September/October 2019 - 58

crisp passes, quick give-and-go cuts, flash post-ups, and
tough man-to-man defense. No frills or gimmicks. Just
good, solid, fundamental basketball. Years later, I heard
that style referred to as " eastern " basketball.
Other area teams tried to emulate Lower Merion,
but never came close, It was clearly the coach who was
responsible for the team's exceptional success. His
players were sound and well-schooled fundamentally -
good enough to make All-State, but rarely all-anything
as college players. Coach Anderson made an indelible
impression on me.
My coach at St. Joseph's College was Bill Ferguson, who
was also a math teacher and part-time banker. Fergie was
not much of an X and 0 exponent. He allowed his teams
to create their own play action, but he did insist on hard,
aggressive effort.
In those years (early 1940s), St. Joe's hosted doubleheaders
along with La Salle and Temple in Philadelphia's
Convention Hall. They were part of a regional program
organized by Ned Irish for Madison Square Garden.
Irish scheduled the best college teams in the country
to play first in Buffalo (against Canisius, Niagara or St.
Bonaventure), then to meet our group in Philadelphia, and
finish in New York (facing St. John's, CCNY, Manhattan,
NYU, or LIU).
The program provided great intersectional competition.
UCLA, Southern Cal, Oklahoma A&M, Texas, Kansas,
Kansas State, Kentucky, Western Kentucky, Tennessee,
Duke, North Carolina, North Carolina State, Rhode
Island State, and other perennially strong teams appeared
regularly at the three sites. The host colleges also played
each other.
During my four years at St. Joseph's, interrupted by
three years of Navy duty during World War II, I played
against some of the best teams, players and coaches of
that time. It was fascinating to see the different styles that
some of the giants of the coaching profession brought to
Philadelphia.
Coach Frank Keaney's Rhode Islanders were the
first to race up and down the floor with what he called
" Firehouse " basketball. In contrast, Coach Hank Iba's
Oklahoma A&M teams played a physical, bruising
defensive game; then stressed a ball-control offense.
Eddie Diddle combined the two styles at Western
Kentucky, with an array of tall, talented, agile players; and
CCNY's Nat Holman had a slick, quick game that won both
the NIT and NCAA championships in the same year (1950)
- the only grand slam in history.
My Navy duty gave me the chance to play briefly with the
San Diego Dons while awaiting re-assignment on the west
coast. The Dons were a strong AAU team that featured
the great Jim Pollard. It employed a " western " style, using
weak-side screens and ball reversals rather than the giveand
go " eastern " style I had grown up with.
I was lost in the system, and was transferred before I
had time to really adjust to it. But I learned again, this time
from first-hand experience, that there were other ways to
play the game effectively. I also left the Dons with a deep
58 SEPTEMBER/OCTOBER 2019
appreciation of Pollard's tremendous skills. He was the
Michael Jordan of his era.
Catching the coaching bug
Before my playing days ended, I also managed to play
against Bob Kurland, Dick McGuire, Slater Martin, Paul
Arizin, Joe Fulks, and Neil Johnston - like Pollard, future
Hall of Famers who had an impact on how the game was
played. I learned something from each of them.
I came out of those years with a strong desire to coach.
There was something intriguing about taking a group of
players, teaching them to play your game, and finding a
way to win with it.
I wanted the opportunity to help increase the player's
skills; to get them to play selflessly as a unit; to demand that
they go at it with intensity and poise; and to play only to win
in the same way those great coaches appeared to have done.
By combining high school teaching - coaching jobs with
playing in the Eastern Professional League for the next six
years, I was able to continue my awareness of the game
from a player's perspective while teaching the game and
developing an effective system of play.
Two of my teammates in the Eastern League were Jack
McCloskey and Stan Novak, also high school coaches in
the Philadelphia area who went on to have distinguished
NBA careers. We traveled together by car to weekend pro
games and, during the long rides, we shared ideas about
how to coach the game and discussed strategies that had
or had not worked for our high school teams. The trips
became a kind of coaching clinic on wheels.
I needed all the help I could get. My adjustment to
coaching was more difficult than I had expected. I had
thought because I played against great teams, players and
coaches, I could easily transfer those experiences to my
players. It wasn't that simple.
I learned that a major part of coaching was teaching, not
just showing and telling. I found that, although all coaches
had a system of play, the good ones often adapted it to fit
the special skills of their players. Well-coached teams
were never surprised. They seemed prepared for anything
that happened in a game. They could make an effective
adjustment for any quickly changing situation.
I watched opposing coaches do a better job of motivating
their players and teams. And I wanted my players to
exhibit more poise under pressure, but understood that I
could not expect it from them until I could demonstrate it
myself. I needed to become a better coach.
After my St. James (Chester, Pennsylvania) H.S. team
struggled through a couple of seasons in the tough
Philadelphia Catholic League, I increased my intensity to
improve. I saw as many games as I could - high school,
college and professional - live and on television. And I
carefully observed coaches and noted their attention to
detail and their inner team relationships.
I sent to the NCAA office for game films of the
tournament finalists and pored over them, I attended
coaching clinics to hear the great coaches speak about
their techniques.

September/October 2019

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of September/October 2019

September/October 2019 - 1
September/October 2019 - 2
September/October 2019 - 3
September/October 2019 - 4
September/October 2019 - 5
September/October 2019 - 6
September/October 2019 - 7
September/October 2019 - 8
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