Friday, December 09, 2005

UH's Penders Wants GOTC 40th Anniversary Contest with UCLA; Bruins' Howland Cool to Idea

I am a strong supporter of having Houston and UCLA play in 2008 to commemorate the 40th anniversary of the Game of the Century. Current UH Coach Tom Penders apparently has the same idea, but according to a Los Angeles Times article (registration required), UCLA Coach Ben Howland doesn't seem to be as enthusiastic about the idea.

Houston Coach Tom Penders would love to schedule a game with UCLA. He'd love to have a "commemoration" of the 1968 Game of the Century, when the Cougars of coach Guy Lewis and Elvin Hayes beat Lew Alcindor's Bruins, 71-69, in front of 52,693 at the Astrodome to end UCLA's 47-game winning streak.

"But I can't get Ben to return my calls," Penders said Tuesday. "Maybe he wrote me a letter. Maybe I should wait by the mailbox. Or maybe not."

This Penders quote gets to the heart of the matter, in my view:

"...With UCLA, we had the Game of the Century in 1968 and there's never been an anniversary or a commemoration. Reliant Stadium [which will host the Final Four in 2011] wants to host the game. It would be a huge money game and it would be great to have it while Coach [John] Wooden could attend. So many people just want to protect their own little nests and have a fool-the-fan mentality."

Raging discussions are taking place at both the UCLA and UH internet forums. Participants on each board tend to be backing up their respective coaches.

As a UCLA alum (Bachelor's, 1984) and post-doctoral researcher at UH (1989-1991), I would love there to be a 40-year revisitation of the GOTC. As one Cougar fan put it in one of the discussion threads, "It's good for basketball and those who respect the roots of the game. That game is widely credited with popularizing College basketball."

One person who sides with Howland asserts that, "That may have been the game of the century for Houston, but it was just one of many, many, memorable or important games in UCLA history." Sadly, I'm afraid that many Bruin fans share this view.

Think of the people who could be involved: Wooden, Lewis, Hayes, Jabbar, and (of course) Dick Enberg doing the play-by-play ("Oh My!").

I would urge those who feel similarly to how I do to contact the UCLA Athletic Department (the page that you'll reach has both a phone number and an electronic form for written comments).

Saturday, December 03, 2005

Rare National Television Game for Today's UH Cougars

Earlier tonight, ESPN2 televised the University of Houston's exciting victory over the visiting Arizona Wildcats. I cannot recall the last time I saw a UH game on national television. Clearly, Cougar Coach Tom Penders appears to have the UH program moving back toward national prominence.

A couple of references to Guy V. Lewis, the longtime Cougar mentor who coached against UCLA in the 1968 Game of the Century, were in evidence. For one thing, the court at Hofheinz Pavilion is named after Lewis. The telecast also showed the Guy V. Lewis banner -- complete with red polka dots like his legendary towel -- that hangs from the rafters in analogous fashion to players' retired uniform numbers.

For now at least, tonight's win over perennial power Arizona would probably be UH's Game of the 21st Century.

Saturday, October 22, 2005

GOTC Television Mastermind Einhorn Now Exec with World Series-Bound White Sox

The 2005 World Series, which begins tonight, has a connection to the 1968 college basketball classic game at the Astrodome. And I'm not referring to the presence of a Houston team in each!

Chicago White Sox Vice Chairman Eddie Einhorn, whose team takes on the Houston Astros in the World Series, masterminded the television aspect of the 1968 Houston-UCLA hoops match-up. According to the book Oh My! by Dick Enberg, who did the TV play-by-play for the Houston-UCLA game, the Cougar-Bruin tilt was:

...televised nationally by TVS, a syndicated sports network that was founded in 1965 by Eddie Einhorn, a brilliant entrepreneur who was the first TV executive to see the enormous potential in college basketball (p. 76).

Einhorn (born in 1936) and Enberg (born in 1935) were thus both in their early thirties when they got involved with the 1968 Houston-UCLA Game of the Century. But, unlike Enberg, who has continued broadcasting major sporting events to this day and thus remains in the public eye, Einhorn's work on the business side of sports leaves him largely out of the spotlight.

As noted in the Einhorn biography linked above, however, he has a book coming out in early 2006 on the history of television and basketball. Perhaps that will boost Einhorn's visibility, assuming he makes appearances on sports-related television and radio shows to promote his book.

Friday, October 14, 2005


Today is the 95th birthday of John Wooden, UCLA basketball coach from 1948-1975. Wooden's illustrious record of 10 NCAA championships, and personal qualities of leadership, decency, and commitment to having his players develop as full, well-rounded individuals need little elaboration. Detailed biographical sketches of Wooden are available here and here.

