‘Glory Road' The Way I Remember It


Five days of vacation last week allowed me the opportunity to take in a movie I had been looking forward to since it was released.

I had a special interest in "Glory Road" because as a senior at Arizona State University in 1966, I had an opportunity to see the Texas Western Miners -- the focus of the movie -- play ASU in old Sun Devil gymnasium.

After whipping ASU by about 20 points, Texas Western went on to turn in a once-beaten season and defeat the University of Kentucky 72-65 for the national championship.

The crux of "Glory Road" is race.

The Miners were the first team to play five black starters in the NCAA championship and were pitted against an all-white Kentucky team led by current Miami Heat coach Pat Riley and All-American guard Louie Dampier.

If memory serves me, Texas Western arrived in Tempe midway through the 1966 season riding a 14 game win streak.

As one of four statistic keepers for ASU basketball, I was looking forward to seeing the team most of America was talking about.

As I recall, talk then wasn't as much about race as the movie depicts.

The color line in basketball had been broken years earlier when Bill Russell led the University of San Francisco to back-to-back NCAA championships.

In Tempe, Jumpin' Joe Caldwell, a black player, was a huge sports hero on campus.

While Texas Western undoubtedly faced in 1965-66 a myriad of hostile crowds, violence, vandalism and cultural dislocation, the talk on the ASU campus, as I recall, was about first year TW coach Don Haskins being able to recruit athletes from the playgrounds of Gary, Ind. and New York City to play basketball in the lonely outpost of El Paso, Texas.

Most considered Haskins a recruiting genius for being able to convince big city kids to play at a small Southwestern university.

Most who viewed Glory Road probably left the theater thinking the Miners were a run-and-gun, fast break team that played occasional defense.

What I remember of the game in Sun Devil gym is a Texas Western team that ran a disciplined half-court offense and a rock solid man-to-man defense.

But, that makes sense. The Miners probably played that way because Haskins' basketball philosophy was molded by Hank Iba. The former Oklahoma A&M, Memphis and U.S. Olympic coach built his success on teaching strong fundamentals and team play.

The film calls the national championship game the greatest upset in NCAA history.

But, I don't remember it being a miracle win. Texas Western went into the final game ranked No. 4 in the nation, just barely missing an undefeated season after a narrow upset loss to Seattle.

In the NCAA tournament, the Miners beat Utah, Oklahoma City, and Cincinnati.

For those of us lucky enough to see TW up close and personal that season -- even if it was while keeping rebounds, assists and shots -- the Miners were the real deal.

One of my favorites on the team was David "Big Daddy" Lattin who used his size and strength to muscle inside where players with less courage dare not tread.

By today's standards, Big Daddy was not that big.

He was listed at 6-foot, 6-inches and 225 pounds -- a modest sized player in today's collegiate and NBA world.

In the championship game against Kentucky, Lattin scored 16 points and corralled a team high nine rebounds but was not named to the all-tournament team.

While my actual memories of watching Texas Western play remain more inspiring than "Glory Road," the movie could turn into a valuable teaching tool that will remind today's young athletes of the trials and obstacles their predecessors faced in the 1960s.

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