Legends Blog

The Death of the San Francisco Don’s April 04 2017, 0 Comments

San Francisco Don's Basketball History

       For more than 30 years, the death penalty has robbed the University of San Francisco of Basketball excellence. Religious universities have long had a tradition of paying for players, this tradition was not wasted at San Francisco. The history of USF basketball is littered with achievement and tradition. A program that broke social ground and developed one of the greatest basketball players of all time. The list of alumni that went on to the pros, features Bill Russell, K.C. Jones, Bill Cartwright, Phil Smith, Erwin Mueller, Kevin Restani and Quintin Dailey. Before Bill Russell stared for the Boston Celtics, he was a two time National Champion at the University of San Francisco. Up until 1982, USF was one of the most high profile basketball programs on the West coast. Perennially ranked in the top 20, the team had the distinction of being a major program in a mid major conference (think Gonzaga today). Currently, the schools basketball program has been in a free fall.

       The glory days started with the 1946 hire of Roundball legend Pete Newell. The head coach brought instant success and winning culture to the program. During the 1949 season he led the Dons to a NIT championship (at a time in which the NIT was comparable to the NCAA tournament).

       Phil Woolpert was hired as Newell’s successor in 1950, he was ultimately very successful with an all time record of 153-73. The coach developed a reputation for recruiting mostly bay area players. Woolpert’s most important move, came in the recruitment of a largely unknown center out of McClymonds High School in Oakland. USF was the only major university to offer Bill Russell a scholarship. Although his skills and fundamentals were raw, he showed tremendous promise on defense. During the 1954 season, Woolpert became the first major college basketball coach to start three African American players. The coach was far beyond his time in terms of race relationship and social acceptance.

Bill Russell - NCAA Basketball Champion

       Bill Russell and KC Jones are easily the best defensive college duo of all time. The two were selected to multiple All-American teams and led the Dons to back to back titles. During their championship runs in 1955 and 1956 the Don’s won their 9 tournament games by a total of 135 points (only one team got within 10 points). The team was all world defensively and would routinely hold teams below 40 points. UCLA legend John Wooden commented that Russell was the “Greatest defensive man I’ve ever seen”. During his career at USF the center averaged 20.7 points and 20.3 rebounds per game. While K.C. Jones averaged 10 points and 5 boards. Both were named All-Americans in 1956, before leading the NBA’s Boston Celtics to 11 championships in 13 seasons.

       The Don’s tradition and excellence served as a pillar in the community. Perhaps nothing symbolized their importance to the community more than a bizarre trip to the notorious jail Alcatraz after the 1956 season. On the day of the visit, the starting five, Russell, Jones, Hal Perry, Mike Farmer and Carl Boldt received a tour of the entire prison. They even visited some of the worst prisoners housed in Alcatraz, guys like Al “Scareface” Capone, Meyer “Mickey” Cohen and James “Whitey” Bulger.

       The outlaw collection of murders, crime bosses, bank robbers and sexual offenders greeted the players with a warmth seldom seen by prisoners. In fact, many of the prisoners listened to the Don’s championship run on the radio. Most of the inmates acted like nervous teenage girls meeting their long time fantasy crush. The Don’s forward Carl Boldt added “The convicts looked at Russell and they were just in awe. They were treated like gods during their visit”. Boldt also added “They all cheered and clapped their hands. They said to Russell, ‘That’s the way to go there, big black brother!’ “They cheered us and they were very happy to have us there.” Convicts fired away with basketball questions and comments.

       Civilians were never allowed beyond the visiting room and were only permitted to communicate by phone. The players not only walked through the entire prison, they even ate alongside them. All five starters also ate with one of the most famous Alcatraz prisoners of all time Robert Stroud “The Birdman of Alcatraz”. A diagnosed psychopath with an uncanny knowledge of birds, serving a death sentence for murder.

Bill Russell Alcatraz Jail

       Mike Farmer was the star returner in 1957, as Jones and Russell went on to the NBA. The forward had an outstanding year on his way to being named West Coast conference player of the year, he led the Dons to their third straight Final 4. In 1958, Farmer improved his individual play and was named a first team All American.