The 1968 Game of the Century match-up of Wooden's Bruins and the University of Houston Cougars is obviously but a small aspect of Wooden's career. Yet, because this webpage is devoted to the GOTC, a few reflections are in order. From what I can tell from reading various sources, the traditionalist Wooden naturally found many aspects of the game distasteful (e.g., playing a non-conference game in the middle of the conference season, playing basketball in a huge baseball-football venue). The prime mover behind the game was Houston Coach Guy Lewis, and UCLA Athletic Director J.D. Morgan saw the financial rewards of it.

But, as things ultimately worked out, the Houston-UCLA game made a huge mark on the history of college basketball, and something would have been wrong had Wooden not been a part of it.

For an interesting look at Wooden, the coach and the man, I recommend the 2001 book Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry! by former Bruin player Andy Hill (book homepage). Wooden's wisdom and greatness come through unmistakably, but like any human, Wooden is shown to not always be perfect, however much we may think of him that way.

On to the century mark for Coach Wooden!

[An addendum: Someone on a UCLA basketball discussion board pointed out a lovely article at on how several former Bruin players gave Coach Wooden a little birthday celebration, and on the strong bonds that have formed between Wooden and the players.]

Saturday, August 27, 2005

Enberg's Book "Oh My!" Discusses GOTC

I've referred in a number of my previous postings to Dick Enberg, the television play-by-play announcer for the Game of the Century. In 2004, Enberg published a book of memoirs, appropriately enough entitled Oh My!, after his signature exclamation. Within the chapter about his days announcing UCLA basketball, Enberg spends a couple of pages on the Bruins' 1968 match-up with the Houston Cougars in the Game of the Century at the Astrodome.

Enberg makes a point that, in retrospect, seems obvious. But, I don't believe I'd ever heard anyone make it before:

Despite the buildup, if UCLA had won by 10 or 15 points, it would have been just another big game (p. 77).

He continues:

[UCLA Coach John] Wooden hates it when I say this, but for history, the right team won. The underdog won and won at home, giving the telecast a roaring crowd of nearly 53,000 fans to heighten the drama. And it was close all the way, decided with 28 seconds left on a pair of free throws by [Elvin] Hayes, "the Big E," bringing the final score to 71-69.

Enberg sees the game as a peak within his personal career ("From a historical perspective, I feel it's the most important sports event I've ever called," p. 76) and within the history of college basketball:

Most experts point to the Michigan State-Indiana State NCAA title game in 1979 -- Magic Johnson versus Larry Bird -- as the game that helped boost college basketball into the stratosphere. I disagree. I called that one, too, so I don't say this out of bias. UCLA-Houston, 11 years earlier, was the game that really showed the world how big college basketball could be. That was the skyrocket (pp. 77-78).

Two other pieces of GOTC trivia from Enberg's summary:

It was "the first national prime-time telecast of a college basketball game" (p. 77).

Enberg broadcasted the game with Bob Pettit.

Tuesday, July 26, 2005

ESPN Classic Channel Revisits 1970s "Superstars" Competition, Which Included Elvin Hayes

The other night, I was watching a show called Cheap Seats on the ESPN Classic sports channel, and the focus of the episode was on the first "Superstars" competition, held in 1973.

Among the first of the made-for-TV sports programs (at least of which I'm aware), the Superstars brought together athletes from different sports to compete in tasks encompassing different sports (e.g., running, swimming, weightlifting). Points would be awarded for each event, and an overall champion crowned. From the initial all-male event, Superstars also evolved to include a women's Superstars, Superteams, and Celebrity Superteams.

The connection to the Houston-UCLA Game of the Century is that Cougar (and later NBA) star big man Elvin Hayes was among the participants in the inaugural Superstars. According to the highlights shown on Cheap Seats, Hayes won the 100-yard dash (this was before metric distances caught on in U.S. track and field). According to this summary of the 1973 Superstars, Hayes finished sixth overall out of 10 athletes.

Wednesday, June 22, 2005

Connection to UCLA's Jim Nielsen

I recently was in L.A. visiting family, and we saw Richard Roth. His family has been friends with mine for as long as I can remember. Richard played basketball for Van Nuys High in the early 1980s and his coach was none other than Jim Nielsen, who played for UCLA against Houston in the Game of the Century. A piece of GOTC trivia, as documented in this online reprint of an article from The Sporting News, is that it was Nielsen's foul that sent UH's Elvin Hayes to the stripe for what turned out to be the two game-winning free throws. According to this 2001 article, Nielsen has remained in education, but in more recent years as an administrator. Richard noted that he still sees Nielsen about once a year at Bruin games.

Saturday, June 04, 2005

George Mikan's Legacy in Asserting Big Man's Role

With the death of all-time basketball great George Mikan the other day, I began thinking that it was Mikan -- indirectly, at least -- who set the wheels in motion for there to be a Houston-UCLA Game of the Century in 1968.

