Relive the Championship Through Memories of Those Who Were There
Harold Lockett, B.A. Marketing, 1981
In 1973, I remember taking classes in Memorial Gym and stopping to view the 1966 NCAA Championship trophy case at the entrance to the gym. I remember when I would just stare at that trophy. I remember seeing David Lattin play summer league basketball in Houston, and reminding myself that he was a key player on that championship team. Also, little did I realize that I was six years removed from that championship game when I was a student back then. What an experience to have been so close to that trophy and remembering the hardship the team endured to win that trophy. After viewing the movie "Glory Road,” it made me proud to be an alum of the Miner Nation — and glad about it! Go Miners!
James Dickman, B.S. Electrical Engineering, 1980
My memory is during the semifinal game as Kansas' Jo-Jo White hit a corner jumper as time expired in OT to win the game for Kansas. My heart sank, and as a 10-year-old, my life was all but over. Then, out of nowhere, the ref signaled that White's heel was out of bounds when he shot, giving the game to the Miners. To this day, I have not been so up and down (and up again) so quickly in my life. I knew at that point we were going to beat Kentucky.
I was a junior at Texas Western that year. I didn't know any of the players personally, but rather knew who they were. The night of the championship game a bunch of other Texas Western students and I went to the campus to celebrate. The chief of the campus police told us not to let things get out of hand — we didn't. After, some of us proceeded across the border into Juarez to continue the celebration. I'm proud to say it was a great time. In 2006, I was able to get Coach Haskins to personally autograph my book copy of “Glory Road.” I'll treasure that forever.
Leon W. Blevins, M.A. Political Science, 1967
My wife, Shannah, and our two sons were living in El Paso between 1965 and 1967. I was a graduate assistant taking and teaching some classes at Texas Western College. Because of our work and family schedules, we did not get to attend any Miner games.
We were very vocal supporters of the team. I had only one team member in one of my classes. I got to visit with coach Don Haskins occasionally in the faculty lounge. He had a lot of great stories to tell. I was writing a master's thesis about slavery and civil rights. I found it exciting that Don Haskins' starting line-up involved black ball players.
When the Miners moved up to the finals, Coach Haskins expressed great excitement about his winning team. I remember when Don Haskins began to get "hate mail" regarding his victory over the all-white Kentucky team. He showed disappointment and depression and told some of us about the mail, but he never showed me any of the correspondence, even though I was writing about racial discrimination.
The most memorable night for me and Shannah was the night of the final championship game. We had a small black-and-white television set in a small apartment and we placed the mattress from our bed on the floor so that we could be close to the small screen. We yelled throughout the game, as if we were there.
At one point during the game, Shannah became so excited that she threw her tuna fish sandwiches across the room. We hugged and yelled at the top of our lungs. A few days later, I was on campus when a parade was held for the victorious coach and his team.
As an observer of civil rights, I knew that what had happened was more important than a national championship. It was a civil rights milestone. Don Haskins and his team members did not go out to "make history," they went out to win games, regardless of the color of the skin of those who played the game.
Viva Don Haskins and Viva Miners. From 1986 until the present year of 2016, my family has lived next door to Willie Cager, one of the 1966 Miner players, and his family. Our lives are filled with memories of those days of the Glory Road.
Joe Gomez, B.A. in History, 1970
The Tau Kappa Epsilon house was at 412 Mississippi and that is where we watched the game against Kentucky. We watched it on a black and white television and we wrapped aluminum paper on the antenna in order to get better reception. Immediately after the game, we headed to campus and then to San Jacinto Plaza until the wee hours. National media did not give us a chance to win. The win was more than just a basketball game as we have come to appreciate our place in the history of civil rights.
Thomas Michael Mattingly, B.A. Journalism, 1968
I was taking several classes during my sophomore year at then TWC. I can remember a few of those courses included Bobby Joe Hill, David Lattin and Willie Worsley. On the evening of winning the championship, I was working as a cashier at a place called Globe Discount City on Montana, near the airport. We could hardly pay attention to our cashiering duties as the game progressed. When the final buzzer sounded, the whole store went crazy. After work, we got in our cars to head for the college to continue the celebration. It was a terrific time to be a Miner.
Tony J. Stafford, M.A. English, 1961
I had just returned to Texas Western College in 1964 after completing my residence and exams for my doctoral degree from LSU. I was pretty excited about the things Coach Haskins had achieved while I was away, and so when I returned I became a season ticket holder for the 1965-66 basketball season. And yes, I saw every single home game that year.
One game I'll never forget was the game against Iowa, who had come into Memorial Gym ranked number four in the nation. They had a star named Peoples who was supposed to be a super duper player. Not only did we shut him down, we shut down the whole Iowa team. It was amazing.
It was then that we knew we had something special.
On the last day of the regular season (a Saturday), Kentucky lost that afternoon and we were the only undefeated team in the nation — until that evening when we played Portland (I think it was). Haskins said later that that loss was the best thing that could have happened to them because it took the pressure off. Of course I watched all the tournament games on my black and white TV set. I 'll never forget Jojo White for Kansas hitting a shot from the left side of the court at almost mid-court and my heart sank. And then the referee waved it off, saying that his foot was on the out of bounds line. Wheww.
And I'll never forget the game against Kentucky played on the campus of the University of Maryland with a big statue of a terrapin. The most memorable thing about that game was Bobby Joe Hill stealing the ball (I think it was three times) while their guard was bringing the ball up court. Of course Bobby Joe was clear for a layup every time. I was watching the game (on my black and white set) with a bunch of friends. We were delirious. And then we decided to go to the campus, which was a complete madhouse. The crowd had somehow opened a fire hydrant and water was spewing everywhere. There was screaming and shouting and dancing around — we just didn't know what to do with ourselves. It was glorious, and we all glowed for weeks afterwards. I was there every minute of the way. What a ride!
Jean Metzger Lorio, BIS, 1994
Although I did not complete my degree until 1994, I was attending Texas Western College at the time of the NCAA win. My husband and I met that year and attended every game in the old Memorial Gym. We fell in love during the season and were married that summer. We still attend all the games today. It will be our 50th wedding anniversary this year, just like our best Miner team’s championship win.
Jaime Victor Chavez, B.A. Broadcasting (1979); M.A. Communication (1997)
I was 9 years and we were watching the game at my uncle's house. Just when the game ended, my dad, uncles, godfather, and grandfather toasted tequila shots. The city went bananas! The next day, we gathered with thousands of other El Pasoans on Montana Street to welcome the team back home. What did Dean Martin once sing? "Memories are Made of This!"
Robert T. Prensky, B.A. Broadcasting, 1958
I was the Media Director at Mithoff Advertising when it was located in the 900 block of Mesa Street. KTSM-TV had the rights to telecast the game. As I recall, win or lose, the station was going to stay on the air all night with movies to celebrate the fact that the Miners were in the final game. Color was in its infancy. I recall having conversations with the TV sales manager who was John Phelan. We had clients who had spots in color. For some reason, he didn't want to run the spots in color. And I didn't want them run in black and white. I won the battle. I can think of at least three clients who ran spots in the game. They were El Paso Eelctric Company, Peyton Packing Company, and State National Bank. I had two purposes for watching the game: First, I wanted to see my client's spot, but more than anything, I wanted them to win. What a shock when they did.