We can only hope that someone at Nike read that and was, just for a moment, a little ashamed. But probably not.
The Red Shoe Diaries
At one time it was Converse, not Nike, that ruled the world—the basketball world, anyway. In the early 1950s Converse's legendary salesman, Chuck Taylor, had most major college basketball teams wearing the white hightop model that bore his name. But sometime before the 1950-51 season Kansas coach Phog Allen ordered his Jayhawks out of their Converses and into red Pro Keds. The way retired Converse salesman Grady Lewis recalls it, Allen was angry at Taylor, who he felt had upstaged him at a clinic.
At any rate, Kansas found magic in red shoes—just as ruby-slippered Kansas lass Dorothy did in The Wizard of Oz—when it won the NCAA championship in 1952. Alas, the Keds lasted only a few seasons. "They were terrible," remembers Bill Lienhard, a forward on that '52 team. "If you ran in them too much the inner sole just cracked." Allen heard the complaints. And according to Lewis, when he found out sometime around 1954 that Taylor no longer got a cut of each pair of All Stars sold, he put the Jayhawks back in Converse whites.
Stove Rushing Redux
Our readers' additions to Steve Rushin's piece on how his computer's spell-check program "could crystallize the essential character of an athlete" (SI, Jan. 22) shed even further light on the sports world. Hard-hitting Pittsburgh Steelers linebacker Greg Lloyd was revealed as a Groggy Load, Washington Bullets giant Gheorghe Muresan plays as a Garage Musician, and that win-at-all-costs Kentucky coach is apparently one Rich Python.
Forgetting History's Lessons
When I received my ballot a couple of months ago to vote on this year's candidates for induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame, the first box I checked was next to the name Don Haskins, the coach at UTEP (formerly Texas Western) since 1961. This was the first year that the 65-year-old Haskins, one of the game's revolutionary figures, had gotten through the nomination process, and I hoped that he would make it into the Hall. He didn't—18 of the 24 voters must vote yes to ensure induction, and Haskins fell short. (Exact totals are not made public.)
Whatever else they do, halls of fame must recognize those players and coaches who truly alter the course of their sport. Haskins did that on March 19, 1966, when he sent five black players from Texas Western onto the court in College Park, Md., and beat Adolph Rupp's all-white Kentucky team 72-65 to win the NCAA championship. College basketball was never the same. The racially discriminatory recruiting policies of schools like Kentucky were revealed as not only odious but also stupid.
And it's not as if Haskins stopped living after 1966. He has won more games (675) than some fairly well known rivals, two of them named Wooden and Knight. Over his 35 years at the El Paso school, Haskins has taken the Miners to 14 NCAA and seven NIT tournaments and helped develop many coaches, including a former player who won an NCAA championship at Arkansas, Nolan Richardson.
Haskins's failure to make the Hall was disappointing but not surprising. Over the years I've frequently mentioned his name and drawn only blank stares from fans, players, even other journalists who were unaware of this crusty man who wears clip-on ties, wrinkled white shirts and a perpetual scowl. Heck, in 15 years of covering basketball for this publication, I made it down to El Paso only once, more than a decade ago, to write about Haskins. With his customary clunky diplomacy, he gave me a pair of basketball sneakers, ugly, heavy things that I gave to a friend who uses them for weightlifting. "They're still going strong," my friend reports.