A college star with DePaul in the mid-1940s and then as a pro with the Minneapolis Lakers up through the mid-1950s, Mikan made his mark in the following way, as noted in the obituary linked above:

A superstar decades before the term existed, Mikan was the first big man to dominate the sport. No one before had seen a 6-foot-10 player with his agility, competitiveness and skill.

Given that the mystique of the Game of the Century rests in good part on its match-up of big men -- UCLA's Lew Alcindor (later Kareem Abdul-Jabbar) and UH's Elvin Hayes -- Mikan's contribution a generation earlier in demonstrating the potential dominance of the center role is unmistakable.

In fact, Mikan's contribution in defining the position extends well beyond 1968, in the eyes of one of today's leading practitioners of the low post. Shaquille O'Neal is quoted in the obituary -- with a reference to Mikan's famous uniform number -- as saying that, "Without No. 99, there is no me."

Saturday, May 28, 2005

1965 New York Times Piece on Lew Alcindor Deciding to Attend UCLA

Via JD's UCLA Basketball Blog, I came across an online version of a New York Times article from 40 years ago reporting on Lew Alcindor's announcement of his choice to attend UCLA (Alcindor, of course, later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar).

Although the Bruins had already won two NCAA titles (1964 and 1965) before Alcindor's arrival, his impact still played an incalculable role in propelling the UCLA dynasty further upward (remember also that he could not play varsity ball at UCLA until his sophomore year, 1967, under the rules of those days).

In fact, it's probably a reasonable conjecture to say that, absent Alcindor at UCLA, the Game of the Century might never have taken place. Without him, a UCLA-Houston match-up could not have pitted the two big men, Alcindor and UH's Elvin Hayes, against each other. Perhaps there could have been a game between Houston and whatever other school Alcindor (hypothetically) would have gone to, but that probably would have required the "other school" to win the 1967 NCAA championship (which UCLA did), to lay the groundwork for a Game of the Century in 1968.

Friday, May 13, 2005

1998 L.A. Times Article on GOTC's 30th Anniversary

Picking up from the immediately preceding entry, I wanted to talk briefly about a 30-year retrospective article on the Game of the Century in the January 20, 1998 Los Angeles Times, written by Robyn Norwood. Like other retrospectives, it covers the "usual" bases (e.g., the attendance, Elvin Hayes's big game). However, there were a few elements in the article that were new to me:

*Norwood quotes a clever line by Sports Illustrated that, given the heavy illumination, "the Astrodome 'very nearly became the first place in the world where a player lost a rebound in the lights.' "

*The ticket prices were extremely cheap, at least by today's standards. Wrote Norwood, " paid $2 to sit in the highest reaches of the Astrodome and only $5 for 'front-row seats,' still 100 feet from the action..." According to an online inflation calculator, today those same tickets would cost $11.07 and $27.66, respectively.

*Although then-UCLA Coach John Wooden is well-known to have been skeptical about entering into the whole Astrodome spectacle, his words in the Times retrospective article were particularly blunt:

"The television people won't like hearing me say it, but I said it before so I'll say it again: I think television is one of the worst things that ever happened to intercollegiate basketball," he said. "It's made showmen out of the players and that hurts team play..."

*Two possible contributing factors to Houston's loss to UCLA in their rematch in the NCAA final four at the L.A. Sports Arena were discussed:

An overlooked fact, in [former Cougar guard Don] Chaney's eyes, was that Houston was without starting guard George Reynolds, a transfer ruled ineligible before the final game of the season because of his junior college academic record.

"Someone had done some research -- I think it might have been the California side," Chaney said.

Besides that, the Cougars had gone Hollywood. Hayes and Theodis Lee appeared on "The Joey Bishop Show" days before the game, and center Ken Spain went on "The Dating Game" as the players soaked up the California scene.

What's becoming increasingly clear to me in researching these archival sources is that, as repetitive as some of these articles can be, one can still usually find some unique nuggets of information from them.

Saturday, April 30, 2005

GOTC A Much Bigger Deal to UH Than to UCLA

It has become clear to me in the time since I started this website that fond memories of the Game of the Century are much more abundant on the UH Cougar side than on the UCLA Bruin side.

For one thing, I've found many more UH-based web documents about the game to link to, than UCLA-based ones. Also, when I've posted announcements about my website on a Houston Cougar "chat board," they've generated more comments than when I've posted similar messages on a Bruin one.

This relative lack of enthusiasm on UCLA's part, however, did not stop the classic showdown with the Cougars from being ranked No. 1 in Scott Howard-Cooper's 1999 book The Bruin 100: The Greatest Games in the History of UCLA Basketball.

