The fairly recently built Kennedy Center court was all of 250 steps from my dorm room. Even so, if it was raining or sleeting in the slightest, we were likely to skip the game and continue to study or watch the new color TV in the dorm basement instead. I’m just guessing at this many years later, but I think the ASB card that admitted us to the home games was all of $1.50 for the season. Our freshman year, the Bulldogs had a good team and a winning record. My buddies Jim and Francis and I did manage to make most of most of the games, sitting courtside scattered among maybe a few hundred other students and Spokanites. Yes, things have changed.
The Administration Building was another option on those cold winter evenings. It was never locked night or day. You could roam the marble floors, maybe sliding in your socks singing aloud or shouting echoes to past ghosts of Gonzaga. In later years, still underage but with nowhere else to go, we would gather around six packs of Ripple in the 4th floor botany lab with the lights out.
On the first floor we would visit some of those ghosts. Along both walls were glass-framed displays of GU’s athletic history from the 1800s to 1966. A whole panel was dedicated to Frank Burgess, our lone basketball All-American at the time. Uncle Jim, my dad’s roughshod delinquent brother was a star on the last Gonzaga football team when the world took him and his teammates off to war.
My dad was pictured on the opposite wall with the five man boxing team of 1938-39. He’s the skinny curly headed little guy on the right. He had a fierce look on him though. Perhaps he was pretty good, I wouldn’t know. He later bought gloves for us boys and we would meet in the basement to try to knock each other’s blocks off. Soon after we switched to piano lessons. He matriculated college early to head to Portland and a hurried start on dental school at the behest of the United States Army.
That’s about it for a Deviny sport legacy, unless you count my intramural basketball team. We would take the court in the evenings when the Zags were done practicing their brutal stall offense and impenetrable “Zone D”. Our dorm vs. dorm team was much more clever than effective. The day before the season began we walked the rail tracks downtown to the Bon Marche men’s department and purchased an assortment of oversized boxer shorts and white-ribbed wife-beater undershirts on which we wrote numbers with a Magic Marker. “The Undies”, while losing all their games, were definitely a crowd favorite.
The men’s college team was certainly imposing, but surely not like today. Their “big man,” Army veteran Gary Leachman, was only 3 inches taller than me, and they never made a 3-point shot all season! (Of course, it wasn’t invented yet…) They beat Weber State to win the Big Sky Conference and face UCLA in an early version of the NCAA Tournament. If I have his right, they were soundly dominated by a young man named Lew Alcindor from New York. (New York!) Mr. Alcindor, as we all know, went on to become Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, and of course, most famously, as Roger Murdock in the movie Airplane.
The Final Four is a chance for any and all us Jesuitized alumni, and also those GU grads who don’t know a backdoor cut from a backwoods fiddle, to show a little pride. It’s always really special when your basketball or football team provides you with more than just an excuse to throw a kegger. If you don’t know what a kegger is, go ahead and cheer for Houston or Baylor or, God forbid, UCLA.