La Quinta, Calif. If college basketball received the exposure then that is does now, the tall man who cobbled together a nifty back nine Wednesday afternoon at Rancho La Quinta Country Club might have been wearing sunglasses to hide his identity.
Instead, Bob Boyd merely used them to shield the sun during his round with Lawrence resident Laird Noller and his grandson Joe Noller. Outside of USC circles, Boyd need not worry about going incognito. In the early years of his 13 seasons (1966-79) as Trojans basketball coach, Boyd coached magnificent teams that didn’t get to the NCAA Tournament.
Back then, only one team per conference was allowed in the field, and Boyd kept getting denied by the unbeatable combination of UCLA coach John Wooden and his most-helfpul booster, Sam Gilbert.
In 1971, USC didn’t get to the NCAA Tournament despite losing just two games.
“No. 1 in the AP and UPI polls, 16-0 record, up seven points late in the game against UCLA,” Boyd remembered. “Paul Westphal had a break-away and tried a 360. It hit the iron. UCLA went the other way for a (basket). Now, instead of being up nine, we’re up five. UCLA won the game and then beat us at Pauley Pavilion.”
Because USC owed UCLA a home game, Boyd had the misfortune of coaching against Lew Alcindor in his first varsity game. Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, scored 56 points in the Bruins’ 105-90 victory in Pauley Pavilion.
“We played them six more times and held the ball every time,” Boyd said. “No shot clock. We beat them twice, lost one in overtime in the Sports Arena, and had another close game. Wooden said that was bad for basketball. He didn’t come out and chase us. It’s OK for football teams to say they keep the offense on the field for a long time because they can’t stop the other guy. If a basketball coach keeps the ball for a long time because he can’t guard the other guy, he’s chicken-(bleep).”
Boyd, 81, said he was recruited out of Alhambra (Calif.) High by Wooden, who arrived at UCLA in 1948 after two seasons as Indiana State’s coach. He chose to go to USC instead.
“John Wooden was just another face in the sun then,” Boyd said. “In the ’50s on the Coast, Pete Newell was the big name when he was coaching at Cal.”
During Boyd’s playing days, UCLA and USC played each other four times a year, and Boyd said the Trojans went 5-7 in those games.
Not all of Boyd’s memories involved UCLA. He also has fond memories of playing in Lawrence in Hoch Auditorium and coaching in Allen Fieldhouse vs. Ted Owens.
“We played the game on a stage,” Boyd said with a laugh. “I played against Clyde Lovellette. Couldn’t guard him. Soft hooks. He couldn’t stop me either. It was a cold night. I remember sitting on the bus watching Clyde walking with his mom after the game.”