       From 58 to 1961 the program was marred in mediocrity. But a glimmer of hope appeared with the hiring of Peter Peletta in 1961. They regained basketball relevancy with stars like Ollie Johnson, Erwin Mueller and Joe Lewis. Johnson was a dominant big that averaged more than 20 points and 16 rebounds for his career. They again reached glory in the 1965 and 1966 season reaching back to back Elite 8s. From 1966 to 1970, USF struggled heavily under head coach Phil Vukicevich compiling a 51 and 51 record.

       Phil Smith was one of the most important players in the history of the Dons. The Berkley native was an unknown prospect with no scholarship offers. After graduating from high school a semester early, Smith enrolled in night classes at USF. He was recruited by coach Bob Gaillard, after watching him play pick up games on campus. From 1971 to 1974 the 6-4 Smith continued the tradition of USF developing unknown players and helping them flourish. The great all around guard lead the Dons to consecutive elite eight appearances. Averaging 18 PPG, Smith was named all-West Coast Conference selection all three years of his career. During his senior season he was named an NCAA All-American.

Don's Century Club

       The Dons Century club was made up of elite alumni from the University, they boasted a top notch pay roll. Hookers, booze, drugs, cars, accommodations, free meals and money were all in the mix for the Dons Century Club. The “nonprofit” committed hundreds of thousands of dollars to illegal recruitment of players, paying off family members, and paying for travel. Other alumni within the Century Club were giving players thousands of dollars, paying them for no-show jobs, providing lavish gifts, as well as picking up pricy restaurant and entertainment tabs. The alumni club began heavily involved in the recruitment of basketball talent sometime in the mid 70’s.

       The century club was not the only party to blame. The school did their fair share to provide illegal gifts and bonuses to the players. The team continued to receive special academic treatment; many of the players were marginal students at best. There were several incidents of a player threatening another student, only for the complaint to be dismissed by school officials.Tutors also went above and beyond their duty, often completing assignments and tests for the athletes.

       When Phil Smith graduated in 1974, USF gained a major commitment in Sacramento native Bill Cartwright. In 1977, led by the 3 time All-American center, the Dons went 29–0 and were regarded as the #1 team in the nation for 6 weeks of the season. Sports Illustrated highlighted the 1977 team with a cover story titled "The Dandy Dons.” Cartwright was the West Coast Conference’s only 3 time winner of the player of the year award. Future pros, Winford Boynes and James Hardy helped Cartwright dominant the opposition from 1975 to 1978.

       The NCAA placed the Dons on probation two times in the late 1970s for booster interference and recruiting violations by coaches. In 1979 the NCAA put USF on probation, promising stricter penalties in the future. The NCAA investigation eventually led to the dismissal of a San Francisco head coach, leading San Francisco Chronicle sportswriter Glenn Dickey to call the program "totally out of control.

       School president Rev. John Lo Schiavo, let it be known after the second NCAA case was resolved in 1980, that he would shut down the high-profile program if there was any further incident. Besides firing the coach, Schiavo took no steps to prevent the incident from reoccurring.

       One of the greatest players in the history of the University, ended up to be its death. Trouble started when Quentin Daily committed to USF during the early 80’s. The dynamic scoring guard from Baltimore was a high profile recruit when he made the surprise commitment to San Francisco. The Don’s won the conference championship all three seasons while Daily was in school. He averaged 22 points as a sophomore while shooting 57 percent. Good enough to be named Player of the Year in the Conference. The next season he put up 25 points per game to go along with 54 percent shooting. Daily was named to an All-American team for his efforts, and again Conference player of the year.

       It all climaxed in December 1981, when All-American Dailey was accused of assaulting a female student. During the investigation, Dailey admitted taking a no-show job for $1,000 a month at a business owned by a prominent USF Dons Club booster, while another booster had also paid Dailey $5,000 a month since 1980.

