A Front-Row Seat with the Sportswriters Who Sat There
Sit down with host Todd Jones and other sportswriters who knew the greatest athletes and coaches, and experienced first-hand some of the biggest sports moments in the past 50 years. They’ll share stories behind the stories -- some they’ve only told to each other.
Dick Weiss is synonymous with college basketball. This season, he’ll work his 49th Final Four. Hoops discusses how he fell in love with basketball, the Big 5 in Philadelphia, and that city’s famed arena, The Palestra. He takes us back to the Big East glory days of the 1980s, and we ride with him on the team plane of national champion Villanova after its upset of Georgetown. Hear about Kobe Bryant the teenage phenom, and how Magic and Bird changed college basketball as well as the NBA. Hoops recounts the season he spent with the fabled ’92 Kentucky team that fell in epic fashion to Duke. And he compares John Wooden and Mike Krzyzewski. Get a TO, baby, and listen up. This is a basketball treat.
The Twitter description for Hoops says he has been “covering college basketball for 8,000 years.” That’s not true. Honest. He first started covering the sport in 1973 for the Philadelphia Daily News, where he also wrote about the NBA. He left the paper in 1993 and spent the next 20 years as the national college columnist for the New York Daily News. Hoops has been the international basketball writer for BlueStar Media since 2013. He has also done work for CNN, the Big Ten Network, the American Conference, Basketball Times, and George Raveling’s Coaching for Success Academy. He’s a regular guest on sports radio shows across the country.
Weiss is a member of the national Sportswriters Hall of Fame. He was the youngest recipient of the prestigious Curt Gowdy Award for media excellence from the Naismith Hall of Fame. Hoops is also a member of the U.S. Basketball Writers Hall of Fame, the Philadelphia Big 5 Hall of Fame, and the Philadelphia Sports Hall of Fame. He served as president of the U.S. Basketball Writers Association in 1993-94. Hoops has co-authored books on basketball Hall of Famers Rick Pitino, John Calipari, Dick Vitale and Theresa Grentz, co-writing the last two with his wife Joan Williamson. Their first date in 1966 was at a Big 5 doubleheader at the Palestra. Hoops has also written a tribute book to Krzyzewski, the legendary Duke coach who is in his final season. Hoops has served on various nominating committees for the Naismith Hall of Fame and serves on the Honors Committee for the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Although best associated with basketball, Weiss has also covered college football for decades. He is a recipient of the Bert McGraine Award from the Football Writers Association of America and the College Football Hall of Fame – the highest honor given to a college football writer. Weiss served as president of the Football Writers Association of America in 2004, and FWAA Executive Director Steve Richardson said: “Many times Dick has pushed for better working conditions for writers behind the scenes and worked within the system to achieve that agenda. Dick has always had the writers’ best interests at heart.”
Weiss has also received the Jesse Abrahamson award from the Penn Relays; the Journalism Hall of Fame award from his alma mater, Temple University; the inaugural Big East media award; the pre-season NIT media award; the Leader of the Heard award from Fairfield University for outstanding contributions in basketball journalism; the Edwin Pope media award from the Orange Bowl; the Frank McQueen media award from the New England Basketball Hall of Fame; and the Jim Murray Outstanding writing award from the All-American Football Foundation. Weiss graduated in 1970 from Temple, where was in the journalism honor society. He served two years as sports editor of the student newspaper, The Temple News, and was also the sports editor of the school’s yearbook. He did color commentary for Temple football on the student radio station, WRTI, and he even had a brief stint as a soccer goalie in 1967 on an NCAA tournament team. His career began at the Baltimore Sun, the Trenton Times and the Courier-Post before he joined the Philadelphia Daily News in 1973.
Hoops. It's so nice for you to take the time to be our guest on press box access.
[00:00:05.350] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Hey, listen. It's my pleasure, Todd. I'm just surprised it's not in a restaurant in Columbus or somewhere on the road around the world, right? Oh, God. Been all over the world.
[00:00:17.650] - Todd
I think you have been all over the world Hoops. Your Twitter description says covered College basketball for 8000 years.
[00:00:27.490] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's true. I'm immortal. Have you heard?
[00:00:32.950] - Todd
Well, not quite 8000, but quite a while. 1973 to 2013. You recovering College basketball and NBA for the Philadelphia Daily News. And then later the New York Daily News. And then since then, you've been doing it for Blue Star website. You've been going around the world internationally for them and basketball times and on and on and on. I mean, nobody knows basketball quite like Dick Weiss. How many games do you think you've covered Hoops?
[00:01:02.830] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Oh, God. You figure in a normal year, you might do 150 just College games. And that doesn't include the high school games. You got to. When I was in College, I used to go to every high school game and every College game at the Bluster. And Sandy Padway, who was the columnist at the Philadelphia Inquirer, gave me the nickname Hoops. And it stuck.
[00:01:36.750] - Todd
When was that?
[00:01:37.470] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Actually, that was in the late 60s.
[00:02:32.130] - Todd
Well, I've always felt a bomb with you, Hoops. I'm a boy from Kentucky. You're from Philadelphia.
[00:02:38.010] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I spent a year in Kentucky. I know you did one of the best times of my life. It was one of the first times people had actually been behind the curtain in the inner sanctum of Kentucky basketball. I remember going for a tour of Kentucky basketball, and they showed me where Rock used to do his game plan in the bathroom.
[00:03:08.910] - Todd
Wait a minute. Wait a minute. In the bathroom. Wait a minute.