Howard-Cooper's write-up leads off thusly:

The audacity of picking a loss as the greatest game in the history of a program that has won 70% of its games and more NCAA championships than anyone comes with the even-more-dramatic counter of history, this merely being the night that changed an entire sport. The Bruins would have to accept their role, even as they contend to this day that it wasn't even their most important game of the season.

The article provides the usual litany of details (the attendance, the fact that a 47-game UCLA win streak was ended, etc.) and concludes as follows:

"People think it was a terrible loss," [UCLA Coach John] Wooden recalls a little more than 30 years later. "Not to me it wasn't. Not more than other losses. It's not like a conference loss or something to knock us out of a tournament."

Houston would get that chance a few months later, this time at the Los Angeles Sports Arena in the [NCAA] semifinals. But the Cougars would not get the victory -- UCLA won, earning vindication and a spot in the championship game.

It is precisely because the Bruins avenged their Game of the Century loss later the same season en route to winning the national championship that I would have expected UCLA fans to overcome whatever bitterness they had over losing at the Astrodome and embrace the game more. From a Bruin perspective, the mid-season match-up with the Cougars could be viewed as something that did not derail a national championship, yet made a major contribution to college basketball at large.

From Houston's perspective, not only is there the joy of winning the Game of the Century. With five appearances in the final four in school history but no national championships, the Game of the Century is, almost by default, guaranteed to be a much bigger icon to UH than to UCLA.

The write-up in The Bruin 100 also alluded to a Los Angeles Times article marking the 30th anniversary of the game. I have now located this January 20, 1998 Times article through microfilm, and I will discuss it in my next posting...

Tuesday, April 12, 2005

Helpful Suggestions from UCLA Blogger "JD"

I recently discovered a website entitled One Fan's UCLA Basketball Blog. I e-mailed the operator of that site (who goes by the initials "JD") and, in return, received some helpful suggestions for my site.

In perusing the "Game of the Century" site, JD evidently noticed my February 14, 2005 entry, in which I provided some links to photographs related to the Game. JD has now provided me with some additional -- and in many cases, better -- links to photographs. The links listed below should thus be considered a supplement to those presented in my February 14 entry.

Two photos are from the UH Heritage Society memory book.

[Link updated 1/6/11]

Lastly, JD provided me with the historical section of a recent UH basketball media guide. It includes, among other things, a special write-up (with box score) on the Game of the Century, a team picture of the 1967-68 Cougar squad, major profiles of Guy Lewis and Elvin Hayes, and a brief profile of fellow Game of the Century participant Ken Spain in the Olympians section.

Thanks to JD for these links, and also for doing a blurb about my page on his page.

Saturday, April 09, 2005

GOTC Connections During This Year's NCAA Tourney Broadcasts

Just a brief entry today, as I return from my March Madness hiatus to resume my retrospective postings on the Houston-UCLA Game of the Century. Some of the principals from the Game of the Century appeared (or were alluded to) during the recent NCAA men's tournament:

Dick Enberg, the television play-by-play announcer for the 1968 UH-UCLA classic, announced the Chicago regional (with Jay Bilas), and then did essay-type human interest stories during final four pre-game coverage.

Former UCLA Coach John Wooden did a voiceover in a commercial for The Hartford. According to a report in Media Week:

The first spot pairs a very life-like, computer-generated Stag with narration from legendary college basketball coach John Wooden. The 94-year-old Wooden offers up comments about winning with integrity as the Stag walks though [sic] a trophy-lined corridor onto the UCLA basketball court where Wooden coached teams to 10 NCAA men's basketball championships.

Finally, heading into the final four, some media reports noted that North Carolina Coach Roy Williams needed to win the NCAA championship (which he ultimately did), to avoid replicating former UH Coach Guy Lewis's record of reaching five final fours without winning it all. Certainly not the most flattering light in which to portray Lewis's career. But, on a more positive note, it does remind everyone that Lewis took the Cougars to five final fours.

Wednesday, March 16, 2005

Current State of UCLA and UH Programs, Heading into 2005 Post-Season

For the next three weeks or so, the hearts and minds of college basketball fans will, of course, be focused on current events -- namely the post-season tournaments of March Madness -- rather than historical reflections. For this reason, I will be posting very lightly, if at all, on this site during this period.

An encouraging development is that both UCLA and UH appear to have turned their programs in a positive direction, after some difficulties in recent years.

The Bruins, under second-year Coach Ben Howland, will be returning to the NCAA tournament after a couple years' absence.

The Cougars, meanwhile, are also returning to post-season play, as first-year Coach Tom Penders has guided them into the NIT (as I write this, I have learned that UH has lost to Wichita State in the opening round; box score).

