Here in the Boston area, we have known of basketball coach Kevin Mackey since 1971, when he was turning out great schoolboy teams at Don Bosco High. His success at Cleveland State, "The Mouse That Roared" in this year's NCAA tournament (Bolts Out Of The Blue, March 24), is only the start of a great story. As for Ed Bryant, the Cleveland State recruit from Prince Edward Island College, yes, that is a hotbed of hoopdom. PEI, St. Francis Xavier and Acadia all recruit heavily from Boston-area schools, and the cage game is more popular than hockey in the Maritimes during the long winters.
PRIDE OF POTSDAM
The Potsdam (N.Y.) College community is beaming with pride after Douglas S. Looney's fine story on the Bears' undefeated NCAA Division III championship season (Bearing Up Nicely, Thank You, March 24). However, in the short interim since the article was written, a former Potsdam player, Derrick Rowland, has signed a contract with the NBA's Milwaukee Bucks, amending the statement that Potsdam has never sent a player into the NBA ranks. Rowland, who didn't even start on his high school basketball team, was an All-America on Potsdam's first national championship team in 1981 and has toiled in the Continental Basketball Association for the past five years. He never abandoned the work ethic that coach Jerry Welsh instilled in him as a Potsdam Bear, and it is nice to see him rise to a position that is a rarity for the true student-athletes in Division III.
Assistant Basketball Coach
P.S. I'm the good-looking fellow in the picture with Coach Welsh and Troy Turner.
I would like to remind you of the OPENING TIPS item "Six Teams To Pity" in your special college basketball issue (Nov. 20). Alexander Wolff listed Baptist College as one of those teams, but his pity should have been saved for Baptist's opponents. The Runnin' Bucs of coach Tommy Gaither put together a 21-9 overall record while winning the regular-season and tournament championships of the Big South Conference. This same "pitiful" team was considered for a postseason bid in the NIT. Bernard Innocent (a 6'10" senior from Haiti) and Hen Hinson (a 6'4" junior whose uncle, Roy Hinson, plays for the Cleveland Cavaliers) made all-conference and all-tournament, with Hinson being named tournament MVP. Gaither was named conference Coach of the Year.
Assistant Basketball Coach
BIRD VS. THE BIG O
The article As Nearly Perfect As You Can Get (March 3) by Jack McCallum compared Larry Bird with six basketball superstars, one of them Oscar Robertson. Comparing Bird with Robertson is like comparing apples and oranges. Bird's role on the court is completely different from the one Robertson played, and when one realizes that, one is then able to see clearly who should be called the superior player. Robertson's role was to shoot, pass, steal, play tenacious defense and—the most vital aspect of the game—run the offense. McCallum mentioned that Bird's shooting range and rebounding ability surpassed Robertson's. Why would the Big O make a 30-foot jumper when he could maneuver his way through opponents and take a better percentage shot? And if I am not mistaken, he always did just that. Rebounding is another story, because the job of a play maker is not to rebound, but to run the plays, and the job of a forward is to get the rebounds.
When a game was on the line, when the team needed two points, when there was no one else to turn to, the Big O was there. People who had the privilege of watching him in action viewed his basketball heroics as "common" phenomena. I guess that is why some people have forgotten how superior he was. I, of course, will never forget. You will always be No. 1 in my heart, Dad!
I agree with McCallum that Larry Bird is one of the greatest all-around players the game has ever seen. However, when he said that Oscar Robertson did not rebound as well as Bird, I had to go check the record books. Robertson, 6'5", playing mostly at guard, grabbed nearly 1,000 rebounds one season (985 in 1961-62, a season in which Robertson averaged a triple double). Bird, at forward and 6'9", has never gotten 900. Only when the Cincinnati Royals acquired Jerry Lucas and his 20 or so rebounds per game did Robertson realize he could go back to being a "regular" guard again and get only seven or so rebounds per game, along with about 30 points and 10 assists.
Don't be misled by career averages. Bird has not yet peaked and started his statistical descent. A total of 985 rebounds at guard says a lot more to me than 800-plus at forward.
Madison Heights, Mich.
Frank Deford's article on basketball in Roman Catholic universities (A Heavenly Game?, March 3) contains a put-down of what counts for intellectual creativity in those institutions. The writer quotes the following from a "Catholic historian": "Original research became original sin."
As the historian responsible for that quote, in an essay on Modernism published in 1971, let me advise your readers that the statement (embarrassingly glib when seen out of context) was written to describe the state of theology and philosophy only, and only during the period from 1907 to '60. To apply my statement to schools whose research record today is quite respectable is an unfair rap. To Frank Deford: five Our Fathers and five Hail Marys.
MICHAEL V. GANNON
STICKING UP FOR U.S. TENNIS
I wonder if Douglas S. Looney (Squeaker For Our Boys In Sneakers, March 17) was reporting on the same Davis Cup match I witnessed in Guayaquil, Ecuador. To call it an "uninspiring 3-2 win over Ecuador" is irresponsible and continues to lead your readers down the well-trodden media path that ends in the conclusion that something is wrong with American tennis. At last look, the U.S. had 11 of the top 30 players, followed by Sweden with six and then France and Czechoslovakia with three each.