[00:03:12.450] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
What used to go to the bathroom, sit down and do it. And that's how he made up with his game plans. I mean, it's probably a little bit too much knowledge, but nobody had been inside their offices. Really? It was like the Pentagon secrets.
[00:03:29.610] - Todd
Yeah, it was like the Holy of Holies. I mean, I was a student down there. And if you could get inside the well.
[00:03:36.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Marnie wasn't going to let you pass a certain level. Anyway.
[00:03:41.710] - Todd
You were down there with Patino. What year was that?
[00:03:43.690] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I was 92. That was the late New year. I still think about losing about $500,000 on that shot because you know what? He misses it in Kentucky wins a National Championship. And it turns out to be one of the great stories of all times because they basically had the last four guys off the bench from the 89 team. And they had Jamal Mashburn, who had just started to lose weight and become a first round draft pick. And they played at the highest level.
[00:04:18.250] - Todd
[00:04:18.970] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And it was back when Rick was in the highest powers and he was teaching the three. And it was so much fun to be around that team. I developed a soft spot for the people in the bluegrass and for the team because it meant so much to them. I don't think I've ever been to a campus, Todd, where basketball is so important, not just to the entire Commonwealth. They talk about Kansas, they talk about Carolina and Duke, and I know that they have their followings, but nobody.
[00:04:56.710] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's not that life and death thing. People fell in love with Kentucky, and most of them had never even had a chance to go to a game. I'd be in the grocery store. There'd be four people paying with food stamps. And the only thing they wanted to talk about Monday when they went back to work was Kentucky basketball. It was that important the state and it gave the state a sense of pride. And I think it still does. Yeah.
[00:05:29.230] - Todd
Well, being from there and being a graduate of the University of Kentucky, I totally relate to what you're talking about. I mean, those guys on that team had just started at the University of Kentucky when I was graduating. So I knew those guys really.
[00:05:42.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And you knew they were never going to fly, right.
[00:05:44.530] - Todd
Pell free, right. They were just kind of left behind by the scandal. And next thing you know, Patino comes into town and whips them into some kind of machine three point shooting, pressing machine.
[00:07:14.390] - Todd
Well, you were there every practice for that season. Two, I believe so. You're in the spectrum that night when Leighton hits that shot, what was it like?
[00:07:24.710] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And perhaps College basketball game they call timeout and I go up and my wife is in the stand with this little white haired lady, and she's gone now. Now, nothing can happen in 2.5 seconds, showing what I know. I'm one of those people who, in retrospect, still thinks they should have guarded the inbounds pass because it's funny. Earlier that year, Duke had played Wake Forest, and they guarded Grand Hill and the inbounds pass on a similar situation, Grand Hill toward out of bounce. But that was the perfect pass, the perfect catch.
[00:08:06.650] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It was like destiny. But I love the fact that normally Kentucky likes to celebrate teams that win. And they're unbelievable at remembering chapter and verse on everything that happened in a game. Heck, I got down there. People were telling me about the 1958 National Championship game with a fiddle in five, and they knew everything. I felt like Johnny Cox is my next door neighbor.
[00:08:37.970] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Get back to Lexington. Rickson, you got to come back down because I was just going to stay home because I live in Philadelphia, and I moved all my stuff home. And so you got to come back Tuesday. I came back Tuesday, and they hung the four kids jerseys in the Raptor. And that was a special night. And it really put Kentucky basketball in perspective for me. I mean, the appreciation for what they did for the University. Now, God forbid they have won a Championship since twelve. I'm sure last year they were ready to hang the coach, right.
[00:09:17.270] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
They expect to be back in the Final Four every year or every other year.
[00:09:22.310] - Todd
Well, I think you bonded with those folks in Kentucky because their love for the game is the same as your own love for the game. I know you also from covering College football, which you've done for many, many years. You were even the President of the Football Riders Association. And in that organizations hall of Fame, you've covered what, how many College football Championships?
[00:09:43.190] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I've covered 39 College football Championships, and I've covered the scary part. Wait for it.
[00:09:52.430] - Todd
48 Final fours, 48 Final Fours. Now that's my point. Now, you know, College football, but they call you Hoops for a reason.
[00:10:03.050] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I set a goal. I want to do 50 Final Fours, and then maybe I'll go off and become a patron of the arts. But the next two years are in New Orleans. And in Houston, and I definitely want to be around for them. I'll go back every year and watch it. It keeps you young when you're around young people, although they're all making more money than I am now.
[00:11:44.390] - Todd
Well, Hoops covering that many Final Fours and covering the game of basketball for this many years. What was it about that particular sport that captured your imagination early in your life?
[00:11:56.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
You know what? I just fell in love with the game. It was fast enough and it had strategy. And I was lucky. I grew up in Philadelphia, where we had a bunch of hall of Fame coaches. Harry Litwack was there. Jack Ramsey was there. Tom Golla was there. Chuck Daly was there. These guys are all in Naysmith.
[00:12:21.890] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It was like going to a clinic. And the other thing that really caused me to fall in love back then, they used to have double headers at the plaster time, right. I used to go down. I used to take public transportation down to West Philadelphia. You go up to the top of the Hill, catch a bus and catch a subway down to 34th street, get off at Pan and walk over and pay a dollar and a half to sit along the baseline or $3 if I wanted to splurge to sit on the sidelines and you'd see a double header.
