Archive for Sunday, April 14, 1996


April 14, 1996


The horn blows at halftime for a college basketball game. Statisticians and computer experts spring into action. Before long, just about everybody from the chancellor down to the maintenance supervisor has a copy of the box score with all those facts about shooting percentages, rebounds, assists, turnovers . . .

Figure filberts who aren't on the list of official recipients for "the stats" seek out one of the privileged to see what can't be projected onto the scoreboard in the arena.

OK, but does anyone take a copy of "the box" to the room where the three referees are holed up during the break? That question was posed by a Kansas fan not long ago and although I thought I knew the answer, I wasn't sure. It had never come up before.

My guess was right: NO!

"Game officials get no box scores either at halftime or after the game," says John Erickson, Big Eight assistant commissioner who is in charge of the officiating operation. "The reason is that nobody wants them to be swayed one way or another by any of the statistics. They need to operate in a vacuum where that's concerned, unaware of how many fouls somebody might have, what the rebounds might be . . . anything that might tend to influence them."

That doesn't mean that some ref might decide to get ahold of a stat sheet after the game to see what happened. Nothing illegal about that. However, most of them want to dress, get on the road and can see all the details they need in the newspapers the following morning.

What do officials do at halftime?

"They visit about the trend of the game, plays that might have been called, rules that might be involved, anything of an unusual nature," Erickson said during a conversation the past week. "They also note that in the final 20 minutes they need to consider potential end-of-game situations, the clock format and locations, what might happen and what they should be ready for. It's all a very professional matter and I doubt they ever get involved in personalities or who's fouling whom or whom they might watch for. That would rob from their objectivity, and the people I know don't want that. They don't try to influence each other.

"They work very hard to be fair, impartial and professional and even if halftime box scores were available, most of them wouldn't want to see them."

Now for some basketball dunk talk.

Kansas All-American Clyde Lovellette for all his skills never was what you'd call a high-flying gazelle. He jokes that "as high as I could reach was as high as I could jump." More Clyde: "Doc (Phog Allen) would have me jump and couldn't even get a sheet of paper between my shoes and the floor."

The Monster of the Music Hall is too hard on himself. Referred to by opponents as Jelly-Belly, he was a far better athlete than most imagined. The fact he did so well and lasted so long in the NBA attests to that.

Clyde says that when kids nowadays ask him if he dunked the ball as a Jayhawk in 1950-51-52, he may brush them off with something like, "I probably could have, but the dunk was illegal."

Makes a good story, isn't so. There were no rules against dunks then; it's just that jumping wasn't a big deal, coaches didn't allow showboating and a lot of guys who could have done it never cultivated it. About the only guy around here noted for his ability to dunk was a 5-10 Kansas State guard named Gene Wilson who sometimes was allowed to show off during warmups.

Erickson, onetime Beloit College star and former Wisconsin head coach, concurs that there were no anti-dunking rules when Clyde and Co. played.

"It's just that there weren't as many big men, jumping was not cultivated, emphasis was on positioning for rebounds."

College rulesmakers outlawed the dunk during warmups and games in 1967-68, the second year of UCLA's Lew Alcindor era. The dunk was made legal again in 1976-77. That's the only period you couldn't throw the ball down. However, there was an unusual problem before 1920. In 1920-21, backboards were moved two feet from the wall of the court. Before that change, players would "climb" the wall to sink baskets. I'd love to see Mt. Lovellette try that.

Seven-foot Bob "Foothills" Kurland brought on the anti-goaltending rule for defense in 1944-45, after proving how effective he was at swatting away enemy shots.

Then came San Francisco's Bill Russell in 1955 and 1956 and Kansas' Wilt Chamberlain in 1957 and 1958. Offensive goaltending was banned for the 1957-58 season. Up to then, Russell, Chamberlain, et al., could "funnel" shots into the hoop by hogging the cylinder and guiding errant teammates' shots. In the 1955 NCAA title game in Kansas City, Russell scored 23 points. He got nine field goals and I don't think he took one legitimate shot because he could "funnel" the ball so effectively.

Kurland and Russell really changed things with their peculiar brands of excellence.

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