From Lewis To Haskin, and Beyond
Feb. 9, 2003
By Kip Carlson
Oregon State sports information
CORVALLIS, Ore. - Ed Lewis was the center on Oregon State's first Pacific Coast Conference championship team in 1933. Scott Haskin was the center on the Beavers' latest Pacific-10 champion in 1990.
Lewis, Haskin and dozens of OSU players from every era in between were on hand Saturday night for a banquet tipping off this weekend's Oregon State Men's Basketball Homecoming. The activities continue Sunday, when the Beavers host Stanford at Gill Coliseum.
'This night is about all of you,' OSU head coach Jay John told the gathering of former players, coaches, trainers and managers in the third floor of the Valley Football Center. 'It's fantastic, all the people who have returned this evening. I'm a firm believer in tradition - tradition is what it's all about. It defines a place.'
The seven decades' worth of players included Beavers from 11 championship teams in the Pacific Coast Conference, the Athletic Association of Western Universities, the Pacific-8 Conference and the Pacific-10 Conference. There were players from OSU's 1949 and 1963 Final Four teams, and who had been coached by Slats Gill, Paul Valenti, Ralph Miller, Jimmy Anderson and Eddie Payne.
'You look in the media guide at the records and you see the names,' said Brian Jackson, a senior forward. 'In the morning, you go to practice and you see Coach Anderson and Coach Valenti there ... it's all about the past; I hope we make you guys proud tomorrow.'
In his welcoming remarks, OSU Athletic Director Bob De Carolis told the group, 'Thank you for all you've done and the legacy you've established. We're going to go back to that.'
Master of Ceremonies Mike Parker, the radio voice of the Beavers, guided a tour through OSU's men's basketball history. He began with a play-by-play that wove players from different eras into one possession, finishing with current Beaver Jimmie Haywood feeding the ball to 1970s center Doug Oxsen for a dunk - only to have it called off for traveling.
Oxsen, now the Beaver Athletic Student Fund's director of development in the mid-Willamette Valley, later took to the podium and laughed, 'Mike, everybody knows that was fake - because I could never dunk.
'When I was here, all I knew about the people who had played before me was the sign in the building that said this was the third-winningest program in the United States, behind St. John's and Kentucky,' Oxsen said. 'I saw that and I said, 'Wow - there's some heritage here'.'
Lewis recounted being on some of Gill's early teams, overcoming injuries to be named All-America in 1933 when the Beavers defeated Southern California for the PCC title in the Men's Gymnasium (now Langton Hall).
'We won the first night, but Mr. Gill wasn't happy with our defense,' said Lewis, 92. 'The next morning, we worked on a whole different defense and we lost that night. Mr. Gill wasn't happy; the next morning, we worked on a different zone defense.'
The Beavers won the deciding game 24-19; there was no NCAA Tournament to advance to at that time.
'We got a lot of pleasure out of winning it for Slats,' Lewis said. 'He was a terrific coach.'Red Rocha, a member of the 1947 PCC champions who later coached at Hawai'i, said: 'Coaches tend to be rated by wins and losses. Most coaches pass on what they got from other coaches they played for or they've seen. But the great coaches theorize - coaches like Hank Iba, John Wooden, Pete Newell, Clair Bee, John Wooden, Dean Smith, and Slats Gill.
'Slats had such a respect for the game, to the point of reverence. He had so much respect for it, you weren't allowed to play it the wrong way. Even if you were on the floor alone, that meant no going out and taking crazy shots. You were to play the game with as much strength and intensity as you had.'
Bob Blackburn, who broadcast Oregon State men's basketball and football from the mid-1950s into the late 1960s, told how a meal with Gill was likely to go.
'You knew, by the end of the meal, that he'd have the salt and pepper shakers - and the shakers from all the nearby tables - in front of him. And he'd be diagramming plays with the Salts vs. the Peppers.
'I was happy to be part of the OSU tradition,' Blackburn said. 'Because I always knew I'd be watching and broadcasting very good basketball.'
