Reflections on ’80 vs ’86 Exhi

I remembered very little about the June ’90 exhibition for charity, other than the “underdog” elders won.

And that Freedom Hall was filled with adoring fans, there to pay their respects, and catch one more look at the the first two Cardinal champions.

101-96 was the final, which I can say for certain, having just watched the replay, thanks to Doc, who sent me the link.

The game, which I’ve surely never before thought of rewatching  was as sloppy as my sliver of memory seemed to recall.

But I’d forgotten how it played out.

I’d forgotten how Derek Smith didn’t appear, apparently, according to Mike Hartnett’s TV play by play, because he was a free agent and didn’t want to get hurt or something. (He didn’t pass away until ’96.) But that Scooter did compete, even though he was hurt from early on that ’80 championship year.

I’d forgotten how Grif and his gang, wearing home white, led early by Wiley, jumped out 41-17 with 8:23 left in the 2d of four ten minute quarters. Which came after matters got a might testy. Rodney and Billy T were pushing each other underneath, and Tony Branch and Keith Williams got in a mild shoving match during the same trip down court.

How that ’80 advantage dwindled to 56-42 at the break.

How Griffith choked up and cut his comments short, when saying a few words honoring Denny during a halftime ceremony.

How Milt and Pervis et al, in visiting red, with big 2d half help from Mark McSwain, then still playing in Finland, fashioned a 17-6 run to knot it at 84 with 6:32 left.

How the relative inefficiency of both squads worsened late as both squads tired, though the resolute ’80 squad remained stronger down the stretch.

How Pervis, then a teammate of Rodney with the Sacramento Kings, was ’86 MVP with 28.

How Grif, who’d be playing his final year at Utah the following season, was ’80 MVP and the game’s leading scorer with 38.

Even though the three point shot didn’t come into being collegiately until the ’86-’87 season, it was used during this game.

Underscoring the thrill and excitement of college basketball at Freedom Hall, John Tong was, of course, handling the PA in his inimitable, charming, verbose manner. When introducing Jerry Jones, who “coached” the victors, he mentioned how Denny’s long time loyal assistant had “the best winning percentage” of any Cardinal hoops coach ever.

1-0. Because of the game when Denny’s annual cold weather bout with acute chest congestion made him stay at home during a UCLA tilt at Freedom Hall. (If memory serves, Denny would call trainer Jerry May with instructions, over a phone that had been set up at the bench for the Bruins game.)

Wade Houston and Bobby Dotson “coached” the ’86 guys.

Billy Thompson was a member of the Miami Heat at the time. His runnin’ podner, Milt Wagner was playing in Israel. It would still be years before Kenny Payne became the lead assistant at You Know Where.

In the game program, which I do have, though hadn’t perused since the exhibition, there’s an interesting quote from Milt before the ’86 campaign.

“We will be a DYNASTY.”

Denny somewhat demurred. “I don’t know how exactly you define a dynasty. I guess if anyone since the ’70s would warrant that kind of recognition, it would be us.

“But I don’t think we’re going to be a dynasty like coach Wooden had at UCLA.”

Twenty seven years later in 2013, Louisville captured its third NCAA crown.

— c d  kaplan