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Old 01-18-2014, 02:38 AM   #1
1st Team All-SEC
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Default What It Was Like Back Then

Tons of memories. I honestly feel sorry for those who were not yet around to enjoy them or were still too young to understand it all.

Although I was born in Columbia and both sides of my family were from the Midlands, I grew up in Charleston. We moved back to Columbia. It was right before the school year began, thus still before the basketball season began. I was in my early teens and not liking the move and losing all my friends. Being a juvenile was bad enough, but relocating made me a really big jerk.

Dad came in from work and said, "I got two tickets to the first game at the Carolina Coliseum tonight." Thinking I would be clever and somehow punish him for moving the family, I declined the offer. He went to the game with an Uncle and came back glowing about the place and what an exciting game it was.

John Roche hit a last second shot from the top of the key that first bounced off the front of the rim, hit high off the backboard, and still fell in to beat Auburn 51-49. After that, the light came on about how stupid I had been and me and Dad went to every home game until I left for college a few years later. Luckily, in his job position with the company he worked for, they always got several tickets to basketball and football. We also went to all the football games during that time.

You pretty much had to know someone to get tickets, it seemed back then for they were almost like a social status and you felt privileged to go. Students camped out overnight to get tickets and every game was sold out and every seat was filled.

It is difficult to explain the atmosphere at the CC. It really almost felt like there was a continual electric current running through the crowd. The anticipation and excitement was something you could nearly touch. Most teams we played were beaten before the opening tip. Our fans were generally well behaved (by that you did not hear common cursing or anything vulgar as is often the case today), but they were into the game from the get go. Our fans became very intelligent and basketball smart. Almost every team we played was intimidated by the grandeur of the place, the big league introductions, and how loud and vocal our fans were. The Pep Band was superb, too.

When we got on a roll, and it was nothing to put a game away in a blink of the eye, the crowd just roared when we played well. The only thing that comes to mind in comparison is that I imagine it was similar to what the crowds at another Coliseum, the original in Rome, when they saw Gladiators fight. It hit like the impact and force of a wave. At times I think it was louder than the roar of a jet engine. The steps and rows of seats going all the way up to the top were quite steep, but allowed for the compression of the crowd in relationship to the arena floor, making the noise pour in easier and there was not a bad seat in the building.

All home games were broadcast statewide by WIS TV (only 3 channels back then) and most away games were broadcast by Jefferson Pilot as we were must see TV. We were on national TV at least a couple of times each year. For the road games that were not on the air, I would always tune into Bob Fulton and have a legal pad marked down with all our players names. I would keep tally of the points, rebounds and fouls they had and just the team fouls for the other team.

Our kids were brilliantly smart kids of the game and knew how to play ball, both as a team and individually. Without the 3 point line, no shot clock, and stalling opponents, they often were near or over 100 points. Sure, they maybe are not athletic as kids today and the game has changed, but if you put them in their prime, I still think they could beat any team in the nation, possibly handily. Almost every kid could shoot the eyes out of the basketball and had great form. To this day, the best jump shooter I have ever seen was Brian Winters. Each time it looked like a work of art. He carried that into a fine NBA career, too. They were all tough as nails, too, and would back down to no one, no matter where they were.

If we had no John Roche, Tom Owens would have been the best player to ever wear a USC uniform, no doubt in my mind. He led the ACC in rebounding all three years he played, played solid defense, could alter or block shots, and could score inside or from outside. If he needed to, he could have easily averaged well over 20 points a game. He will never come back, so we need to go ahead and do what we should have done the day we retired the #11 of Roche, retire #24.

Roche won the ACC Player of the Year Twice and should have won it the third time, but the hatred of him and USC was so bad by the ACC, several voters refused to vote for him at all, allowing someone else to win. Not only was he a great shooter from deep (again, no 3 point line), he had a great running one handed bank shot off the boards that drove defenders mad. He and Owens played together so long back in NYC, they knew each other's moves with their eyes closed and many times ran perfect pick and rolls for easy baskets. The defender tried to guard Roche closely, he would make a deft pass to Owens for a lay up. if the defender backed off too far, Roche would blow past him for his own easy shot.

Better than all that was watching him dribble the ball late in the game when we had a lead. He looked like Curly Neal of the Globetrotters. Often two or three players would chase him, at the same time, trying to foul him. Even then it was tough. It was not unusual if he fouled out two to three players in each game. Of course he was one of the best FT shooters in the nation, so he added to the lead when they did foul.

These guys and McGuire were our first heroes, for we never had success in any sport and we started kicking the snobs in the rest of the ACC and they hated us for it. Believe it or not, basketball became more popular in the state than football back then. Many Clempson fans (who still had bad teams) actually pulled for USC in basketball because they were also treated like dirt, so this was a vicarious thrill. We were united in our hate of the ACC.

Everyone heard about basketball goals springing up all over the state and kids mimicking Roche as he crossed himself before every free throw. Even I tried to copy all his shots and how to dribble with either hand, behind the back, between the legs and so forth.

As Much as we love SOS and many of the kids who played for him, like Lattimore, Clowney, Shaw, Ellison, etc., this pales to match how we felt about Frank and his boys. Not even close. This was almost like Beatlemania. Not quite, but somewhere between those two extremes.

Best ride we have ever had and those who experienced it were blessed. Thanks to coach and all his boys.
"When I was young I looked like Al Capone, but I lacked his compassion." - Oscar Levant

Last edited by brat; 01-18-2014 at 04:30 AM..
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