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After the game, VBK teased Bradley. "I knew you had a righty hook, but your lefty hook isn't worth crap."
The season soon ended. The next fall, at practice one afternoon, Bradley noticed the coach watching him. So Bill gave him a little show, swishing in lefty hooks. "He'd been working on it all summer," VBK says. "Just tell him something and walk away, and next thing you know, it's all taken care of. Like a little kid."
That little kid led his senior team—which included Gary Walters, Bob Haarlow and Ed Hummer—past nationally ranked Providence 109-69, and on to the '65 Final Four, where the Tigers lost to Michigan and beat Wichita State 118-82 for third place, a game in which Bradley scored 58 points, then an NCAA tournament record.
All told, VBK was 103-31 at Princeton. In his last year—two years after Bradley had left—the team was 25-3 and ranked fifth in the nation, which was unheard of—and still is—for an Ivy League team. With an overall record of 307-108, VBK was lured to the pros, and it was only natural, given VBK's restless nature, that he should leave the groves of academe and head for Los Angeles.
VBK had never been the flavor of the month at Princeton, anyway. Oh, they liked him—tolerably—and liked his winning teams. But he was so outspoken and demonstrative—always underdressed for the occasion, a lover of strong language and stronger beer—that he simply didn't blend in. He spent his leisure time in the campus' outback bars among the blue-collar townsmen. He liked Princeton, but he never was an Ivy Leaguer.
Laker owner Jack Kent Cooke offered him Baylor and West and twice the salary he was getting at Princeton, but Florence wasn't thrilled. "From college to the cold, cruel world," she says. "I cried a river all the way to Los Angeles."
Of course, VBK brought his concept of the game with him—it was the same game, after all—and he ran the hell out of the Lakers in that first training camp. After one session, VBK walked into the locker room and overheard West saying, "If that s.o.b. runs us like that again, I'm gonna...."
"You're gonna what?" van Breda Kolff interrupted.
"Oh," West said. "Uh, s.o.b.... Sweet Old Bill."
The rough side of VBK's tongue won him a $250 fine for abuse of officials and criticism of the league that very first year. "He was a player's coach," says former Laker guard Gail Goodrich. "No b.s. Tell it like it is. If you don't agree with him, that's too bad. That's the way he's going to do it."