I am hoping that UCLA and Houston will play each other in January of 2008 to mark the 40th anniversary of the Game of the Century. The better the Bruin and Cougar programs do in the years leading into '08, the more attractive such a potential match-up would be to TV networks (although I hope UCLA and UH schedule a game on the 40th anniversary, even if there's no national television).

Anyway, things are looking up for the two programs, and let's enjoy the rest of March Madness!

Thursday, March 10, 2005

Frosh Game Prelim to GOTC

The Game of the Century occurred, of course, during the era when freshmen were ineligible for varsity play. A separate freshmen team would be fielded and would compete either against other four-year colleges' freshmen teams or against junior colleges.

As a preliminary to the UH-UCLA varsity game, the Cougar freshmen (coached by assistant Harvey Pate) faced off against Tyler Junior College.

Looking at the historical list of all-time starting line-ups in the 1989-90 Cougar media guide (which I picked up during one of my two years at UH), I can see that among the 1967-68 UH freshmen, only Bob Hall later became a starter for the varsity, in 1970-71. One other member of the 1967-68 Cougar frosh later earned a varsity letter, Randy Kight.

Given that a school can only award a few scholarships per year, I would hypothesize that only a small number of freshman players would have been eyed from the outset as potential varsity conributors down the line. The rest presumably would have been walk-ons.

One would think that, had Tyler JC possessed any potential NCAA players, the Astrodome the night of the Game of the Century would have been a superb recruiting ground. Indeed, Tyler's Poo Welch transferred to UH and became a two-year starter for the Cougars (1969-70 and 1970-71). A biographical sketch of Welch can be accessed by clicking here and then, when the page comes up, scrolling down to the bottom.

Saturday, March 05, 2005

Parallels of John Wooden and... Lawrence Welk

As part of my continuing research to compile as wide a variety of contemporary and historical documents on the Game of the Century and its participants as possible, I've been focusing on athletic websites, newspapers, and magazines. Today, I discovered a new source, namely academic articles.

A 2004 issue of the Journal of American Studies contains an article by South Dakota State University Emeritus Professor John E. Miller entitled, "Lawrence Welk and John Wooden: Midwestern Small-Town Boys Who Never Left Home" (the article is currently available free, full-text on the web -- click here).

While Welk may not be the first person to come to mind in connection with Coach Wooden, Miller provides a plausible linkage:

The life trajectories of bandleader Lawrence Welk and basketball coach John Wooden provide a case study of cultural continuity, reflecting the efforts of two small town boys from the Midwest to conserve and propagate values with which they were brought up and which to them were time-tested and true. Caught in the media maw of the city that represents the logical culmination of modern, secular, urban culture, they continued to adhere to a set of traditional values and practices that cast them, in the views of some, as throwbacks to an earlier era but which also won for them the respect of legions of admirers and supporters.

The article references the 1968 UCLA-Houston Game of the Century, albeit with a major typo concerning the year:

Most players were willing to go along with Wooden’s program, realizing that what he was doing was for the good of the team and, as time went on, that the team was the most successful one in the history of the game. Some, however, resisted or expressed their dissatisfaction to outsiders. Edgar Lacey quit the team in 1959 after Wooden sat him on the bench during the second half of the famous Houston Astrodome game in which the Elvin Hayes-led Houston team ended UCLA’s 47-game winning streak.

The Lacey incident is covered in some detail in Wooden's 1972 book They Call Me Coach. The incident appeared to have both a distal and a promixal cause. The 1967-68 Bruin team returned all five starters from the previous season's NCAA champions, plus two starters from a previous national championship team who had sat out 1966-67 (one of whom was Lacey). With at least seven players thinking they had a good chance (and perhaps even the right) to start, tension was perhaps inevitable.

The specific, direct trigger of Lacey's departure, as noted above, involved the game at the Astrodome. Wooden apparently envisioned a defensive scheme where someone other than center Lew Alcindor would guard Houston's Elvin Hayes, with Big Lew waiting under the basket in case Hayes broke loose. Lacey was assigned to guard Hayes, but, Wooden wrote, Lacey did not guard Hayes as Wooden had instructed. Wooden removed Lacey from the game. When Wooden wanted to put Lacey back in, Lacey seemed dispirited on the bench and did not appear to be following the game. Wooden ended up not re-inserting him. Lacey appeared to take exception to Wooden's characterization in his post-game comments and left the team.

Back to the main topic of Wooden and Welk, the two apparently were good friends:

It is not surprising to discover that the two men admired each other and enjoyed each other’s company. For a number of years, about the only vacation that Wooden and his wife Nell took was to drive down to Welk’s Welcome Inn resort at Escondido and stay for several days. The two men would play some golf, and then their wives would join them for dinner at the Welks’ home. Their cook, Wooden told me, always made the maestro’s favorite meal, chicken and dumplings, and blackberry or cherry cobbler. Famous and well established in Los Angeles, the West Coast’s apotheosis of suburban living, these two small-town boys from the Midwest found in each other kindred spirits. Wooden, longtime deacon at his Christian church, and Welk, pious Catholic layman, remained true to the moral values that had been instilled in them as boys, and all the blandishments of Tinseltown were not enough to dissuade them.