[00:12:59.150] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And most people my age grew up with it because back then, almost all the Philadelphia teams were composed of local kids. We didn't really have travel teams for these kids got to see the world and coaches didn't have that much of a recruiting allowance. So they basically recruited locally and kids, particularly from the Philadelphia Catholic. Their goal in life was to play in the Big Five for one of those five schools.
[00:13:29.030] - Todd
Well, let's explain for younger listeners what the Big Five was. I mean, it was kind of created in the mid 50s, around 56. You got Villanova, Temple, Saint Jose, La Salle and Penn. What was the Big Five to Philly.
[00:13:43.610] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think it was their connection to National College basketball because the city series games between those five schools meant so much to everybody at each school. And the best part about it was every team from the 50s through the 60s had at least one year where they're the best team, including Penn and Penn, had a great team in 66, and sadly, they never get a chance to capitalize on it because the Ivy League decided that they were going to protest the 1.6 rule so they wouldn't let Penn play in the tournament.
[00:14:22.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
But four years later, Penn had a 28 team, was not ranked number three in the country and ended up losing to another Philadelphia team, Vulnerova in the regional finals the year that Vaughnov lost to UCLA in the Championship game. So there is history there. It's ironic for as many great coaches, there's only one Big Five player in the nation hall of Fame and that's guy Rogers. I mean, Gold and Arizona are in it. But they play before the birth of the Big Five.
[00:15:52.490] - Todd
Do you think the College game because of the neighborhoods and the schools and the talent? The College game was just more of just the local thing instead of the NBA? Yes.
[00:16:03.890] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And you could relate because it was like 13th grade. I mean, everybody when I was growing up, used to go to the public and Catholic playoffs, and then the Big Five was like 13th and 14th grade. For them, they played freshman ball, and then if they could make it, they played on the varsity. And everybody knew these kids from the time they were in 10th grade because high school basketball was big in Philadelphia. I'm not saying it was national. It was national. There were no power, memorials or demands.
[00:16:39.050] - Todd
[00:16:41.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The games were competitive. And all the kids played on the playground. Playgrounds are filled with kids playing.
[00:16:49.790] - Todd
Well, you think of the town, think of a town that came out of Philly. You had Wolf Chamberlain, Earl Monroe. I mean, on and on the Philly guys.
[00:16:57.230] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
There is that Philly culture. And back in the 50s, during the golden era, when will play Overbrook could play with anybody in America, they had a secret scrimmage that year his senior year where they played Dawnova, which is an NCAA tournament team. They beat him because nobody could deal with Wilton and Vulnerova had Jack Devine and Bernie Schaefer, who were Big Five Hall of Famers or Big Five greats and Overbrook with Wil Smeller great high school coach. They beat them in Scrummage.
[00:17:41.390] - Todd
Well, to tie it into the modern culture. You saw Kobe Bryant as a kid.
[00:17:48.170] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I did. I was at the district semifinals when he played against Rip Hamilton from Coatesville and Kobe had 34. I think we all realized then that he wasn't just going to be another pretty face. It was unbelievable. I still remember the first time I saw him. He's Laura Marion. He just started playing when he was in 8th grade. When he came back from Italy. He was actually a better soccer player.
[00:18:19.830] - Todd
[00:18:21.570] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
His dad, Joe, played in Italy and he was a very good soccer player. Then he came back. He went to Balakinwood Junior High School. He was okay. Two years later, he's playing at Lower Marion, sophomore. I'm thinking he's going to be a nice local College player. The next year junior year, he goes to ABCD, and all of a sudden, he's a top five player in the country. And by the time he's a senior, people were looking at him and saying, oh, my God, this is the best player in the country.
[00:18:55.650] - Todd
[00:19:00.010] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It must be the gene pool. That's all I can say, because he had mad skills. And I still remember going to the press conference that he had Todd before he signed. I would declare for the Lake. They had 18 TV cameras from up and down the East Coast in the high school gym reporting announcement. I'd never seen anything like that before. I wasn't in New York for Alcindor when he played for Power, but this had to be pretty close.
[00:19:38.830] - Todd
I was covering Xavier basketball in Cincinnati at the time, and they were playing. They were in the Atlantic Ten. And so Kobe's father, Jelly Bean Bryant, was an assistant. So was Kobe tempted to stay home and go to La Sal?
[00:19:55.930] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think one of the reasons Joe got the job was they thought it would give them an enormous advantage. But I think in the end, he knew that what he was going to do because Joe stopped showing up in the office and sending his daughter and pick up his paycheck. So I think it was either going to be Duke Carolina or the NBA. And I was with him. And his dad, son of a carrier, used to hold an All American game in Detroit by Piston's Stadium. And we were in a hotel and I was in Sonny's room and they were there and you knew then that they were going to do this.
[00:20:49.250] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It just seems crazy to me because I never really experienced. Then we had collect of players. Take a look at the best players in the League for a long time. It was people who left right out of high school, right?
[00:21:43.550] - Todd
Well, all those stars in Philadelphia, from Chamberlain on up to Kobe and beyond, they all had a place to play. And you mentioned it, the Plester. They had a great stage to play on. For somebody who's never been to the Poluster, which you, by the way, named the Cathedral of College basketball.
[00:22:00.170] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I can't believe you remember that.
[00:22:03.590] - Todd
Can you describe the pelester for somebody who's never been there? No.
