Golden Basketball Magazine
May 12, 2017

"When I was young, I had to learn the fundamentals of basketball. You can have all the physical ability in the world, but you still have to know the fundamentals."

Michael Jordan

Tiger Den Basketball

Season in Time: 2005-06 Part VII

LSU played in the Final Four for the first time in thirty years.

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From the Archives

The Hoosiers Hollywood Ignored

It wasn't the Deep South, but the Crispus Attucks team from Indianapolis had an uphill battle to win a state title.

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Basketball Quiz

What school did NBA great Larry Bird play for in the NCAA Tournament finals in 1979?

  1. Duke
  2. Indiana
  3. Indiana State
  4. Kansas
  5. Michigan State

ABA Tryout Stories
Loose Balls: The Short, Wild Life of the American Basketball Association as Told by the Players, Coaches, and Movers and Shakes Who Made It Happen, Terry Pluto (1990)

Steve Jones

Bob Bass

Tommy Bowens

Larry Brown

Lefty Thomas

A.W. Holt

Maurice McHartley

Steve Jones: I remember walking into a tryout for the Oakland Oaks at St. Mary's College and there were 100 guys there. I had some friends who had recommended me to the Oakland owners and Bruce Hale, so I had an advantage in that Bruce knew who I was. You could tell that there was a division at the camp between guys who were supposed to be able to play and guys basically off the street. I had played at Oregon and been drafted by the Warriors and had been to two of their training camps, so I was one of the guys who could play. But I still couldn't believe that mass of humanity in the gym. The coaches seemed overwhelmed. They started having 3-on-3 games for 15 minutes. If you didn't show much in that 15 minutes, you were outta there, so you can imagine that there was a lot of passing going on, right? They cut 60 guys the first day. I think back on that as the "Hundred Rifles" camp, because you had 100 guys doing nothing but shooting. Most of the guys who eventually made the team had played either in AAU ball or the Eastern League and had at least been to an NBA camp. ...
Bob Bass: Obviously, you had to be a bit of a gambler to get involved with the ABA. I had coached great NAIA teams at Oklahoma Baptist. We were national champs in 1966, runners up in 1965 and 1967. I could have stayed there comfortably forever or gone on to another major-college coaching job. I had a good player in Al Tucker, and Bruce Hale came down to talk to me about Tucker. Bruce had just been hired by Oakland, and he asked me if I was interested in getting into the ABA. I told him that I had no idea, I really hadn't thought about it. We pretty much let it drop at that.
Two days later, I got a call from Dennis Murphy, who was then the general manager in Denver. Murphy offered me $20,000 to coach the team, which was pretty good, since most of the players were making $8,000. I took it. ...
I had no players. We put together a tryout camp at Pacific University. We had about 100 guys in the gym and it got real hot, so we opened the doors. But it was so smoggy outside that the smog rolled in and it got so bad that we had to call off practice, because we couldn't see. Besides, an open tryout like that wasn't going to do us much good, anyway. ...
I took the NBA rosters from 1965 to '67 and looked for the names of guys no longer in the league. Then I tried to track them down, figuring if they were good enough at one time to play in the NBA, then they should be good enough for our league. Actually, none of us really knew what would be good enough, since there was nothing to compare it to. ...
One of the guys we did find was Tommy Bowens, who was 6-foot-8 from Grambling. He was one of the mroe amazing leapers I had ever seen. He could dunk from two feet behind the foul line. I know no one believes me when I tell them Bowens did that, but I saw it in practice. He could dunk from much further out than Julius Erving. He could break the high-jump and long-jump records all at the same time. He was just a raw talent who really couldn't do much with the basketball, but how he could jump.
Larry Brown: The guy I still kid Bob Bass about is Lefty Thomas. We (New Orleans Buccaneers) played Denver early in the season and they had this guy, Lefty Thomas. He went for 20 points against us, but he shot it every time he touched it. That wasn't that unusual, but Lefty was the first player I had ever seen who wore a ring on every finger. I still ask Bob if he has signed any more guys who wear 10 rings.
Bob Bass: Thomas had 39 points for us in our opener, but he was totally out of control. I couldn't handle the guy. Every time he got the ball, he went left and then he shot it. He had played for the Harlem Clowns and some of those other teams that played against the Globetrotters. After a few weeks, I let him go and Anaheim picked him up, maybe because he had the 39 points against them. But he didn't last there.
Max Williams: Our biggest job was to find players. I got a lot of letters and calls. One guy wrote me from the state penitentiary in Oklahoma. He said if he could produce a contract, they'd let him out to play ball for Dallas. I passed on that one. We had an open tryout and drew about 100 guys. That was just a zoo, people killing each other, but we didn't find anyone of significance.
Terry Stembridge: I don't remember seeing any real playes at those tryouts; it was just a bunch of guys running around. The players we ended up with were guys that Max found. One of my favorites was Maurice "Toothpick" McHartley. He was a 6-foot-3 guard who came from the Wilmington Blue Bombers of the Eastern League. Maurice had to have a toothpick in the corner of his mouth or he wouldn't play. He was ahead of everybody when it came to fashion, because he was the first guy on the team wearing bell-bottoms and stuff like that. He worked hard at being Mr. Cool. I remember him shooting the ball a lot, but I don't remember it going in that often.
Another one of my favorite guys was A.W. Holt, a kid from Jackson State, a left-handed shooter. He went into Max's office to sign a contract and they talked for a while. When they came out, Max asked me to take Holt to the airport because he was going home. In the car, I said, "A.W., did you sign?"
He said, "No, man, I didn't sign that contract."
I said, "Why not?"
He said, "I made up my mind before I came here that unless I got a $1,000 bonus, I wasn't going to sign. But all they offered me was fifteen hundred dollars."
I started to laugh, but I realized that A.W. was serious. He didn't get it and that was sad. Anyway, he eventually did sign, but he didn't make the team.
Larry Staverman: I was the first coach of the Indiana Pacers, and in the summer before that first season, we announced that we would have our first practice, which was really a tryout. We held it at the Jewish Community Center, which had room for about 400 people, but 1,500 showed up. We turned fans away to see a glorified tryout! ... Our big tryout was held at the Fairgrounds Coliseum. We had a couple of hundred guys trying out and about 7,000 fans there to watch. I stepped out on the court to start the tryout and guess what - no basketballs. My GM had forgotten to get us some balls. I had to figure out what to do with all these people. I had the guys run sprints, then I had them run a passing drill, a Figure-8, pretending they had a ball. I cut some guys before they even touched a ball because it was obvious they couldn't run and had no idea what the most basic Figure-8 drill was all about.