Mel Counts was on the Beavers' 1963 Final Four team and is still the Pac-10's all-time leading rebounder. The All-America center, who went on to win an Olympic gold medal and an NBA championship, laid out the two roles Gill defined for players.
'The first was the role of star,' Counts said. 'Get the rebounds, score the points, make your team better, then be a good role model when you're in public. The second was the role of a sub, and that was the toughest. Don't backbite the guy who's playing in front of you, make things happen in practice.
'In college, I didn't know what he was talking about (as a substitute). But in the NBA, I learned about that. When I was on the bench, I studied the game - when I go in, what am I going to need to do? I wouldn't have lasted those 12 years in the NBA without that.'
Charlie White was on the 1966 AAWU championship squad that had been picked for the tail end of the conference standings. Instead, Valenti's small, scrappy squad turned out to be the only non-UCLA titlist from 1962-79.
'To play for Paul, you had to be a tough guy,' White said. 'He wouldn't take anything at all. He'd get in your chest and tell you, 'You've got to play defense, you've got to rebound' ... Paul was a screamer, but I'd been in the military before, so I'd been yelled at by professionals.
'Paul and I have become close. We call each other once a week; the three years I was here were three of the best years of my life ... I'm proud of my teammates, I'm proud of Paul and Jimmy (Anderson). I enjoy coming back, and I'll continue to do that as often as I can.'
Oxsen, who was on Miller's early teams, started at center opposite Bill Walton on the night Oregon State ended the Bruins' 50-game Pacific-8 winning streak in 1974. He also remembered the night later that season when the Beavers clinched the Chancellor's Trophy, which was annually given to the team that won the Civil War series.
'Our head cheerleader, Rick Coutin, brings out the trophy and is running around the floor,' Oxsen said. 'I'm at the free throw line and I have my back to Oregon's bench, and I hear this big crash. By then, Gill Coliseum had a few years on it, and I'm thinking a light must have fallen or something. But their coach, Dick Harter, had tripped him. You go into the game Sunday, and you'll still see the dent in that trophy.'
As for Miller, Oxsen recalled, 'He was a great coach who instilled excellent execution and playing for a high-percentage shot ... you work hard and do what you're supposed to do, and even the Geek from Walnut Creek can become a player.'
Charlie Sitton, an All-American and part of three Pac-10 championships, remembered being 'scared to death' of the gruff Miller. As a freshman, he was on the nation's No. 1-ranked team with one of the best senior classes in OSU history, which included Steve Johnson, Ray Blume and Mark Radford. The next year, minus those players, Oregon State again won the Pac-10 title and advanced to the final eight of the NCAA Tournament.
'How did it happen?' Sitton asked. 'Ralph's system. He'd tell you, this game hasn't changed in 100 years.'
His best memories were of those years when every seat was filled in Gill Coliseum year after year.
'We'd go to practice in the afternoon and you'd smell the smoke from the barbecues and hear the music from the people on the ramp who were camping out three or four days to get into the UCLA game,' Sitton said. 'In 1981, there was the night they announced DePaul had lost and everybody knew we'd be the No. 1 team - my ears rang for like five minutes.
'I'm very proud of the way things are going right now, and of the great tradition at Oregon State. Positive things are going to come out of it.'
Haskin was on the 1990 team that won a Pacific-10 championship in Anderson's first year as head coach.
'I can't think of anybody who's more of a Beaver than Jimmy Anderson,' Haskin said of the man who spent nearly 40 years at OSU as a player, assistant coach and head coach. 'He was a fantastic coach. And, above that, he's a great human being and a great family man.
'I can't say how elated I am to see Coach John and his staff in here and what they're doing with these guys. They're having fun, and you can see that.'
Haskin, who battled injuries throughout his career, paid tribute to longtime trainer Mike 'Sandy' Sandago, as well.
'He kept me going, and he's kept so many other players going,' Haskin said. 'He's a legend in his own right.'
The evening included an award to Gill's family. Gill, who posted a 599-392 record from 1929-64, will be inducted into the Pacific-10 Hall of Fame at the conference tournament in March.