All I can say, in conclusion, is "A Wunnerful, A Wunnerful."

Tuesday, March 01, 2005

L.A. Times Article from Morning After GOTC

I've located a copy of the front page of the Los Angeles Times sports section, as it appeared on Sunday, January 21, 1968. Across the very top of the page, a banner headline entirely in upper-case letters rings out:


Jeff Prugh's lead was as follows:

HOUSTON -- It happened!

Some people said it would never be done. Never! Others muttered maybe -- just maybe it would.

So, just as sure as death and Texas it happened here Saturday night. And the king is dead.

The Bruins' play was characterized as follows:

They were not the crisp team with the thunder-clap offense that had been running the enemy into the floor. They were neither quick nor clever; their fast break looked like somebody sleepwalking -- and they could not weather their coldest shooting night of the season, only 33.6%.

A few paragraphs lower, Prugh, apparently enamored with boxing analogies, noted that:

The Bruins kept jabbing and throwing uppercuts -- catching the Cougars at 65-65 and 69-69 in the final three minutes -- but couldn't connect with a knockout punch.

Below the article on the front of the sports section was a photo of Elvin Hayes shooting a free throw.

I will try to track down the Houston newspaper coverage of the game; it's always fun to compare the different perspectives.

Monday, February 21, 2005

Guy V. Lewis Snubbed in This Year's Hall of Fame Balloting

Yesterday, this year's set of 16 finalists for possible induction into the Basketball Hall of Fame was announced. And, for whatever reason, former University of Houston Coach Guy V. Lewis was not among the finalists, despite his coaching five (count 'em five) final four teams. If you look at the list of coaches in the Hall of Fame, you'll find some who coached many years at the collegiate level and made not a single NCAA Division I final four.

The following document (brought to my attention by Jason Grimes) powerfully makes the case for Lewis to be enshrined. Dreaming up the idea for the Game of the Century, in which he ended up the winning coach, was just one of Lewis's many contributions to college basketball.

Monday, February 14, 2005

GOTC Photo Links

Among the suggestions I've received for this page, one is to provide links to photographs of the Game of the Century. I've been doing a lot of searching on the web and haven't found too much, but these four links are a start:

*The Sports Illustrated cover photo the week after the game (the issue is dated January 29, 1968).

*Panoramic picture of the Astrodome set-up for the UH-UCLA game. It must have seemed odd for the players, the way the basketball court was in the "middle of nowhere," with no seats added between the court and the permanent baseball/football stands. (Thanks to Jason Grimes for sending me the article containing the photo.)

*UCLA Bruins 1967-68 team picture. This photo is part of an excellent, larger website devoted to UCLA hoops, maintained by John Perry.

(If anyone knows where to locate an online 1967-68 UH team picture, please e-mail me the link; my e-mail address is listed in some of my previous postings.)

*A nice photograph essay on the construction and early years of the Astrodome.

Friday, February 11, 2005

Guy V. Lewis Interview from a Few Years Ago

I just came across a fairly in-depth interview former UH Coach Guy V. Lewis did with the Sporting News in 2002. Take a look!

Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Seeking First-Person Accounts of GOTC

In recent days, I've been trying to publicize this site by posting messages on what I think are relevant Internet discussion boards and e-mailing select individuals who I think might be interested. My message announcing the creation of the Game of the Century website received some nice comments on a Houston Cougars discussion board, but not a single response on the parallel message I posted on a UCLA board.

Among the comments posted on the UH board, one person noted that first-person accounts of the game by those who attended or watched live on television would be a nice addition. If anyone who saw the game live wants to compose something and e-mail it to me (, I'd be happy to post it. Until that happens, however, we'll need to rely on linking to first-person accounts that already exist on the web.

One such account I found is that of former (1957–1979, 1988-1994) UH Sports Information Director Ted Nance (the frequently used abbreviation for that position is S.I.D., but, as you'll see, the way the headline of the article is structured, it could easily give someone the impression his name is "Sid Nance").

The article with Nance's recollections characterizes him as having been "associated with the Cougars almost from the first day he set foot on campus in 1953."

Nance's recollections of the 1968 UH-UCLA game are pretty extensive, so I'll just provide some excerpts (the totality of Nance's reflections can be seen by clicking on the aforementioned link to the full article):

When asked about his most vivid memory of his nearly 40 years with the University, Nance is quick to respond, "It would be the Houston-UCLA basketball game. It was a game of national championship caliber, the largest crowd in history (52,693) and the first nationally televised game. It just had a different aura about the whole game. It was something special.

