Like musty heirlooms in an attic, La Salle’s basketball glory had been stowed away and largely forgotten during two decades of mediocrity.
But now that the 2013 Explorers have leaped back into the national spotlight with their unanticipated NCAA tournament success, La Salle’s remarkable hoops history is being dusted off and proudly displayed once again.
The Explorers, for example:
• Were NCAA champions in 1954 and NCAA runners-up a year later.
• Were NIT champions in 1952, back when that postseason event was probably more prestigious than the NCAA.
• Had a player, Tom Gola, who, 58 years after his career ended, remains the NCAA’s all-time leader with 2,201 rebounds and the sport’s only four-time, first-team all-American.
• Had two players, Gola and Lionel Simmons, who rank first and second, respectively, all-time in combined points and rebounds.
• Had three college players of the year in Gola (1955), Michael Brooks (1980), and Simmons (1990).
• Set the record for most combined points, 120, in a game by three players: Randy Woods, 46; Doug Overton, 45; and Jack Hurd, 29.
• Had three of the top five vote-getters in a poll to name the greatest Big Five players ever. They were Simmons, Brooks, and Kenny Durrett.
• And then there were such notable teams as the No. 2-ranked 23-1 team Gola coached in 1968-69 and Morris’ 30-2 Explorers in 1989-90.
San Francisco Giants pitcher Matt Cain didn’t exactly have the backing of an opening day lineup when he took the mound for his final tuneup before the season opener.
On a back field at Scottsdale Stadium, manager Bruce Bochy (first base), coaches Tim Flannery (second base) and Billy Hayes (third base) and instructor Shawon Dunston (shortstop) made up the infield in a simulated game.
For Cain’s sixth and final inning, the outfield alignment was the trio of Madison Bumgarner (left field), Barry Zito (center) and Tim Lincecum (right).
“This is a Hall of Fame Game,” Cain yelled between innings. “More like the Hall of Shame!”
Dunston sprawled out to his left in a failed attempt to make a diving stop on a grounder.
“About 25 years ago …” he yelled, trailing off.
When it was over, one of the coaches shouted: “Everybody to the hot tub!”