"There were eight kids in my family," says Clyde. "My old man ran off and left us when I was 2. The old lady had to bring us up. It was rough. Now the old lady is afraid I'm going to blow it, but I'm not."
Last summer Harris and Florida State Guard Otis Cole visited with Benny in St. Petersburg. "It's really bad there," remembers Harris. "It was so bad that we lied to him and told him we had to leave. You go down to the store and you just see junkies lined up everywhere nodding. Clyde's girl friend wouldn't ride in our car because she said it looked like a police car, and she didn't want anybody shooting at her.
"People don't realize what a pro contract means to a black person like Clyde. It's his only chance to get out. I come from the same type of thing. There were nine kids in my family. It was hard, but I never had to beat up people for lunch money like Clyde says he did. You don't know what it's like to go through four years of school with only one pair of pants. The saddest thing I ever saw in my life was coming home and looking on as my dad ate bread and syrup for lunch when he was working 13 hours a day. I made it through okay, but Clyde didn't. Maybe he had a different personality than me. Maybe he's insecure."
"From the git-go, he had the reputation here as a bad guy," says Clyde's roommate, King. "Maybe people were looking for him to mess up."
Florida State began its season with three relatively easy victories. The first hint of trouble came in the Marshall Memorial Classic when Princeton beat the Seminoles by two points. Days later came the King injury against Alabama, and that set a pattern. By the middle of January even Durham was not voting for FSU in the weekly coaches' poll.
"I told my assistant coach before the start of the season that Benny Clyde is the type of player who can get you ranked second," says Durham. "But then if everybody doesn't come through for you, you start out high and play yourself down. And that is what happened.
"The sad thing is that Clyde still doesn't understand why he was suspended. He thinks it was only for hitting that player. He doesn't understand that it was another example of him thinking about himself and the hell with Florida State. Clyde could be a super player. But he won't let himself be. He has to be fancy. He has 'to do his thing,' as he calls it. He can't just play basketball. And by doing it his own way, he's going to foul up sometimes. But he can't see that."
When the chastised Clyde returned to the team, he played briefly against South Alabama and went scoreless, then again came off the bench in the first half last week against Marshall, a lamentable contest—but fortunately the next to last game of the season—that the Seminoles lost 71-59. "He got seven rebounds in nine minutes," says Durham. "Then he got tired. It was a lack of conditioning. Benny tells you how much he wants to play, but he didn't want to play enough to run on his own while he was suspended."
Durham has suffered other recent disappointments. Before this season, he liked to point out that all but one of his previous black players went on to graduate. Now he has a couple who probably won't get their diplomas. They stopped going regularly to class last fall because they presumed they would be playing professional basketball next year. "That's the problem with the young players," says Harris. "They come here and get influenced by some of the older players who don't go to class, and then the young players think they don't have to go, either."
No wonder Durham's hair is falling out. But despite the trauma and the grating sound of a crashing kingdom, the coach realizes that things could be worse. Last year he considered taking a pro coaching job—with the hapless Philadelphia 76ers.