Even those who have not observed it firsthand might suspect that basketball in the Far East is not quite the same as in the country of its birth. One who has not only observed but also done his part to reconcile the difference between East and West is Nat Holman. Among the most lustrous of all players in basketball history and one of its greatest coaches, Holman toured Japan and Korea two years ago for the State Department on a mission of good will and good basketball.
Now, recently retired after 37 years as coach at College of the City of New York, he's there again, as the emissary of the State Department and the guest of the Amateur Basketball Associations of Japan, Korea and Taiwan. Just before he took off last month, he stopped by the SPORTS ILLUSTRATED offices and recalled some of the differences he had noted on his earlier trip. Some of them he wouldn't mind introducing here.
"The way they cheer in Tokyo," he said. "They yell with their voices and they gesture with their hands. But there's no booing at officials. When a player is taken out, he goes right to the bench, never looks at his coach as if to say, 'Why?' "
The man who has seen that look maybe more often than he cares to remember went on. "And when a player's injured he bows to his applauding audience before he limps off."
But the most important difference Holman found last time while working with Far Eastern high school, college and industrial teams was in their play. "They're short, rugged and fast, like the old Rhode Island Staters in Madison Square Garden. The big weaknesses are defensive."
Which is what brought Nat Holman to SPORTS ILLUSTRATED. He was picking up several portfolios of poster-size enlargements of the instructional article on defense by La Salle's Dudey Moore, which appeared in our College Basketball Preview, December 8, 1958. They're part of the arsenal of movies and charts he is taking on his tour. He'll leave them behind as he moves ahead.
In a way we're sorry Nat Holman didn't start this trip a little later. If he had he would also have taken with him another portfolio, from an article on basketball offense by De Paul's Coach Ray Meyer.
It wasn't ready when he left. But it will be ready for our readers next week when it becomes part of our College Basketball Preview, along with Scouting Reports on 180 major college teams.
Meyer's instructions on basketball offense will see America first. However, since Holman has retired from CCNY but not from basketball, chances are they'll get pretty good circulation in the Orient some time not too far away.