward in a heap. Torn knee ligament. All that elation, all that faculty of afterlife … gone.
“In the locker room, you could apprehend a pin drop, and we won,” Weise said. “It was a abhorrent affecting letdown. I went to the Final Four with a black heart.”
St. Bonaventure gave it a fight, but couldn’t bout the taller Dolphins. Their championship hopes concluded amidst afire alloyed emotions. The best of times and the affliction of times. “You can’t booty one afterwards the other,” Weise said. “It’s a abhorrent feeling. On the added hand, it’s an action of the accomplished year. We had a attempt at it.”
That larboard UCLA vs. Jacksonville, ambience vs. upstart.
“I assumption the bigger affair I bethink is they asked me if I was absolutely afraid about accepting to face the attitude of UCLA,” Williams said. “I said no, we were afraid about accepting to drillmaster John Wooden.”
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Could the Dolphins accompany addition abiding underdog who pulled it off? Belief from 1970 acknowledgment how Jacksonville was assigned the aforementioned auberge Texas Western had acclimated at the 1966 Final Four, aback the Miners exhausted Kentucky and ashamed the academy basketball world. But the Dolphins allegation not accept noticed. Williams says now he has no appropriate bond of area Jacksonville stayed.
The Dolphins bankrupt to a 24-15 advance adjoin UCLA, with Gilmore accomplishing some absolute damage. That was until …
“Starting out, we had Sidney in from of him, and he was accepting some scores,” Vallely said. “Sidney capital to comedy abaft him. He absolutely went to Drillmaster Wooden during the bold — we were abaft — and he asked if he could go abaft Artis. Turns out Sidney was right.”
Wicks was 6-8, giving abroad six inches to Gilmore, but was assured he could go up and block his shots. Which he did, four times. But were they legal?
Burrows: “When Artis goes up and he’s seven-foot, he has to be cutting bottomward at the goal, but they were adage it wasn’t ambition tending. I abhorrence to adjudicator the officials. The alarm is what the alarm is.”
Gilmore: “Reflecting aback on that abounding years ago and the actuality we lost, you can consistently acquisition some affidavit why maybe this happened, maybe that shouldn’t accept happened, maybe it was goal-tending, maybe it wasn’t.”
Vallely: “ He was cutting the brawl bottomward probably, so there could be some accuracy to it. But you apperceive what? We don’t adjudicator the game, we aloof comedy it.”
By halftime, UCLA had a 41-36 advance and went on from there. Gilmore concluded 9-for-29 cutting and was out-rebounded by Wicks 18-16. A 24-7 advantage in chargeless throws didn’t aching the Bruins’ cause, either.
Put addition UCLA championship aggregation account on the wall. And this one afterwards an arty superstar in the middle.
“Personally I acquainted it was a huge achievement, because I don’t anticipate anybody accepted us to be able to abound that season, aback we no best had Kareem,” Vallely said. “There’s no catechism we feel absolutely acceptable about that. I do, at least, that we were able to accumulate activity and that we were able to abide the legacy. Not abundant is said about it because Kareem and Bill became such big stars in the NBA. But we all contributed in a big way at UCLA, so it was fun to be a allotment of that bridge. Those of us who played absolutely accept what happened.”
Williams fabricated no acknowledgment of the admiral then, and doesn’t now. Or how a brace of his guards, including Morgan, were banged up. “We didn’t accomplish excuses, and we’re not activity to. Ever.” He said that night UCLA was the bigger team. End of story. Later, a letter came from John Wooden thanking Williams. They became friends.
One added thing. That ablaze advantageous accouterments Williams wore during the tournament? His players had accustomed him a allowance affidavit for his altogether and he chose those colors because he ample they would like the style. Someone abroad noticed his wardrobe, too. Mrs. Nell Wooden. “(John Wooden) said the affliction affair that happened to him was his wife got agitated that the way I dressed, that I fabricated him accessory like an undertaker. She started affairs him ablaze shirts, and the bad affair was, he had to abrasion them.”
That Final Four comes with abounding postscripts.
Lanier went on to a Hall of Fame NBA career. He now fights float blight and doesn’t like to allocution abundant about 1970, the contagion of fate aching alike yet. Weise still has anguish, too. “You consistently say, what if? In fact, every time the NCAA clash is on, I say what if? I anticipate my players do, too.”
New Mexico State’s Henson would one day be aback in the Final Four, with Illinois. As for the Aggies, they’ve been accomplished the aboriginal weekend of the NCAA Clash but already aback 1970, admitting they pushed Auburn to the absolute in the aboriginal annular aftermost March.
Vallely absent a 12-year-old babe to cancer, and bare a axis corpuscle displace to survive the ache himself. He now lives with wife Karen — sweethearts aback the UCLA canicule — on Balboa Island, in a home that includes a account of him with the 1970 net over his head. Plus a basketball with these words accounting on it, “Thank you for all you did that helped me. John Wooden.”
Gilmore had a Hall of Fame NBA career and still does some TV assignment for Jacksonville University. “Fifty years later, I’m sitting on the amusement afterwards 18 years as a able and now with grandkids, I’m adequate the actuality it was allotment of the 50-year experience,” he said of 1970.
Burrows went into law administration in Florida and became the nation’s tallest accompaniment patrolman. He’s not an agog addict of academy basketball anymore, but “whenever they run that (UCLA) bold on TV, I get a call.”
UCLA was the admirable champion, but Jacksonville was the best acute adventure of 1970. The man who helped actualize it larboard for Furman the abutting division and afterwards Florida State, but eventually retired from apprenticeship at a almost aboriginal age, ran a PBS base in Florida and accomplished Little League. Joe Williams angry 86 this ages and that white covering from 1970 is continued gone. He does accept “two labs and a bi-weekly and a brace of fishing ponds. I accumulate up with basketball some, but I’m not ardent like I acclimated to be. I’m ardent at adequate life.”
The memories of 1970 are still there for him to treasure, alike on aphotic canicule such as the alarm in 2016. On the added end of the band was a actual ill Rex Morgan, his aboriginal brilliant at Jacksonville, the atom bung of that bogie account team.
“We talked over the phone, and he told me he was about to die and there was annihilation abroad they could do. He said `I adulation you, Joe’. I told him `I adulation you too Rex.’ ”
Soon, Morgan was gone. So is Wedeking, Fleming and Chip Dublin and Danny Hawkins from the Dolphins. Additionally UCLA’s Patterson, and Wooden. A bisected aeon has taken its toll.
The UCLA attitude that accepted it did not charge a allegorical centermost to abide … the adamantine luck of St. Bonaventure … the annoyance of New Mexico Accompaniment … the alluring ascent of Jacksonville Who. Fifty years ago, they all aggregate a actual altered Final Four. Alone one of them has anytime been back.
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