       Lo Schiavo claimed, he didn't know that Dailey was suspected of committing rape until a month after the incident occurred. It all seemed very unlikely, due to the fact that the dormitory was right across from his office. Schiavo is ultimately to blame for not being diligent and keeping up with players who he deemed were such a threat to the fabric of the university. The school saw an easy way out and dissolved all responsible from themselves and pointed the finger at the Don’s Booster Club and their student Quintin Daily.

       On the cloudy day of July 29, 1982, the hammer dropped. The administration lived up to their promise of strict penalties. The school announced a self imposed Death Penalty, allowing all of its active players to transfer elsewhere. The decision left a one time basketball powerhouse on its knees. Administration decided when they did reinstate the basketball program, it would be done under much stricter academic guidelines.

       Oddly enough, the 1982 season also marked the cancellation of the Don’s football program. While it was a division II program, it had a rich history dating back to the 1951 team. The 1951 team was called the greatest team “you've never heard of” producing three future NFL hall of famers. The 1951 team was also the last division 1 football team they put out.

       Schiavo was the schools administrator with the end say. The catholic persist was a prep basketball star for Lowell in the 1960s. Schiavo decision and judgement regarding players talking pay seemed to be bias, when that decision was being made by someone who made over 275,000 a year. Upon her visit to San Francisco, Queen Elizabeth II pulled Lo Schiavo aside to ask when he would reinstate the basketball program. Critics have cited that several members of the coaching community backed the decision by Schiavo to kill the program. The two main supporters of the decision by Schiavo were Bobby Knight and Joe Paterno, ill let you do the math.

       One has to wonder, if ethics were the top priority, if the University really wanted to put their focus on academics? Changing the school to a division 2 or division 3 affiliation would have been admirable, but the school decided to continue competing in division 1.

       Schiavo failed, he failed the community, he failed the players and he failed the students. His seemingly lackadaisical attitude and lack of institutional controlled allowed outside forces to corrupt his university. His biggest failure was to control the influence of the Don’s Century Club, rumors of Schiavo being paid by the Century Club cannot be ignored.

       The Athletic director Bill Fusco at the time offered his thoughts "The basketball program hasn't been as strong, but now they can say they run their program with integrity,". Fusco also added "At the time, I didn't agree with the decision. I felt it was really drastic. I still have mixed feelings about it 30 years later”.

       The statement by athletic director Bill Fusco, about integrity should be taken with a grain of salt. From 2007 to 2008 notorious rule breaker Eddie Sutton was hired as coach for the Don’s. Although he lasted less than a season his hire should be met with serious speculation.

       Since its death penalty in 1982 the Dons have only made one NCAA tournament (1998). The onetime powerful program was brought to its knees by its own administration. The school, students and community all lost dearly in this respect. Things will never be the same. Would the school make the same decision if they knew the schools basketball team would never truly be able to regain its form. No telling how successful the program would be today if the death penalty was never instituted. Does five years of rule breaking constitute a universities sports team to loose the ability to compete?


Golden Boy Rick Barry May 25 2016, 1 Comment

Rick Barry Golden State Legend

Years before Steph Curry ruled the Bay Area there was another star that ruled the bay area basketball landscape. During his era he was one of the best scorers to ever touch hardwood, the enigmatic Rick Barry. His off court behavior effected people’s opinion of his game more than anyone in basketball history. A number of players did not find the experience of playing with him pleasant. “You’ll never find a bunch of players sitting around talking about the good old days with Rick. His teammates and opponents generally and thoroughly detested him.”—former Warriors executive Ken Macker

People simply ignore Barry’s basketball pedigree because he's perceived to be an asshole. Take a look at Tony Kornheiser's famous sports illustrated article titled A Voice Crying in the Wilderness. Bill Simmon’s assessment of Barry’s career in his Book of Basketball is not much better, ranking him behind John Havlicheck in his list of all time players. Barry got into fights with family, friends, coaches, teammates, media members, owners, commissioners and fans. Among his biggest blunders could be the racial remark he made to Bill Russell on live tv. Or it could be the time he told the people of Virginia he didn’t want his kids growing up sounding like hillbillies with a Virginia accent. Who could forget the horrible toupee for an entire season. In his book titled Confessions of a Basketball Gypsy, he even admitted to once punching a nun. And then of course there was the 1976 playoffs in which Barry was accused of refusing to shoot because his teammates didn’t back him in a fight.

