Saturday, January 20, 2018

Happy 50th Anniversary, Game of the Century!

It was an early-afternoon game instead of a primetime evening start. It was played at Texas Southern University (the Cougars' temporary home as UH renovates its old Hofheinz Pavilion into the new Fertitta Center) instead of the Astrodome. The opponent was No.7 Wichita State instead of UCLA.

But today, on the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century -- January 20, 2018 -- the Houston Cougars once again stunned a nationally elite team, shocking the Shockers 73-59.

I would have preferred a UCLA-Houston rematch tonight, but it wasn't to be. The Bruins and Cougars played each other in 1993, marking the GOTC's 25th anniversary. But since at least 2005, when then-UH coach Tom Penders was trying to set up a 40th anniversary game between UCLA and Houston, it has become clear that UCLA has not been interested in any further rematches.*

The 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century did get considerable media attention, however. Most prominently, the CBS Sports Network aired a special earlier in the week on the game (see earlier posting below on this blog). Also, the Los Angeles Daily News had a nice retrospective on the game. The writer also included a link to this blog!

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*This situation is not unique to UCLA vis-a-vis Houston. There was talk a few years ago of a 2016 game between Texas-El Paso and Kentucky to mark the 50th anniversary of the teams' historic 1966 NCAA championship game (UTEP was known in 1966 as Texas Western). However, that plan fell through.

Tuesday, January 16, 2018

CBS Sports Network Special on GOTC 50th Anniversary

With the 50th anniversary of the Game of the Century just days away, the CBS Sports Network last night aired a special on the historical significance of the contest. Filmed on November 3, the hour-long show was hosted by Jim Nantz, the longtime lead college-basketball announcer for CBS and UH grad. The on-stage panel consisted of GOTC announcer Dick Enberg (who died, sadly, less than two months after the taping); Elvin Hayes and Don Chaney, who played in the game for the Houston Cougars; and Seth Davis, who was not even born when the game was played, but wrote a major biography of Coach John Wooden and thus could provide a UCLA perspective.

Interspersed between the November 3 panel discussion were segments of GOTC game footage and filmed interviews with several of the participating players. These included former Bruin Lynn Shackelford, and former Cougars Billy Bane, Larry Cooper, Vern Lewis, Carlos Bell, and Melvin Bell (Melvin Bell was not listed in the game-program, as he missed the season due to a knee injury). There were also interview clips with the UH trainer and student-manager, journalists, and others. Several Cougar players from 1968 were in attendance at the taping and came on stage at the end.

Overall, I liked the show. It was well-paced and crafted to appeal both to viewers not that familiar with the GOTC (by providing considerable background information) and to those, like myself, who know the basics and crave every additional detail and anecdote. Enberg's passing obviously lent the broadcast an added poignancy, as Nantz discussed with the Houston Chronicle.

There are some Twitter tweets from CBS Sports Network featuring clips from the show: herehere, and here. I expect that clips from the special or even the whole show will find their way onto YouTube or other online venues.

Thursday, January 11, 2018

Approaching GOTC 50th Anniversary, Where Are They Now?

With the 50th anniversary of the UCLA at Houston "Game of the Century" coming up on January 20, I thought it would be a good time to take stock of the major players in that game -- on the court and off. Who is still alive and who is not? And if alive, what have they been up to? These things are listed below, including links to descriptions of current pursuits or obituaries.

Broadcast: Dick Enberg, play-by-play (died Dec. 21, 2017); Bob Pettit, color analyst (alive; photo from 2016 unveiling of statue in his honor); Eddie Einhorn, producer (died Feb. 24, 2016)

UCLA

John Wooden (Coach) Died June 4, 2010
Kenny Heitz Died July 9, 2012
Gene Sutherland Listed as attending 2017 reunion of 1967 team
Neville Saner 2017 reunion
Lew Alcindor/Kareem Abdul-Jabbar Author
Jim Nielsen 2017 reunion (2007 article on career as educator and coach)
Mike Lynn 2017 reunion
Lucius Allen Video of visit to 2017 UCLA practice; member of coaching service
Mike Warren Actor
Bill Sweek Retired teacher (quoted in Wooden retrospective)
Lynn Shackelford Retired, former broadcaster (2016 article); UPDATE: Appeared in CBS Sports 
Network special
Edgar Lacey Died March 22, 2011

Houston

Guy V. Lewis (Coach) Died Nov. 26, 2015
Vern Lewis Referenced toward bottom of
this recent article; UPDATE:
Appeared in CBS Sports Network special
Ken Spain Died Oct. 11, 1990
Tom Gribben Died Jan. 22, 2014
Niemer Hamood Unable to find anything recent
Don Chaney Nov. 2017 photo
Larry Cooper Retired coach and school principal;
UPDATE: Appeared in CBS Sports Network special
Billy Bane UPDATE: Appeared in CBS Sports Network special
Theodis Lee Died 1979; tournament named in his honor
George Reynolds Unable to find anything recent
Elvin Hayes Nov. 2017 photo
Bobby Van Landingham Unable to find anything recent
Carlos Bell UPDATE: Appeared in CBS Sports Network special

Other passings I would like to acknowledge include Ted Nance (died August 14, 2015), the longtime UH Sports Information Director, who sent me nice e-mails with information about the Game of the Century; and Bobby Scott (died Jan. 30, 2010), one of the officials that night.

If you know what became of any other major figures in the game, please e-mail me via my faculty webpage at Texas Tech.

Friday, December 22, 2017

Dick Enberg Dead at 82

Sad to relay the death of another major figure from the Game of the Century, namely play-by-play announcer Dick Enberg, who did the television broadcast from the Astrodome. Enberg was 82.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

My Yahoo! Radio Interview on the Game of the Century

Yahoo! Sports Radio features a weekend show called "Stadiums USA." I was invited to talk about the Astrodome in conjunction with the Game of the Century. I taped the interview last week, the show aired this past weekend, and now the audiotape of the show has been posted on the Stadiums USA website. Here is a link to the show's archived broadcasts (see the show where it says "Posted March 15, 2016"). My interview begins right around the 30-minute mark. During the interview, I alluded to how the basketball court for the UCLA-Houston showdown was placed smack-dab in the middle of the vast Astrodome field, with no seats added between the court and the permanent seats ringing the field. Here is a photo I found of the arrangement. I think you'd agree that it would have been difficult to see what was taking place on the court, especially from the upper deck!

Thursday, February 25, 2016

Eddie Einhorn Dead at 80

Eddie Einhorn, who put together the television broadcast of the Game of the Century, has died at age 80.

Thursday, November 26, 2015

Guy V. Lewis Dead at 93

Guy V. Lewis, the longtime UH basketball coach and mastermind of the Game of the Century, has died at age 93. Coverage can be seen at the Houston Chronicle and ESPN.com. Presumably due to the Thanksgiving holiday, the University of Houston's main website and athletics website don't appear to have anything up yet, but I'm sure they will soon.