"I'm all set,
but thanks," said Lennie. "Tough tonight."
we'd do better," Erickson said to no one in particular, and he walked
slowly out into the Iowa night.
The thing that
makes basketball coaches different from people was the subject of conversation
early the next evening in a restaurant outside Bowling Green. We had reached
this oasis by completing a quick 750-mile reverse pivot from Iowa City to Cedar
Rapids by car, to Chicago and then Nashville by plane and to Bowling Green
overland, driven by Art Guepe, the commissioner of the Ohio Valley Conference.
In Nashville the party was reinforced by Roy Stout, who had come up from a
Mississippi State game the night before to handle the Western Kentucky-Murray
State action with Wirtz.
Since the seminar
was devoted to coaches and took place in Bowling Green, it automatically turned
to Ed Diddle, the remarkably successful and colorful gentleman who, until his
retirement last year, had directed the Western Kentucky teams since 1922.
"He's a great
old man." said Stout. "I got him one night and he's on me bad. I come
by the bench and he says, 'Mr. Referee, you're not ever going to work for me
again. Not ever, Mr. Referee.' I told him I guessed I would just have to get
all my licks in during the next 22 minutes while I still had the whistle. He
busted out laughing."
Mr. Diddle aside
(the retired coach now presides from a box seat on the floor where he serves as
a cheerleader, second coach and third official), basketball has a lot going for
it in Bowling Green. The new field house, E. A. Diddle Arena, rises bright,
light and handsome over the college town, the crowds are enthusiastic but
mannerly and the cheerleaders pretty. The basketball game was the closest of
the week and the best. You could tell that the fans knew the difference between
a hack and a hot dog.
At one critical
point the dazzling line of Western Kentucky girls streamed onto the floor and
began to lead a cheer built around the exhortation, "Give them hell,
Western." The girls were met when they returned to their seats by a courtly
member of the Western Kentucky faculty. "I just don't believe you all have
considered how that sounds," he said. "Lovely young ladies cursing in
public!" The lovely young ladies cast down their eyes and thereafter laid
off the give-them-hell bit.
officiating moment came with less than three minutes remaining. Stewart
Johnson, a 6-foot-8 Murray pivot man who had kept his team in the game with 15
field goals, drew his fifth personal foul on an illegal-pick call made under
the basket by Roy Stout. With Johnson sobbing on the bench, Western Kentucky
went on to win 71-70.
Later, in the
officials' room, Stout had no doubts about the call. "I was there; the boy
picked him. I'll make a call like that every time. You don't know how many
fouls the boy has, how many points he has scored. All you know is you see a
foul, and you blow the whistle."
In contrast to
the air of exasperation after the wild Iowa-Wisconsin game of the night before,
both Stout and Wirtz were obviously pleased with this one. "Pal," said
Lennie, "I'll work one like this every night. They wanted to play ball. You
can give them a good game."