[00:22:06.050] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's a gym. It was built in 27. It's the most intimate place where you can watch College basketball, 800 seats. There isn't a bad seat. And when you would walk in and you'd look up into the corners, if the corners were filled, the game was going to be a sell out. But you felt like you were right on top of the game. And for years, when I was in Philadelphia, they had a pit for the media right at center court. So you're literally seated right next to visiting coach.
[00:22:41.270] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And you were right on the floor. And so it was like having the best seat in the house. I loved every chance I got to go there.
[00:22:53.030] - Todd
Wasn't there a period of time for, like, ten years? You never missed a game, right? Yeah.
[00:22:59.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I'm very impressed. You remember that I went ten straight years without missing double her.
[00:23:05.210] - Todd
[00:23:07.070] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think it was like, I'm going to say 65 through 75. And really, if you look at the golden years of the plaster, it was probably 1962 through 1972. That's when it was before TV really took over. They used to broadcast the city series games between the local teams. But it wasn't like you had a bunch of double headers being broadcast the way you do it. Espn now. And so most people would rather go and see it live. I mean, everybody called it Date night because when you're in College, that's where you took your date.
[00:23:58.490] - Todd
Well, didn't you and your wife, Joni? Your first date was a double header at the first date.
[00:24:04.130] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I still remember south playing Western Kentucky and Clem Haskins favored.
[00:24:16.650] - Todd
Do you have a favorite Pelestra moment or story?
[00:24:20.250] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Yes. St. Joe's is playing Bowling Green, and Bolling Green is number three in the country.
[00:24:30.630] - Todd
When is this? What year is this process?
[00:24:32.610] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Eight Thurman Howard Covis era back in December of the 62 so 62 63 season, Bowling Green had the first eight guys out from Bowling Green. Dunctable St. Joe's comes out. They have one guy conduct. They're in these Terry cloth warmups. And you're thinking, no, this can't happen. This can't happen. And Jack Ramsey is a coach. And he was pretty famous in Philadelphia for the amount of upsets over nationally ranked teams that he had during his time at St. Joe's. And the game came down to the last 3 seconds.
[00:25:16.230] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I thought Bowling Green was going to run out the clock. And then Tomlin steals the ball. They call timeout. And I swear the entire crowd must have started singing the Hawk Rouser song. I Got Goosebumps. The next play, Jimmy London was supposed to take the last shot. He's not open. He gets the ball. The late Jim Boyle, who puts up a bank shot in the ball, as you might expect, rolls around and around and around and then fall through. And I'm down there with a bunch of kids who were friends of mine from the local CYO team, St.
[00:25:57.450] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Bernards. And the next thing I know, all of them are storming the floor.
[00:26:03.030] - Todd
So who you were storming the floor.
[00:26:04.830] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It was just crazy.
[00:26:06.750] - Todd
Well, you are always on the scene at the Pelestera, and there was no better scene when I think about College basketball, no nationally. But I think in the 80s beyond when I think about the 80s, I think about the ACC in the Big East. And really, you were around to Chronicle that era of College basketball, the growth of it. Can you tell us a little bit about the Big East and the rise of the conference in the when I was growing up.
[00:26:35.670] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
My biggest disappointment was the fact that after LASAG won the National Championship in 54, we went through a long, long drought where no Eastern team really had a chance to win a National Championship because they couldn't recruit the best players. Most of them, if you're any good, you're going right down south to play in the ACC six. We lost a lot of great players to there in Kansas and other places.
[00:27:07.710] - Todd
[00:27:09.630] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
When Dave Gavid came up with the idea of the Big East and then got a deal with ESPN TV, he created a Superconference of urban Catholic schools, for the most part, who dotted the East Coast at eight to nine teams. And all of them were being coached by guys who were either hall of Fame coaches or Borderline Hall of Fame coaches. And the competition was not only good, but kids in the east decided, you know what? I can stay. I can play in my hometown. I'm on TV every game, and I'm going to play in a tournament in the garden that sells out every year.
[00:28:01.590] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The Big East really became a big deal. They were lucky because the first couple of years they were Patrick Dealing and Chris Mullen, who still might be the best two players ever to come out of that League.
[00:28:17.250] - Todd
Hold on a second. Why do you think so?
[00:28:19.590] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Because not only did they set the tone, but they both put their teams in a position where they can win National Championships. Look, in 85 years on over beat Georgetown. We had three teams from that League in the Final four going over Georgetown and St. John's. And I just think the skill level Ewing was easily the best prospect in the country his senior year at Cambridge in Latin, and he was a dominant force in College basketball. During his time at Georgetown, they got the three final games.
[00:29:04.570] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
They won it all in 84. And Chris Mullen was the quintessential New York gym rag who was probably as good a shooter as it was in the country kind of predated Steve Offer in that regard. They both played on the 84 Olympic team, and then they both played on the Dream team.
[00:29:26.350] - Todd
So you had hallfame coaches. You had great talent like Ewing and Molly. You could not win television, right. So it was all combined. Yeah.
[00:29:33.730] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
You literally could not win a Championship unless you had four or five pros. And everybody did because it was unbelievable every game and it was physical. I still remember the fight between Pearl Washington and Patrick Ewing.
[00:29:53.110] - Todd
Well, tell us about it.
[00:29:55.450] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Things got heated in the Big East semifinals.
[00:29:59.410] - Todd
[00:30:03.070] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Ewan ends up taking a shot at a Roundhouse at Peril, and if he hits him, it's the end of a career because he's a big kid. But Georgetown had a history of being very physical. And I think that they intimidated a lot of teams with their physicality and their aggressiveness defensively. But kids in the Big East adjusted to it, and they knew that you needed to fight force with force. And so many of these games were like rock fights in the playground. I mean, it was just crazy, and the games were all to win.
