Friday, November 6, 2015

Another Gopher Basketball Season Is Underway!

Once again I am excited about the upcoming Gopher basketball season, as I have been going to watch since my first one in 1973 when I saw my first game with a good friend, Mike Johnson. After a brief stint of going to games in Berkeley when the conference was the Pac-8, I returned to Minneapolis and have had season tickets for almost forty years including season tickets when I was a student and tickets were six dollars!

The Barn will not be rocking tomorrow afternoon and not all the seats will be filled, but I still enjoy being in that old place and watching my favorite college basketball team! I have great seats sitting at almost midcourt in the front row right behind the broadcasters. Oftentimes people can see me while they interview the broadcasters at halftime.

Here is a great picture of the scoreboard several years ago my sister took from her seat about twenty rows up. Notice the balance scoring. You do not see that every day. In fact, I have never seen it again:
 As always, click on the image to make it larger:

The Barn was rocking that night as the Gophers were playing Michigan State. I do not know what year it was, but I do know it was during the Monson years.

Williams Arena has undergone a few changes since then. The most noticeable change is the lowering of the floor several inches. Other than that, I believe Williams is the second or third oldest college basketball arenas in the country! 

If you have ever been in The Barn during a close game or a major run by the home team you can attest to the excitement, energy and noise in that place. I love those nights in The Barn! It is those nights that get me through these frigid Minnesota winters!

During the 1996-'97 season which was officially wiped out because of all the NCAA rules violations of then coach Clem Haskins The Barn was especially loud as the Gophers had their finest season in history. They went to the Final 4 that year and lost the first game to Tubby Smith's Kentucky team which won the National Championship two days later.

Longtime Gopher fans will remember Coach Smith and his own downfall when he came and coached the Gophers.

Richard Pitino is entering his third year at the helm of the Gophers amidst his own allegations when he was an assistant for his father at Louisville. We will follow his situation and see what happens.

I wrote earlier how I had taken a break while I attended school at the University of California, Berkeley. When I arrived on campus in late 1973, I started researching the campus to find out where I could go to watch the Golden Bears basketball team play the likes of UCLA, USC and Stanford.

When I got to Harmon Gym, I was shocked it had thirteen steps into the front door. This was Berkeley, how could that be?

I went up to the Physically Disabled Student Program (PDSP) and asked my good friend, Ed Roberts why Harmon was not accessible? He told me it was on their list of trying to get all the old buildings on campus made accessible to students with disabilities. Ed told me if I wanted to get a ramp in the building with automatic door openers I should go to the Dean's office and ask how we can get it done. That was the beginning of my student activism on campus!

To make a long story short, that summer the University began construction of this ramp into the building. This picture is my father and me checking out the construction when my mom and dad made a road trip with me to get back for the upcoming school year. My uncle, Terry was stationed in McClellan Air Force Base near Sacramento and he rode with us for the trip until we dropped him off at the base.

I like the look on my dad's face as he carefully inspected the work going on:

Again, click on the image to make it larger:

The ramp was finished by basketball season and I was able to see some of my classmates play ball for the Golden Bears that year.

Basketball has always and always will be my favorite sport. I am not only a fan, but a coach and student of the game. I often do coaching from my seat and amaze people who come to the game with me not knowing much about the intricacies of a trapping midcourt defense or beating a 2-3 zone defense.

After playing and watching basketball pretty much my entire life I find myself teaching my friends things I learned from my dad and Flip Saunders in my time at Golden Valley Lutheran College.

Here is a photograph of Flip and me at one of our games. It is still hard to believe he is gone!
Click on the image to make it larger:

I also used some of those techniques when I coached my nephew for three years playing Park and Rec ball in St. Paul when he was just learning the game. One of my players told me he really appreciated the game much more because of everything I taught him about playing and watching basketball.

Back to Williams Arena and the upcoming season. Last year was a disappointing year after winning the NIT in Pitino's first year. After going 17-15 last year, I am looking forward to the new recruits and watching the development of last year's players.

Go Gophers!

I look forward to your comments.



1 comment:

Colleem said...

Great blog. Michael!? I must remark on couple of the wardrobe changes from the years gone by! Notice your Dad's white bucks he was still wearing occasionally from his college days at South Dakota State!!! They didn't have much wear on them if course as his shoes were usually tennis shoes or "teacher type'so"--back in the day!! Secondly, the picture of you and Flip with your wide bottom blue jeans and vests
And oh so much hair on both your noggins!! Great pictures from the past!!! Thanks for the blog!!!