"I had bought 50 tickets to the game early on because I just knew people would be calling me for tickets at the last minute. And sure enough, everbody was calling. That's the best move I ever made.

"The game was back and forth, back and forth the whole way. Alcindor had an eye problem, but that was a great-built-in alibi for Johnny Wooden. I think Alcindor hit eight of 10 free throws, so it didn't affect him that much.

"What affected his shooting more than anything was that he had several shots blocked by Hayes. Hayes was just red hot. It wasn't so much a case of UCLA not being good, it was that Hayes had probably the career game of his life. I think he had something like 28 points at halftime. Everytime he did anything the crowd just roared."

Nance has been honored both by UH and by the College Sports Information Directors of America (CoSIDA).

Saturday, February 05, 2005

Current UH Coach Penders Strongly Endorses Lewis for Hall of Fame

Virtually all of the recent publicity that former Houston Cougar Coach Guy V. Lewis has been receiving has been directed at getting him elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame. I strongly support the contention that Lewis should be in the Hall.

Friday's edition of the UH student newspaper, the Daily Cougar, featured an interview with current UH Coach Tom Penders. Penders made the case for Lewis's induction as eloquently and as succinctly as I've heard anyone do it:

It's a total injustice. The man has twice the credentials of many of those who are already in there. The five Final Fours are mind boggling. The records, the pioneer that he was here, what he did for African-Americans here at the University of Houston, he's always been considered a class individual. He didn't have any NCAA violations. He did it the right way, didn't cut corners, and I know how his former players feel about him. There's just no explanation for it.

I can take another coach who's in the Hall and look at his record and his NCAA record, and they'll fall far short of coach Lewis'. Then I ask, "How can this guy be in there and coach Lewis not?" You've got to right the wrongs that have been done in the past. There are some guys that are in there -- and I'm not saying that they don't belong -- but if they're in there, then they should have an entire room for Guy Lewis, never mind just getting him in there.

Thursday, February 03, 2005

Basketball in Huge Domed Stadiums

In trying to fulfill this site's goal of providing a compendium of interesting materials on the Houston-UCLA Game of the Century, I've been doing a lot of searching on the web.

I just found a Lexington (KY) Herald Leader article -- written in conjunction with the Dec. 13, 2003 Kentucky-Michigan State game that drew a college-basketball record 78,129 fans to Detroit's Ford Field -- in which John Wooden provided his perspective on playing basketball in a domed stadium.

The Herald Leader article featuring the Wooden interview is available here. Wooden is quite negative about the idea of playing basketball in such vast venues. Some may attribute this bitterness to the fact UCLA lost the game to Houston in 1968, a notion Wooden denies. Given Wooden's traditionalism, there's nothing surprising about his views on playing in domes. Here are some illustrative sections from the Herald Leader article:

"I didn't want to play there because I thought it'd make a farce of the game I love," Wooden said this week. "My A.D. (athletic director) was for it. He said there would be tremendous coverage. It'd be good for basketball."

[Note: The UCLA athletic director was J.D. Morgan.]

To Wooden's horror, the court was set up far from the crowd at the second base area of the Astrodome's baseball field.

"No place to play," he said. "Before the game, I facetiously told the players that if they had to go to the bathroom, do it now because the court is a quarter-mile from the locker room."

The Herald Leader article had at least one factual error, in describing the UH-UCLA game as a "Monday night telecast." A perpetual calendar clearly shows January 20, 1968 to have been a Saturday.

Another note: At the bottom of the article on the Kentucky-Michigan State game, there's a chart listing the top ten college basketball games in attendance. The 52,693 attendance figure for the Houston-UCLA game no longer ranks even in the top ten.

Tuesday, February 01, 2005

Where Are They Now?

I thought a good place to continue would be with brief "Where Are They Now?" summaries for several of the major actors in the Game of the Century.

As noted in my introductory posting, Guy V. Lewis, who coached the victorious Houston Cougars in the famous game, was the subject of a recent Fox Sports documentary. Lewis, born on March 18, 1922, will soon be celebrating his 83rd birthday (see this article mentioning his 76th birthday).

Lewis suffered a stroke in 2002. He was honored in a ceremony at UH's Hofheinz Pavilion in 2003 and also received an honorary doctorate from UH that year. According to the recent documentary, Lewis continues to visit Hofheinz.

John Wooden, the UCLA coach, still attends UCLA home games at age 94 (he was born October 14, 1910 according to this biographical sketch). As of 2001, when former Bruin player Andy Hill came out with his book Be Quick -- But Don't Hurry, Hill was taking Wooden out to breakfast once a month (whether this has continued to the present day, I don't know). There is a website called, which features his famous "Pyramid of Success."