[00:30:48.670] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The Big East tournament was almost as important to some teams as winning the National Championship because of the Garden because it was bragging rights in the Garden for a year. It was great stuff. Before the Big East, I would go to the ACC tournament. I started going there and 73 when David Thompson was at North Carolina State and North Carolina State had the one beaten season. But they couldn't go to tournament because they were on probation. But I would go down the ACC. And even after I started covering the Big East, I went to 35 straight Big East tournaments in the Garden before the pandemic.
[00:31:36.730] - Todd
You're selling popcorn, too.
[00:31:39.070] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I used to go there and they used to play the Biggie's Funnel on Saturday, and then you get up the next day, go to the airport and fly down to Greensboro. So you go to the ACC final. And so I used to do that until I realized that the seating show was probably more important to people in our audience. Going to the ACC on a Sunday just didn't cut it because nobody really cared about the game. That's why the ACC since moved their Championship game back to Saturday night.
[00:32:12.850] - Todd
Right? Well, you mentioned the 1085 Final Four, where St. John's, Villanova and Georgetown are joined by Memphis, of all people but three Big East teams in that Final Four. And that's obviously the scene where Villanova upset the mighty Georgetown team, Villanova being a Philly team. You're on the scene there in Lexington and Robert covering that game. That's one of the most famous games in College basketball history. What do you recall specifically about that game?
[00:32:47.330] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
A bunch of stuff. It was a crazy day. First of all, going over was an eight seat team in the tournament. The game before the Big East tournament. They lost a Pit by 25 points on the road. I think they needed to. And then they drew Pit in the first round of the Big East tournament. I'm figuring they don't win this game. This team is not going to go to the NCAA, and they win the game. Then they lose St. John's because they could never be St.
[00:33:22.910] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
John's in the semifinals. They get into the tournament and they play six perfect games. They beat three number one seas.
[00:33:33.770] - Todd
Well, I forget that three number one seas.
[00:33:35.750] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Yeah. They beat Michigan. They beat Memphis, and they beat Georgetown. And on top of that, they beat two ACC teams. They beat Maryland, they beat Carolina. It was an unbelievable run. They played six perfect games. Roley doesn't get enough credit.
[00:33:58.250] - Todd
I think Roley misdemeanor the coach of the Wildcats before.
[00:34:04.850] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The shot clock and before the three point shot, I think he was as good a coach as anybody. Because if he got the lead and there were four minutes left, game was over because they just never made mistakes. They just spread the floor and made every key three throw. It was unbelievable. There was nothing fazed. And they had three seniors, the McLean brothers and McLean brothers, McLean's and Eddie Pinkney. And they had all been through the Big East Wars. They all were confident enough. They all knew each other from the time they were a five star camp.
[00:34:48.810] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
They had Harold Presley and a Guardian of Harold Jensen, and it all fell together. I mean, look, in that game against Georgetown, they shoot 78 for the game, 90% for the second half. And it was like destiny. The day of the game, Al Severance, the old one over coach, passes away. He's down in Lexington and he passes away. So that makes it hard. Jake Nevin, the old leprechaun who was the longtime trainer for Bill and has ALS. He's in a wheelchair. I mean, the game is coming down the stretch so foul with, like, 20 seconds left.
[00:35:36.750] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Harold Presley is going to the line to shoot two shots. He goes over, rubs Jake's head and says, These are for you, Jake. He made them both after the game ends. Georgetown was a 13 point favor. No one going over had much of a chance, even though going over was competitive with Georgetown in both the regular season games, Eddie Pinkney and Dwayne McClain run over to Press Row, jump on press Row. And the game was played on April 1, and they start screaming, April fools. Was it great?
[00:36:16.770] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I know. I didn't sleep that night, and I think Rolly drank and smoke his way through the rest of the night. And the next day I was able to hitch a ride back with Dora when the team charter. Yeah.
[00:36:35.290] - Todd
Didn't Rolly ask you to fly back to Philly?
[00:36:38.590] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And I got John Feinstein on the plane, too, because he wanted to come and we got off the plane. And all of a sudden we're in the middle of a parade. It was great in Philadelphia, which I think never really had the great affinity for Villanova, because Rowe recruited all these kids outside the city and hardly ever recruited kids in the city. But Philadelphia for that day. And I still remember two months later going over goes to the White House. And I still remember pinching myself and saying, Did I dream this?
[00:37:20.350] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Did this really happen? As I walked through the gates into the Rose Garden? It was unbelievable. I mean, it's something you never really forget. And that right after that, you remember the Nets offered Rolling the job, and I remember going to the one I was banquet, and he had invited Jimmy Valvano to the banquet. And I'm with Jim. And Jim says, Come out here with me and he does a quick two minute radio shows, $300. Jimmy was the first person that really made money outside of coaching.
[00:38:02.990] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And I think he convinced Rowley that you should do what you love as opposed to just doing things for the money because you can make money if you stay in College basketball. The next year Roley was cutting supermarket ribbons, and he had his own TV show.
[00:38:22.970] - Todd
Well, things started to change, right? I mean, in some ways, it kind of changed the Big Five then, right? Yeah.