Rick was an unbelievable scorer during his day, in fact he lead the NCAA, ABA and NBA in scoring (the only player to do that). The smooth forward was known for his underrated athletic ability, great offensive IQ and quick feet (check his full reel of highlights here). The small forward was a legendary free-throw shooter employing an outdated underhand “granny shot”. Barry was born the son of a basketball coach. He attended Rosselle Park High School in Elizabeth, New Jersey and quickly displayed his basketball talent. He was good enough for the University of Miami to offer him a full basketball scholarship. Under future father in law Bruce Hale, Barry led division 1 in scoring at 37.4 ppg.

In his first NBA season Barry dominated to average 25.7 ppg, he was named Rookie of the year and was named to the All-NBA team. His second season Barry averaged 35.6 ppt and led the league in scoring. Only Wilt Chamberlain, Michael Jordan and Elgin Baylor have averaged more points. He took home All-Star MVP honors in front of his home crowd with 38 points in the game. That season Rick led them all the way to the NBA finals where the warriors faced Wilt Chamberlains Philadelphia 76ers. The series was pushed to six games with Philadelphia celebrating a title on their home floor. During the series Barry averaged an NBA finals record 40.8 ppt during the series. Which included a 55 point game and games of 43,44 respectively. Barry's points per game during an NBA finals was only passed by Michael Jordan in 1993.

After 2 seasons in the NBA Barry decided to jump ship and play for the newly formed ABA. He signed with the Oakland Oaks and his father in law Bruce Hale. The ABA came after Barry aggressively, they offered him ownership and a bigger contract. He was the first NBA star to sign with the renegade ABA. Barry was court ordered to sit out his first year for the Oats before returning to action in 1969. He played in the ABA for 5 seasons, although is talent largely went unnoticed playing in what most thought was a lesser league than the NBA. Only a handful of people were able to see Barry play in his prime as the ABA went without a national television deal. His league-jumping was perceived by fans as money driven, even though other players were taking advantage of the financial opportunities provided by the ABA.

Rick Barry - Bruce Hale - Warren Jabali

The swingman made an immediate impact in the ABA, leading the Oaks to the ABA Crown in 1969. After scoring 34 points per game he finished second to Indiana’s Mel Daniels for league MVP. After 1969 Barry found himself in court after he tried to jump back to the NBA. He went on to play three more seasons in the ABA with the New York Nets and Washington Capitols. Barry admitted “If I had to do it over again, i’d wait for some other fool to do it.”

Barry was back with the NBA and the Golden State Warriors for the 1972-1973 season. Playing with lesser talent in the ABA forced him to improve other areas of his game. His defensive effort and technique improved. As did his ball handling abilities and passing skills .

During the 1972-73 season, he scored 22.3 points per game and earned the first of six NBA free-throw titles. He teamed with hall of fame center Nate Thurmond to beat Kareem Abdul Jabbar’s Milwaukee Bucks in six games of the first round. However they were eliminated in the conference finals by the Lakers in 5 games. Barry improved his scoring average to 25.1 points per game in 1973-74. He had his greatest scoring night on March 26, 1974, against the Portland Trail Blazers. The small forward had a legendary game putting up 64 points, 45 of which he scored in the second half. Rick continued to show the development in his game, finishing among the NBA top 10 in assist with 6.1 per game.

Rick Barry 1975 NBA Finals MVP

Barry arguably had the finest year of his career in 1974-75. He led the Warriors to the NBA title, averaged 30.6 points (second to the Buffalo Braves' Bob McAdoo), and led the league in free-throw percentage (.904) and steals (2.9 per game). He ranked sixth in the NBA in assists with 6.2 per game, the only front court player in the top 10. Golden State's 1974-75 roster included NBA Rookie of the Year Keith Wilkes (known later as Jamaal Wilkes), a smooth, athletic, defensive minded small forward. Wilkes was the second leading scorer with 14.2 points per game. The rest of the squad was a collection of hardworking role players. Barry led the team to a 48-34 regular-season record. The Warriors led the league in scoring, with 108.5 points per game average.

