Once, when the class struggle was considerably younger than it is today, a Yale basketball team coached by Ken Loeffler traveled to Peoria, Ill. for a game with Bradley. Yale was, of course, overmatched and it was clear that only the greatest of orations by Loeffler could avert disaster. Fortunately, Loeffler has an oration to fit almost any occasion.
Just before the game, the little band of Elis huddled in the visitors' locker room, a mere beaverboard partition away from the room where Bradley's team was similarly grouped. Loeffler climbed a stool and, with every Yale eye upon him, inhaled, as a preface to his speech. He proceeded no further.
Before Loeffler could declaim a syllable, the voice of the Bradley coach boomed through the partition.
"Men of Bradley! Tonight you will be playing against the sons of the men who own the factories in which you will some day be working. But you are not working in them yet...."
Yale lost the basketball game by more points than anyone remembers, and that night in Peoria stands as the only occasion when Ken Loeffler was unable to deliver a pregame philippic.
In some 30 years of coaching, Loeffler has probably cleaved the general air with more speech than any of his rivals. That covers considerable territory, including as it does the Oxonian-accented addresses of New York's Nat Holman and the basketball-boosted-me-from-slag-heaps-to-heights style of West Virginia-born Clair Bee.
Lately Loeffler has been coaching a National Championship team at La Salle College and has also developed an ulcer. There was an inclination to wonder whether these recent developments had cramped the man's speaking delivery. A quick trip to Philadelphia last week ended the wondering.
At 4:30 one afternoon, the team gathered in the gymnasium for drill. Loeffler trotted out a blackboard, took some scouting records from his pocket, exacted a pledge of secrecy from a sportswriter and began to read the report aloud and to chalk diagrams.
It was pretty dry stuff on the blackboard for a while, but soon Loeffler split his team into bad guys (without shirts) and good guys (with shirts) in the chilly gym. While the bad guys played the role of the opposition and the good guys played the role of La Salle, Loeffler drilled them all on technical basketball. Within a few minutes he was punctuating the drill with rapid, nontechnical oration.