Golden Basketball Magazine
May 23, 2021

"The goal is to make practice more difficult, physically/ mentally, than anything your players will face during a game." 

Bob Knight, Hall of Fame coach at Indiana

Tiger Den Basketball

LSU Post-Season Games - 1985

The Tigers faced "The Admiral" in the first round of the NCAA playoffs.

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NBA Finals - Game 7: 1978

Washington Bullets @ Seattle Supersonics

Both teams reached the finals despite not winning their divisions.

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Basketball Quiz

LeBron James is the only player to win the NBA Finals Award with three different teams. Which one of these teams is not one of the three?

  1. Cleveland Cavaliers
  2. Los Angeles Lakers
  3. Miami Heat
  4. Orlando Magic
Robert Parish's Road to the NBA - 4
The Big Three: Larry Bird, Kevin McBride, and Robert Parish:
The Best Frontcourt in the History of Basketball
, Peter May (1994)
Read Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3
The NCAA had ruled in 1969 that, effective May 1970, two years before Parish enrolled at Centenary, conversion tables no longer would be allowed. All NCAA member institu­tions, including Centenary, were informed in writing. In June 1972, with the courtship of Parish well under way, the NCAA again wrote to remind Centenary that conversion tables were a no-no. That missive came after (Coach Riley) Wallace told (NCAA representative David) Berst that Centenary was converting the ACT score to an SAT number, as it had before without recrimination or punishment.
Berst again warned the school in August, a week before Centenary announced that it had landed Parish. Berst said he even suggested that Parish take the SAT so there would be no problem. Parish, however, was never told about the eligibility questions or advised by Centenary to either retake the ACT or try the SAT. He didn't hear anything until he and four other basketball players admitted via the conversion table method were well into their freshman year, after the basketball team began practice but before it had played any games.
"The school president came to us and told us that the NCAA was being picky," Parish said. "I did not know anything about them [the conversion tables] being outlawed. They also said the NCAA said nothing about it."
That simply is not the case. Centenary was warned. It sipmly chose to ignore the NCAA, and it did not take advantage of any appellate proceedings within the NCAA guide­lines. On January 9, 1973, the NCAA lowered the boom, putting Centenary on indefinite probation. If the players were quickly ruled ineligible, the probation would last two years, but if the players continued to play, the sanctions would stay in effect until two years after they left. Included in the sanctions were bans on postseason play and television appear­ances.
Centenary maintained its loyalty to the players and kept them on scholarship. The school's records and the records of all its players were stricken from the NCAA's books. (Parish's last official entry in NCAA stats is from a release dated January 27, 1973, when he was averaging 23.3 points and 17.4 rebounds. The next week, there is no mention of him. And the NCAA record books do not note that Parish is the leading rebounder in Division I since 1973, either.) Parish also achieved impress­ive scoring numbers without aid of the dunk, which was out­lawed at the time. Before his final game, a local columnist pleaded for him to dunk, just once. Parish didn't. He remained curiously averse to dunking in his pro career, too.
So for four years Parish was the best invisible man in the country. "They made him a nonperson," said Moore. Centena­ry became the Leon Trotsky of NCAA basketball, also ceasing to exist in that stretch. In his final three years at Centenary, the team went 21-4, 25-4, and 22-5, with a 35-2 record at home. The team had a school record 18-game home winning streak. Under most conditions, all of those teams would have been invited somewhere. "We were good enough to get to the Final Four," Wallace contended.
But not without Parish. Why did Centenary refuse to revoke Parish's scholarship and declare him ineligible? The answer may be that the school honestly felt it either was being victi­mized or had acted in good faith.
Or it could be that it knew it would never have a chance to get another player like Parish and it might as well risk the wrath of the NCAA. Or maybe it thought it could slide by on good faith. As one person involved said, "If I'm the coach of that team, I'd want to get Parish, too. Do you think Cente­nary is going anywhere without Robert Parish? Or be on TV without Robert Parish?"


Robert Parish

Sports Illustrated did a piece on Parish in 1976. The New York Times called the school "unknown and unwanted." None of that would have been forthcoming had Parish been declared ineligible. As one college scout observed during Parish's senior year, "Without Parish, they would not be on probation, but no one would have ever heard of them, either."