[00:38:30.770] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I always have some regrets about that was the same year was the last year of the contract. Going over in Temple wanted to go their own way. They wanted to start. They felt like they didn't want to share all the revenue. When you played in the Big Five, you shared the revenue six ways. Each team got a six and then Penn, which supplies the facilities, got another six for running the events and supplying the ushers and stuff like that. But going over was drawing the most crowds.
[00:39:10.610] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
So they built their own arena for home games, and they would play their big games at the Spectrum. And Temple said, we can't get left behind John Chang. He was pretty good coach all Famer. And he was competing against vulnerable for best team in the city. And they built an arena. They had an arena. Mechanical hall decided to play all their games, all their home games up there. So the Big Five started to collapse. And the sad part is the fact that there are generations of people who have never gotten a chance to see a game in the bluster.
[00:39:56.510] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's always sad for me to go past there when it's dark. I still try to get there.
[00:41:24.350] - Todd
So really, the Big Five started changing in the 80s, and College basketball sort of changing with growth, more revenue comes changed. But when you think about the NCAA tournament and where it is today, it really ignited in the 80s. You mentioned before. 86. No shot clock, no three point line. The game was different. Yet seniors think about the talent in the 1082 final between North Carolina and Georgetown. Georgetown had Ewing and Sleepy Floyd, and Carolina is trotting out senior James. Well, I guess he was a junior.
[00:42:00.710] - Todd
They're trotting out James Worthy, Sam Perkins and some freshman known as Mike Jordan all on the floor.
[00:42:07.190] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
No, it's great. It was like an introduction to Nay Smith because they're all great, great players. And it's kind of stayed that way. The heroes of the Final Fours were guys like Danny Mounting or Glenn Rice. You had guys who stayed through their College career, and it started changing mid 90s, the Kobe Garnett draft. And then the kids were leaving out of high school. I don't ever remember the heavy shift to kids leaving one and done until we got to the last part of the first decade of 21st century.
[00:43:00.010] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Now, if kids say more than one year, people are saying what's wrong. And it's a shame because you used to get to know the players. I think that's what made College basketball special. You followed a kid's career from the freshman team up through three years of varsity competition. And kids love playing for the front of the Jersey.
[00:45:07.790] - Todd
Let's talk about the Final Four because you've been to 48 of them. You're aiming to get to 50, and you will. What is it about the Final Four? That has been so special that event. When did it start becoming what we know as the final?
[00:45:22.730] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think it became a national event. Magic Bird, you had two bigger than life personalities. I mean, Indiana State was unbeaten. Magic had an unbelievable charismatic personality for an 18 year old kid, 19 year old kid. And I think people fell in love with the game, fell in love with the idea of playing a Championship game during that year, when the game was held up in Salt Lake, and it just got bigger from there. Now you better have $600 if you want to go to the gangs.
[00:46:10.370] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
[00:46:11.750] - Todd
So the two guys who changed the NBA also changed College basketball.
[00:46:18.890] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And they made an immediate change. The next year, the next year, Magic was a freshman. He wins the NBA Championship and they play the 70 Sixers in a game six where a Kareem is on the floor and he gets 42. In the following year, Boston wins a Championship with Larry Burke. It was unbelievable. I was lucky enough. When I worked in Philadelphia, I would go to the Final Four. Then I'd go to the Penn Relays for a week. Because that was a big deal in Philadelphia. And then I go to the NBA playoffs because Phil Jasmine, our sixes writer, wanted to stick with the sixes because everything they did was of interest to our readers.
[00:47:06.170] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
So I would cover the playoffs. I think I was in Boston one year long enough to vote, but I saw all of those Boston La series.
[00:47:18.330] - Todd
All right, well, tell us about those because those are as legendary as they get. Tell us about Bird, Magic and the Celtics Lakers. Yeah.
[00:47:26.610] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think that it became such a great rivalry because it was a great rivalry between the cities as well as everything else. And it really picked up when you had a lot of celebrities who were sitting in the first row at the Forum starting to travel. I still remember Jack Nicholson holding court in Boston Garden after a practice. People just wanted to be part of it. Nicholson actually had every game taped, and when he would be making a movie, he would not allow anybody to tell him what happened until he watched the tape in his trailer.
[00:48:10.170] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It was unlocked. But think about the players you have on the team. Look, the Celebs have got like 18 guys in the hall of Fame, and four of them played on those teams. Mikael and Parish and Bird and Dennis Johnson all played on those teams. And therefore a while Reggie Lewis was on the team. God knows how good they could have been. Lynn Bias hadn't died. And over in the Lakers. You like Kareem and Wilkes and Maccadou, and they were just Magic. It was just unbelievable talent.
[00:48:52.390] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I told you you couldn't win an NBA Championship unless you had four guys who were at least fringe hall famous. Now you can win with two. I would say two. You still need to win.
[00:49:06.010] - Todd
So the guys who changed College basketball and the NBA, Bird and Magic, what are your first memories of both of them?
[00:49:12.490] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
When I was covering the Sixes, I used to go watch College games with Jack McMahon, the great Scout. And one night, he says, Come on, let's go to Tarahau. I got to see this kid. Mary Bird is playing against Illinois State. Bird goes off for 41 as a junior. I walked back and said, oh, my God, this kid is going to change the game. I remember saying that to Bob Ryan, who didn't really know that much about him. His first year in Boston. He gets 60. As far as Magic is concerned.
[00:49:47.950] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
When Magic was in high school, he was considered one of the three best players in the country, along with Wayne McCoy and Jean Banks. And I still remember going down to see him play at the Capitol Classic. And I still remember he was going to go to Michigan or Michigan State. Dick Flight was in Detroit at the time. He was going to try to steal him. He grabs Magic, puts them, takes them over and starts talking to him. And he spent like a half hour trying to convince him to visit the University of Detroit.
