Buckeyes celebrate their 1960 national title Print
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Wednesday, 27 January 2010 10:12
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 COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) -By and large, they were an odd mix, a grab bag of smart small-town and savvy city kids who liked each other as much as they liked punishing opponents.
The 1959-60 Ohio State Buckeyes were built around a group of ``Super Sophs'' featuring the nation's No. 1 recruit, Jerry Lucas, along with a perpetual-motion machine named John Havlicek. One of the top players off the bench - brash and sure of himself even then - made a name for himself as a coach: Bob Knight.
They won Ohio State's only national championship in men's basketball, hitting 15 of their first 16 shots from the field and cruising to a 75-55 rout of California. It was a perfect storm of talent, chemistry and discipline guided by the masterful hand of second-year coach Fred Taylor.
They'll come together again - perhaps for the last time - this weekend to celebrate their title.
say later. ``And we never ever had a kid even close to flunking out. It was just a heck of a bunch to be around.''
The team grade-point average was 3.6 on a 4.0 scale. On the court, it was just as impressive, averaging a remarkable 90.4 points a game.
The focal point was the 6-foot-8 Lucas, who was good for 26.3 points and 16.4 rebounds a game and was the national player of the year. Hailing from a gritty, industrial town midway between Dayton and Cincinnati, he led Middletown High School to a 76-1 record in three seasons and was a prized catch for Ohio State's rookie coach.
Lucas was an intense student in class and on the court.
After a terrific pro career - he was selected as one of the NBA's 50 greatest players (along with Havlicek) in 1997 - he could recite 10 pages of the New York City telephone book or recall detailed facts about people in the studio audience at late-night talk shows. It was much the same way he approached the game.
``I never shot a shot in my life unless I asked myself why,'' he said. ``Why did that go in? Why did it do this or why did it do that? I analyzed everything and tried to be as complete and intelligent an athlete as I could.''
His (literal) running mate at forward was the 6-5 Havlicek. He and the rest of the sophomores would go 78-6 in their college careers.
as an All-Ohioan in basketball, football and baseball.
He liked the challenge of being surrounded by great players at Ohio State.
``On this particular team, no one wanted to be considered the weak link,'' Havlicek said. ``When you were designated to do a job, you wanted to do it to the best of your ability.''
That willingness to raise his game would pay dividends after his college career when he would be an integral part of eight NBA titles as an iconic Boston Celtic.
Another sophomore, Mel Nowell, a 6-2 starting guard from Columbus, would also go on to a pro career. He averaged 13.1 points and was the triggerman of an offense that ran every chance it could.
``The chemistry was so good,'' Nowell said. ``When the ball went up, we wanted to show people what we could do.''
The other two starters were holdovers from Taylor's first season as head coach, a team that went 11-11. Larry Siegfried, a 6-4 guard, averaged 19.6 points on that team but had to take a back seat to the younger stars a year later, when he scored 13.2 points a game. Like Havlicek, he would go on to a glittering NBA career with the Celtics that would include five championships.
Rounding out the starting lineup was Joe Roberts, a 6-6 senior from Columbus whose biggest contribution might have been accepting the sophomores to help pave the way for the team's success. He, too, would play in the NBA.
the bench was 6-7 Dick Furry, a starter the year before who lost his job to Havlicek. Like Siegfried and Roberts, he bore no ill will toward the upstarts who took over the team. Rather than complain or bide his time, he threw himself into being a valued player off the bench.
``I decided I had to make the best of it and play the sixth man,'' he said later. ``And I felt I really contributed.''
Knight made the case to Taylor that he should be playing more, but he still remained a reserve. He averaged just 3.7 points a game. Much of the Xs and Os he would introduce during his storied coaching career, which included a record 902 wins, would be gleaned from his years around Taylor, also one of his lifelong friends.
The Buckeyes (25-3) won their first six games before losing two out of three, at Utah and at 13th-ranked Kentucky. Unranked at the start of the season, their only remaining loss would be at Indiana on Feb. 29.
They entered the 16-team NCAA tournament ranked No. 3 and quickly dispatched Western Kentucky and No. 13 Georgia Tech to advance to the national semifinals.
ever looked back.
Taylor, just 36 when the Buckeyes cut down the nets at the Cow Palace in San Francisco, had been a two-sport star at Ohio State who chased the dream of being a major-league baseball player. Despite good numbers in a three-year stint in the minors - and 22 games with the Washington Senators - he returned to his alma mater to become an assistant coach before taking over for Floyd Stahl.
Taylor would go on to a 297-158 record, retiring after the 1975-76 season before he had even turned 50. He spent more time with his family, managed a golf club and did some television analysis. Inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1986, there was no question that his favorite team was one of his first teams.
``I had a love affair with those kids,'' he would say years after his retirement. ``They weren't very sound defensively at the start of the season. As they progressed, they could play pretty thorny defense.''
Siegfried will be among those at Value City Arena on Sunday returning for the celebration. He said the championship is still vividly remembered by Ohio State fans, but that isn't the focal point for him.
``As time goes on, the championship does not mean as much to me,'' Siegfried said. ``The thing that matters to me is what coach Taylor taught us and the relationships, those intangible things. The core values that made me who I am today, that's what's important to me.''
 

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