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Jerry O'Brien
December 09, 1957
The tallest man in American college basketball this year is a 7-foot-3 Frenchman from Paris who wears a size 17 shoe
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December 09, 1957

Ah, Quel Homme! Oh, Quels Feet!

The tallest man in American college basketball this year is a 7-foot-3 Frenchman from Paris who wears a size 17 shoe

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But Whitworth, though tagging along and happy with success, was beginning to run out of breath and asked McGregor to slow down. The school said it couldn't afford the barnstorming, ordered him to hold individual traveling expenses to $7 a day and started a reappraisal of scholarship benefits for McGregor's gangly imports. Then, only about 500 people showed up for the Hawaii game on the campus and the school was stuck for much of the $2,500 guarantee. Whit-worth prepared to fire Jolly Jim.

McGregor, however, struck first. In a letter of resignation he blamed "de-emphasis." He turned it in just eight hours before the area's sportswriters picked him "Coach of the Year."

McGregor left town in the spring of 1953, to go to work for an airline promoting tourist trade to Japan. It was during this tour of duty that the ever-restless McGregor lined up a basketball tour to the Far East. He offered it first to Anderson, who turned it down with an "I don't know about you, Jim. I can see us coming back in a rowboat." The University of Oregon went instead and came home happy, safe and solvent in a four-engined airliner.

McGregor next popped up in Italy, where he signed on as coach of the Italian National team. He learned three new languages and soon became known as a leader in European basketball. In his spare time, he flitted back and forth through the Iron Curtain, gave clinics and wrote letters back to Spokane from Africa, South America, Warsaw and Istanbul.

Anderson, his old antagonist, was on the mailing list and sometimes even wrote back. He had learned to forgive McGregor's aggressiveness, which is not remarkably charitable of him when you take into account McGregor's international epistolary style. One letter from Russia ended with a startling p.s.: "If you can find someone at Gonzaga who speaks Russian, I can get you a 7-foot-6 Ukrainian."

Anderson, now full of respect for McGregor, could find no Russians around Gonzaga, but he was ready with eight French linguists when McGregor wrote about a 7-foot-3 Parisian.

With Anderson's ready assent, the persuasive McGregor went to work on Lefebvre and Coach Busnel. Lefebvre forthwith decided he would like to go to the U.S. for college. Busnel, eying the 1960 Olympics, was just as certain the experience would be good for Lefebvre and the training helpful for France.

Anderson took it from there and negotiated for the next six months. He lined up a French professor at Gonzaga as his prime diplomat and stayed awake until 3 a.m. for long distance calls from Paris. A friend put up $771 for a round-trip plane ticket, and it was fired off airmail to France. The American embassy gave Lefebvre a four-year student visa, and finally he was off. Anderson scarcely slept a wink for the next 36 hours.

He called Thomas Bradley, a New York trucking executive and a Gonzaga regent, to make contact at Idlewild. Bradley dispatched an aide, Thomas Griffin, who took Lefebvre away from possible sales talks by anyone else.

Anderson, who stands 6-feet-6 himself, was popeyed when his French recruit stepped off the plane at Spokane. He hustled him home and secured him in a basement room. Registration at Gonzaga, and permanent possession, was still three weeks away.

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