[00:50:24.010] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And Magic ended up going to Lansing.
[00:50:29.410] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
When he was a freshman, they ended up losing to Kentucky. Right.
[00:50:35.230] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The year Kentucky wanted in a regional final in seven years. And the next year, frankly, their team struggled out of the gate in the big tent. But by the end of the year, they were easily the best team in the country. I thought it was great. Penn from our area actually got to the Final Four and 79. And then they played Michigan State. And what everybody remembers is Michigan State breaking out to like, a 21 to two lead. And to this day, people still say time out, Pennsylvania.
[00:51:13.730] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It was a 30 point game.
[00:51:15.590] - Todd
Get a co pen.
[00:51:17.630] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
That was how good they were. And frankly, for as much hype as went into the Bird Magic game, it really wasn't a close game. Michigan State was the dominant team in that game.
[00:51:30.230] - Todd
[00:51:32.030] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The other thing that happened that year, Larry Bird wouldn't speak to the press. Part of it was. And for a guy who I think is a pretty interesting, intelligent about basketball type guy, he really didn't want to deal with the media. And that file four is the first time he talked all year because he had to. And so Sunday afternoon, everybody was more excited. He already had to say, and he didn't really have to say that much. But as it turns out, I was actually on a nominating committee for the nation hall of Fame with him.
[00:52:13.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And he was so smart. And he had such unbelievable perspective on who was really a hall of Famer. I never forgot that I always admired him.
[00:52:27.050] - Todd
Well, both those guys, they knew talent. Talent knows talent, right? Yeah.
[00:52:30.590] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And I think they were able to evaluate players who could win games when they played together. Back then, Red was still running the team, and they just knew what worked. It was great stuff. And La became kind of a landing strip for all of the great players. It started with Kareem when he went from Milwaukee to La. But after a while, everybody wanted to play there.
[00:53:01.550] - Todd
Well, you knew the players, and you also knew the coaches very well.
[00:55:31.070] - Todd
So you've written these books with guys like Patino Pari. You've written about Shusheski. You started covering College basketball in 73 for the Philadelphia Daily News. Yeah, well, John Wooden was the guy then John Wooden in the UCLA Bruins. So take us from Wooden to Shasheski. Is there something about the Giants of the coaching profession that you see a common theme during all those years you've come.
[00:55:57.230] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think consistency and success. It was funny. I got to know when I first started because you had to talk to him the first time I ever met him were College Park. It's right after the national semifinals the day before national semifinals. He just sits in the stands after practice and talks for an hour. It wasn't like they had all of these totally organized events where coaches would get up and you'd never see them again. But you had Adam. And frankly, there weren't that many media covering it.
[00:56:44.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
If there were 200 members of the media, including TV types and network types, it was a lot.
[00:56:53.510] - Todd
Well, the thing with the Wooden is I remember late in his life, I actually was fortunate enough to talk to him a couple of times by telephone. And I remember one time talking to John for quite a long time where it got to the point where I was out of questions and he just seemed to want to have a nice conversation. It was kind of like I'm talking to John Wooden and we're just talking about things beyond basketball at that point.
[00:57:18.170] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Right after his 90th birthday, I went to California. I spent a day with him in his Encino apartment, and it hasn't changed. You walk through, you feel like you're in a Museum. He has so many plaques that they're literal up and down the hallway. And then he has his wife's bedroom, which he has not changed and not changed since he passed away. But one thing he had is he had an unbelievable mental acuity, like late in life and his ability to tell stories. And it was like Dean before Dean came down with dementia.
[00:58:01.130] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I mean, he remembered everything that happened in his life and remembered all of the people that he coached and his daughter who just passed away. Nell used to come over and bring the mail every day and used to drive them to the games. They used to sit in the same spot every day when UCLA played home games. After I actually went out to his Memorial service. I was there for a lot of moments after he left. I was there the day that they named the court after him.
[00:58:36.050] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And what was so great about that day is a Saturday afternoon. He's there and halftime. They bring us back to the locker room, and they have he and Walton and Kareem are all there all answering questions. It was unbelievable because neither one of them had a reputation for being real press front, media friendly. They were unbelievable that day. You could have picked up enough stuff to write a book. And John loved holding court back then.
[00:59:11.690] - Todd
So the start of your career, it's Wooden's, the man.
[00:59:15.650] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Wooden 110, right?
[00:59:17.210] - Todd
Think about that. Now.
[01:02:19.090] - Todd
So Hoops at the start of your career covering College basketball in the early 70s, John Wooden was the man. And at the end of your career here, chachesky is going out retiring as the man. Are there common things between those two when you think about it, Wooden and Chachewsky that have made them so consistently successful.
[01:02:43.750] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I find obviously talent.
[01:02:45.190] - Todd
They have great players. What is it about them as coaches?
[01:02:48.190] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I'm a big believer in guys who are teachers and guys who have a sense of fundamentally sound basketball. I think that you have to have certain things working for you. I think you have to have a school where you have the ability to recruit great players, even though Duke was going to a down cycle and first got there. Yeah.
[01:03:16.150] - Todd
People forget that, right? Yeah.
[01:03:52.930] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think that once Mike got it going, he managed to win in a highly competitive leg at a regular time.
