When a man grows up in a one-room flat over a tavern, depending on welfare checks for food, he doesn't want to hear how hard it is to beat Kentucky. When a fellow is abandoned by his father practically at birth and raised by a religious zealot preaching imminent doom to her son, he isn't likely to sympathize with some space-head forward begging out of games because of verbal taunts. When a coach spends the early part of his life shining shoes, peddling papers, driving the bus, gandy-dancing, hauling concrete, washing windows, running in the streets and being conditioned to believe "the sky is never blue; the grass is never green," you could hardly expect him to be overwhelmed if his basketball team makes a run at the national title.
Now just a minute, Dale Brown. What is this? Afternoon soap or prime-time basketball?
As the World Turns
? Or Tigers on the Trail?
At LSU there is always a bit of Brown floating around the gym along with the points and rebounds. Says Dr. Martin J. Broussard, the head trainer of LSU's 23-1 steamroller, "Has the man told you about the cardboard in his shoes yet?"
As a matter of fact, Coach Dale Brown has just now recounted, for perhaps the fourth time in 36 hours, how as a youngster he used to crawl on his hands and knees under the seats of the old Strand Theatre in Minot, N. Dak. looking for empty popcorn boxes to stuff into his shoes because the soles were all gone and the wolf was at the door.
Now that he's basking down there at Baton Rouge among the gentle bayous and dripping willows in laid-back Loozee Ana—with his team perched ever so smartly near the top of the rankings—Lord, how far away those empty days in North Dakota must seem.
But do they really?
"Have I heard his life story?" says senior Forward Durand (Rudy) Macklin. "I can give it back to you word for word, by heart."
But on to this season's story. The marvelous LSU team has a solid corps of seniors led by the lefthanded inside dervish, Macklin; a great freshman class featuring a leggy studhorse, Leonard Mitchell; and a bottomless bench—sixth man Willie Sims nearly has been immortalized by being introduced at home games in the LSU Assembly Center ("The Deaf Dome") right along with the starters. These Tigers are the culmination of nine long, hard years of sweat and strain and salesmanship by Brown. Last week, after Macklin had scored 32 points as the team defeated Alabama at home and Georgia on the road, LSU had won 22 straight games and was bidding fair to become the first team in 25 years to go unbeaten in Southeastern Conference regular-season play.
Kentucky—vaunted, much despised Kentucky—was long ago put away by 14 points, making it six out of the last eight for LSU over the Wildcats in the past four seasons. Tennessee—Top 10 Tennessee, those slowdown killjoys from Knoxville—was beaten by 17 (seven straight for the Tigers in that rivalry). Both teams were at least three games behind LSU and virtually out of the league race. So at last LSU reigns supreme in deep Dixie. Still, Brown battles on with evangelistic fervor—the underdog, the no-name, the tragedian.
Dale, this is the late Jack Bailey talking. Do you want to be "King for a Day?"