Occasionally during a hectic Sunday night—which is when we start putting this magazine to bed each week—Senior Editor Jeremiah Tax will look up wearily from a tangled caption, or a story that is too long to fit but too good to cut, and sigh, "Ah, to be a writer again. Editors never have any fun."
Then he will run his hand through his crew cut, which has streaks of youthful black through the gray to remind him of his writing days, and proclaim solemnly that he is going back to writing basketball. His proclamation does not stand for long. He remembers too well those early basketball issues, and the memories, though fond, are also painful. Jerry wrote and edited every basketball article in those special issues by himself, a far cry from this week's issue, for which Tax had the services of Staff Writers Joe Jares and Curry Kirkpatrick, Writer-Reporter Herman Weiskopf, Reporter John Rodgers and a nationwide network of stringers. He remembers the trips, and the long phone conversations and the letters. Every day there were letters from coaches, scouts, fans with inside information on how good Scholastic U. was going to be. It wasn't all work and no play, of course. Take the time George Mikan decided it would be great to stuff Jerry through the basket at Madison Square Garden. Since Jerry is only 5'6" and 145 pounds, the 6'10" Mikan almost succeeded.
The trips were long and the Saturday night writing sessions even longer. Nevertheless, Jerry produced some of the finest basketball articles of the day, and as a writer and an editor he played a significant part in what might be called the nationalization of college basketball. Pete Newell, athletic director of the University of California and U.S. Olympic basketball coach in 1960, says, "Before Jerry and SPORTS ILLUSTRATED came on the scene, college basketball was mostly a local concern. But when SI started putting out scouting reports on teams all over the nation, people in California became interested in how West Virginia was doing, and vice versa."
While editors like Tax usually don't have much fun on Sunday nights, they do draw pride and satisfaction from originating, planning and developing stories, selecting the pictures, approving the layouts, even editing—and it is their background as writers that gives them the insight needed to do the job the way it should be done. But I am happy to say that our editors—and Jerry is a prime example—do not rely only on what and how it happened in the past, when they were in the field. They are open to new ideas and procedures. Take, for example, our cover story on the case of the 12-foot basket (page 78).
In some basketball circles mere mention of the 12-foot basket is considered treasonous, but Jerry went into the subject with an open mind and arrived at the conclusion: the baskets should be raised.
"What the 12-foot basket does," argues Jerry, "is put the game back into the same proportions that it had when it was invented. The good big man still has an advantage over the good little man, but at least they will both be shooting at the basket instead of one man just dropping it in."
And maybe, just maybe, Jerry had it in the back of his mind that the next time some giant has a notion to stuff him through the hoop, the giant had better be 8'10"