Among the players that night in January of 1968, the star of the evening had to be UH center Elvin Hayes, who made the game-winning free throws. Born November 17, 1945, Hayes would thus now be 59 years old. After a successful pro career in which he helped lead the Washington Bullets to the NBA championship in the 1977-78 season, Hayes was voted to the Hall of Fame. He played two stints back in Houston with the Rockets, the latter one at the end of his career. In recent years, Hayes has owned an automobile dealership in Houston.

UCLA's center, of course, was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (then known as Lew Alcindor). The owner of six NBA championship rings (five with the Los Angeles Lakers and one with the Milwaukee Bucks) and the master of the "sky hook" shot, Adbul-Jabbar also entered the Hall of Fame after a long and illustrious career.

Now 57 years old (born April 16, 1947), Kareem has in recent years been writing books and doing commentary/analysis on basketball telecasts. He has made known his desire to coach, but so far has had no takers at the NBA or major college level.

Finally, there's Dick Enberg, the play-by-play announcer for the landmark telecast of the UH-UCLA Game of the Century. If you're a tennis fan, you would have heard Enberg in just the last week or so. Having just turned 70 (born January 9, 1935 according to this biographical sketch), the legendary Enberg covered his first Australian Open, for ESPN.

For the last 40 years, Enberg has made a major impact on both the Los Angeles and national sports scenes. While Enberg's switch to national broadcasting prevented him from having the longevity in L.A. of a Vin Scully or Chick Hearn, he made up for it with his ubiquity (announcing for the Angels, Rams, and UCLA basketball). I look forward to writing additional material on Enberg in future postings.

Likewise, I intend in future postings to profile additional players in the Game of the Century.

Friday, January 28, 2005

Welcome and Introduction

On January 20, 1968, one of the most famous college basketball games of all time was played, pitting the perennial champion UCLA Bruins against the University of Houston Cougars. In fact, many people call it the "Game of the Century." The many significant aspects of this game are summarized concisely in the following quote from a UH athletics document:

Featuring the nation's top two teams and two of college basketball's greatest players of all time, the University of Houston met UCLA in college basketball's first nationally televised regular season game on January 20, 1968 in The Astrodome before a then-record 52,693 fans.

Top-ranked UCLA entered the game with a 13-0 record and a 47-game winning streak, and second-ranked Houston had a 16-0 record and a 17-game winning streak. The Cougars had also won 48 consecutive home games.

The game, which featured a battle between future Hall-of-Famers Elvin Hayes of Houston and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar of UCLA, remained close throughout. Hayes decided the difference in the final 30 seconds when he scored two free throws to give Houston a 71-69 victory.

The box score of the game is available at the aforementioned UH link (it should also be noted that Kareem was known as Lew Alcindor at the time).

Although I was not at the Game of the Century (I was a little over five years old and living in Los Angeles at the time), I have always been fascinated by it. I grew up a big UCLA hoops fan and earned my Bachelor's degree there in 1984. Then, after receiving my Ph.D. from the University of Michigan in 1989, I did a two-year post-doctoral fellowship (1989-1991) at the University of Houston. I thus have formal ties to both UCLA and UH. (I am currently a faculty member at Texas Tech University, thus maintaining my connection to the Lone Star State).

Recently, the Fox Sports cable network in my region (and perhaps in others) has been airing a documentary on Guy V. Lewis, the longtime UH coach (1956-1986) and prime mover behind the Houston-UCLA showdown.

(UCLA, of course, was coached by the "Wizard of Westwood," John Wooden, about whom I'll have a lot to say in upcoming postings.)

The Guy Lewis documentary rekindled my interest in the Game of the Century and made me wonder whether there was a website devoted exclusively to compiling links on the game. Accordingly, I did a Google search using the keywords ["Game of the Century" UCLA Houston]. Naturally, there were numerous write-ups on the game, but I could not find a comprehensive website of the type I was envisioning (if there's one that I missed, please e-mail me a link at the address below).

I love creating webpages, so I thought, why not? Thus, in the weeks, months, and perhaps years ahead, I plan to build this page. I will compile additional links pertaining to the Game of the Century and write as many profiles as I can of the key actors in the game (not just the coaches and players, but the announcers and even the venue itself, the Astrodome). I would also be happy to post comments sent in by readers.

The Houston-UCLA game, as an historical icon, is transitioning from something that large numbers of basketball fans could connect to personally (whether having actually watched the game in '68 or seeing Elvin Hayes and Kareem Abdul-Jabbar play during their NBA careers) to an entity that people will know about purely via history books and video clips. In fact, the "tipping point" in this transition may well have already passed. It is my intent with this website to do my small part to keep the game a vibrant part of contemporary conversation. I look forward to this project!

Alan Reifman