[01:04:33.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And in an era where it's a lot harder just to get to a Final Four because you need six wins to win it all and four to get to a Final Four wouldn't basically need two wins to get to a Final Four.
[01:04:47.710] - Todd
[01:04:49.510] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Most of them were West Coast teams.
[01:04:52.150] - Todd
Yeah. You had less teams, and the teams were really more regional.
[01:04:55.510] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
They were regional.
[01:04:57.730] - Todd
The regions were made up of teams from that region.
[01:05:00.370] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
That is correct.
[01:05:01.270] - Todd
[01:05:04.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Mike has been to Final Fours in four different decades, 80 92,000, 2010.
[01:05:14.660] - Todd
And again, he's had great talent, but you can have great talent and waste it. Why has he been able to do this?
[01:05:24.110] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think that up until recently.
[01:05:28.250] - Todd
[01:05:28.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And recently. He hasn't been there for a while. But up until recently, I think that kids would stay longer. I don't think you had a lot of one and done. He didn't lose his first player to one and done until 1099. The rest of his kids all stayed four years so he could build his own culture. And they bought into everything he was selling, both academically and athletically. Now he's in a situation where he's desperate to hang another banner before he leaves this year. And I think that he started recruiting a lot of one and done to kind of try to duplicate John Caliper's philosophy.
[01:06:13.130] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
And I think it takes away from your success because you can't possibly have the same level of success if you only have the kids one year. I think it's hard.
[01:06:26.030] - Todd
So the common thing between guys like Wooden Knife Smith, beyond the talent, it's the teaching.
[01:06:33.950] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The teaching and the culture that they create in the program where kids expect to win and kids are willing to buy into the chemistry that you need to win. Look, I'm sure Alcindor could have averaged as many points as Maravich should be one. They actually put in a dunking rule to stop him after he got 50 in the UCLA freshman varsity game.
[01:07:01.250] - Todd
I mean, they're changing the rules to stop you. It's pretty good.
[01:07:04.550] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
Yeah, it's pretty amazing. And I think that Mike, once he got that one class, the class in 86 with Dawkins and Alery and Villas and Henderson and Amaker that got to the final game against Louisville. They were a regular in the final 487, 89, 192, 94. That's pretty unbelievable. When you get double digit Final Fours and you get five National Championships, you're doing something right.
[01:07:50.910] - Todd
Do you have a favorite shoesky story?
[01:07:54.930] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I remember when he first was at Duke and they weren't winning and the Iron Duke wanted to get rid of them. And I think after they lost badly to Virginia in the ACC tournament and they started the next season poorly, I think he thought he was going to get fired, and he went in there. And the ad, rather than firing him, said, I'm going to give you an extension. That would not have happened now, with all the social media and all the fan bases have lost their patience.
[01:08:32.790] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
The idea of coaches staying at a school for 30 years, you might see it with Bayheim. He might be the last one that starts and finishes his career at the same spot.
[01:08:51.550] - Todd
Too much money, too much attention, too much instant judgment.
[01:09:00.050] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
You're on the chopping block every day. If you don't win, you end up being in a situation where people are looking for the next big thing. Hey, listen. Now they're firing College football coaches after two games.
[01:09:13.550] - Todd
[01:09:15.110] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
[01:09:16.070] - Todd
Well, the Duke ad, Tom Butters, saw something in Chachevsky that was worth chicken.
[01:09:20.750] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
He did. And I'll give him credit. And look, there's a guy who got the job. And he was an army.
[01:09:27.890] - Todd
[01:09:30.710] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It wasn't like the Night era when army was in the NIT every year, my cat had at least one losing season there. And when he went there, I still remember when he was introduced. None of the media know how to pronounce his name, so he had to actually pronounce it for him.
[01:09:50.610] - Todd
Well, I remember when I would cover the tournament. I'd have it written on a piece of paper, how to spell it.
[01:09:57.750] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's the extra Z. I taped it to my keyboard.
[01:10:00.330] - Todd
So I always remember it. It's funny, you probably don't recall. But when he won the title in 2015, Hoops, you and I were sitting side by side at midcourt when they beat Wisconsin. We're right there, mid court, front row. I'm sitting there with Dick Whites, and I'm thinking, as a kid from Kentucky, he loves basketball.
[01:10:19.350] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
This is heaven.
[01:10:20.010] - Todd
I'm sitting here with Hoops. I'm sitting here in the Final Four at mid court, and I'm watching one of the all time great coaches do his job.
[01:12:51.210] - Todd
Well, hopes you've won all these awards or in hall of Fame. But what keeps you going? Why still do it?
[01:12:58.530] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
I think it keeps you young. I think if you go to an event and you're sitting on courtside, you can feel the electricity from young people. And I like that feeling I get. Look, I guess I'm still one of the few people that still get goosebumps before the start of the Final Four.
[01:13:18.750] - Todd
[01:13:21.210] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
You just feel like it becomes your identity after a while and you feel like it's part of your life. And I've been really lucky because the places I work have sent me all over. And I've gotten a lot of life experiences, particularly in basketball. How often do people actually get to do a job that they love? Not often and do it as well as you have Hoops?
[01:13:50.850] - Todd
That's why your Hoops. I mean, think about it. You've got the name. Not many people are synonymous with a sport. And Dick Weiss, you are definitely synonymous with basketball.
[01:14:01.770] - Dick "Hoops" Weiss
It's been a pleasure. I really talk to you. You were one of my favorites when I used to go to Columbus, and you're still one of my favorites now.