In the 1975 NBA Finals, the Warriors shocked the world by sweeping the favored Washington Bullets in four games. How big of an upset was it? Nobody had expected the Warriors to go deep into the playoffs, the arena in Oakland had been booked for another event. The NBA Finals were played at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Barry was named NBA Finals MVP with averages of 29.5 points, 4 rebounds and 5 assists (heres the tape). The only member of an NBA championship team to have posted a higher regular season scoring average at the time was Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, who poured in 31.7 points per game for the Milwaukee Bucks in 1971. It is often said that players do not win championships unless there are other great players on the team (they mean All-Stars). The 1975 is one of only a few teams to win a championship with just one All-Star on the roster (the others being the 1978 Bullets, 1994 Rockets, 2003 Spurs, 2004 Pistons and 2011 Mavericks).

In the 1975-76 campaign Barry shouldered less of the scoring burden, averaging 21 points while distributing 496 assists. He recorded 19 assists in one game in a game in 1976, then a record for a forward. The Warriors won 59 games, good for first overall seed. However things turned sour in the Western Conference Finals against the Phoenix Suns. In game 7 rookie Ricky Sobers tried to fight Barry, few of his teammates helped. The Warriors were up at halftime as Barry led the team with 14 points. However in the second half he scored only six points falling to Phoenix 94-86 at home. Many critics pointed to Barry, accusing him of intentionally throwing the game because of the lack of support he received from his teammates during the fight. The Suns’ Dick Van Arsdale said afterward that “Rick seemed disenchanted,”. Barry has his own account of what happened. “Anybody who knows me knows that there's no way in the world I'd intentionally do something that would jeopardize an opportunity to win a ball game, especially when we had a chance to win a championship. There's no way in the world I'd do that. I didn't pout. I didn't try to prove a point. It means too much to me to win."

In 1976-77, Barry averaged 21.8 points, as the Warriors fell to 46-36 and lost in the conference semifinals. In his last season with Golden State they failed to make the playoffs as he averaged 23.1 points, 5.4 assists and 5.5 rebounds per game. When his contract was up in 1978, he signed with the Houston Rockets. Rick played along side Moses Malone, Calvin Murphy and Rudy Tomjanovich in Houston. He dished out a career-high 502 assists (6.3 apg), while his scoring average fell from 23.1 to 13.5 points per game. In his last season Barry’s averaged dropped to 12 ppg.

During 14 seasons of professional basketball, he averaged 23.2 points in the NBA and 30.5 points in his 4 ABA seasons. Barry totaled 25,279 points, which ranks him among the top scorers in basketball history. The swingman was also efficient shooting over 45% for his career. He averaged more than 30 points per game four different times. He was named to 12 All-Star teams, 4 All-NBA First Teams, and 5 All-ABA First Teams. At the time of his retirement, Barry's .900 career free-throw percentage was the best in NBA history. In one season, 1978-79, he missed only 9 free-throw attempts. In the playoffs he was even more prolific, scoring 24.8 points per game in his NBA postseason career and 33.5 points per game in the ABA.

The best explanation of Rick Barry came from his former Golden State teammate Al Attles "Rick goes his own way. Superstars always do. They all think differently. If Rick has a drawback it's that he is not very patient. He can't understand why a guy can't play the game the way he does. That is a fault of all superstars. You may say of these people that they aren't regular guys. Well...they aren’t." . All of his exploits have gone well documented and perhaps he is an asshole. But don’t let his exploits blind you of his basketball genius. His basketball ability is underrated and overlooked in the history of basketball.


Happy New Year from Legends Clothing! January 02 2015, 0 Comments

Legends Clothing Company - Happy New Year 2015