New Mexico sought redemption in an unlikely place Saturday night. Arizona had beaten another league favorite, the University of Texas at El Paso, in Bear Down the previous night, and it also had a new coach, Fred Snowden, a black who took the job after five years as an assistant at Michigan. In the early '60s Snowden compiled a remarkable 167-8 won-lost record coaching high school ball in Detroit, but when he arrived at Arizona he inherited a program which had produced a grand total of six victories all last season.
Nicknamed the "Fox," the diminutive Snowden, 36, quickly recruited five super freshmen, including Eric Money and Coniel Norman, a pair of fabulous high school teammates from Detroit who knew and respected the coach. "Snowden's from the same neighborhood and background I'm from, so I can't slip nothing past him," said Money.
Money and Norman, along with peer Al Fleming, have been regulars, and at times Snowden has flooded the floor with all five of his prize freshmen at once. The team stuttered early under the awkwardness of the young, losing two of its first three games, but has been going strong since.
Ellenberger replaced Bernard Hardin, the team's second leading scorer and rebounder, with Mark Saiers for the opening tip, hoping to regain that spark that had been the enzyme for the nine victories. But the Lobos had no one to match Norman's outside shooting. He sank 13 of 20 shots, most of them dusty from travel, and scored 34 points. "He might be one of the greatest premier shooters in the country ever," said Ellenberger. "You'd have to have a canoe paddle to guard that guy."
For Snowden the win was like nectar after a diet of disappointment. "I didn't think I'd ever get here," he said. "I saw guys moving out and going on to college coaching, and I thought, "What do I have to do?' As a kid, I was like everybody else. I lived in the bad section of town. But I scrapped my way out of it. I had a coach, Sam Bishop. He was the only white man who wasn't afraid to come down there and coach us. I was a thug. That was all any of us were, but he made me realize that I had other skills. He built a lot of men.
"Here they know I'm not going to love them any less if they lose one. We pray a lot. We cry a lot. And we love a lot. My black players, I'm their image. My white players, my two white assistant coaches, that's their image. I've got wonderful black kids and wonderful white kids and they're making democracy a living thing."
Well, maybe Archie Bunker is wrong.