From the Bird’s Nest: Reunion Weekend: Friday
The celebration of 100 years of UL Basketball began on Friday with a reception at the Alumni House. No one really knew what the crowd would be like, since some of the players were coming in from afar and might not arrive until Saturday.
The turnout was superb.
I arrived just before 5:30 and there was already a decent crowd. The first person I saw was Chuck "Trigger" Allen, who had come in from Baltimore for the festivities. Trigger had a couple of framed schedule posters from the final year of USL Basketball before the suspension of the program. (I don't like the term "death penalty." After all, this program is not dead.) I had never met Trigger, but knew him from message boards. He's been a true Cajun fan for many years, most of them from afar. It's easy to forget when you live far away.
Had a great visit with Ron Gomez, the "original" voice of USL athletics. I've admired Ron's work my whole career. I got to hear some of his play-by-play work during the Bo days. I asked him if he'd will me his voice if he left this earth before me. Still smooth as velvet. I truly believe that his book "Slam Dunked," which talks about the Beryl Shipley days and the events leading to probation in the '60's and the suspension in the 70's is a must-read for basketball fans of the Cajuns. There are some who have tried to debunk Ron's work, saying that he sugar-coated some of the wrongdoings of the 70's. No one, however, has come up with any evidence that he did.
The first player I talked to was Ted Lyles. Lyles was a very popular player under Coach Jim Hatfield. I was happy that he arrived early. I had never met Ted, but I considered him to be a very important piece of Cajuns' basketball history. And, although he had a fine career, I'm not referring to his on-court play.
It was because Ted Lyles was willing to say yes.
Lyles was one of the first to sign with the Cajuns when Hatfield and assistant Bobby Paschal were trying to get the program back after the suspension. The program had, shall we say, quite a black mark against it. It was going to take players who were willing to make a leap of faith, knowing that the program was still under indefinite probation and things would be rough at the beginning. But Lyles was one of those who signed on. And he was rewarded with a Southland Conference Championship. Probation meant no postseason play, but Lyles was a champion. He proved that the day he said "yes" to USL. And I took that opportunity to say thank you.
There was a brief program where UL president Dr. Joe Savoie, Interim Director of Athletics Scott Farmer, Reunion chairman Dr. Dan Carroll, Cajuns head coach Bob Marlin and a couple of others spoke. All of them were excited about what the weekend would bring. Everyone was hoping against hope that Coach Beryl Shipley would be able to attend Saturday night. Many of Coach Shipley's family members were there Saturday night, including his wife Delores. It was great to see all of them visiting with so many of Coach's former players.
Speaking of former players, I don't know why, but every time I ran across Dean Church, he pointed at me and said "Hey, I used to listen to you when I was a kid." Then he'd laugh like crazy. It was pretty obvious that all the former players who were there did a lot of laughing and reminiscing throughout the night.
Don Allen was there. Don and I worked together for ten years. Now, broadcasters are just like anyone else. Some nights we're better than others. Don didn't have very many bad nights on the mic, but there were times when he'd get into a rhythm and I spent more time listening to him than doing my job as color commentator. During those nights, if there was a better play-by-play man in America, I didn't know about it. Ron, Don and I posed for a picture
With exception of one season (1989-90), every year of USL athletics on the radio was represented in that picture.
J. D. Morein came by and he had the best collection of souvenirs. Some were starting to fall apart and he said he's going to do his best to have them restored and framed before they are lost. But old programs, media guides, the famous "Sports Illustrated" issue...they were all in his possession. And, nearly everyone that was there wanted to see them.
Peyton Townsend was there. So was Alonza Allen (whose daughter plays on the UL Women's team.) Graylin Warner looks like he can still play. He still hasn't gained much weight. Tyrone "Bucket' Jones---the man who beat Kentucky. So many whose contributions to Cajun Basketball history will hopefully always be remembered.
Gene Lognion's gumbo was superb.
Many smiles. Much laughter....and, as you might guess, more than a few lies.
And it was just the beginning of the weekend.