Bobby Rascoe is widely considered to be one of the truly great players that Western Kentucky has produced over the years. Rascoe arrived on the “Hill” in the Fall of 1958 as a highly recruited high-school All-American out of Daviess Co., Ky. and he played varsity ball under Coach E.A. Diddle from 1959-62. Along the way he helped lead the Toppers to three straight OVC Championships and two NCAA appearances in 1960 and 1962. To this day Rascoe still ranks eighth on Western’s All-Time scoring list with 1,670 points and he ranks third in the career scoring average category with a 20.9 ppg. avg. over the course of eighty games. His average of 25.7 ppg. during his senior year also ranks third in the Hilltopper record books, right behind Hilltopper legends Jim McDaniels and Tom Marshall. In addition to being named All-OVC in 1961 and 1962, Bobby also became Mr. Diddle’s second-to-last All-American, as that honor was bestowed upon him after his senior season of 1962. Upon his graduation from Western Rascoe was drafted by the New York Knicks, but instead he chose to play semi-pro ball with the Phillips 66′ers company team for four years before finally heading to the professional arena in 1967 to play for the ABA’s Kentucky Colonels. Like many of Diddle’s boys however, Rascoe was eventually drawn back to the “Hill,” and from 1974-78 he served as an assistant coach for the Hilltopper basketball team under then head coach Jim Richards. Today Bobby still makes his home in Bowling Green, and at Western, where he is the director of teacher certification and placement.
This interview was conducted in Diddle Arena on Tuesday, June 21, 1998. The total time of the interview was around 75 minutes and the entire session has been transcribed here so that everyone can read and learn about a great period of Western history and about some of those great Hilltoppers who made that time so special. The interview has for the most part been reproduced word for word, and I’ve tried to punctuate it so that the verbal meanings will come through to the reader trying to follow the process.
HH: Let’s talk a little bit about your high school career to start with. You were two-time all-state and an All-American your senior year. What was the recruiting process like back then, and what was it about Coach Diddle that made you choose Western over everybody else?
BR: Well, recruiting back then was a good deal different than what it is now. Of course I played for Coach Buck Sydnor, whom you know was a Western person and was very close with Coach Diddle and had earlier been a student assistant coach here at Western with Coach Diddle. And we….in high school, even freshman, sophomore years….as early as that, we were occasionally coming to Western watching some of their games. So Coach Diddle began, I guess as early as my sophomore year…..started seeing Don Crosley, another player that was in the same grade as I, and 6′ 8″ at the time……
HH: What happened to him?
BR: Well, he came to Western also. But anyway, they came to see us on a regular basis and Coach Diddle would see us maybe three, four, five, six times a year. He not only came by himself but he would always bring a car load of other people with him……Coach Hornback, Bob Cochran, and others that would come with him at the time. So it was almost just like one of those things that, you know, you get to know them and feel a part of them from a very early age. Then as you mentioned, we were successful in high school in that we made it to the state tournament both my junior and senior years, and lost in the finals of the regional my sophomore year to the state-runner up Henderson at the time. So we had a pretty respectable high school team and in our senior year we lost in the finals of the state tournament. Then I had the opportunity to play in a lot of all-star games after my senior year, but Coach Diddle was a tremendous person…..and in recruiting he would come in and make people feel at ease and was able to be friends, or befriend himself to whomever that he was talking with……your parents or your brothers and sisters, or your high school coach, or whoever it was. So, it was just kind of a natural thing…….with Western being as close as it was to Owensboro at that time, so it was really a pretty easy decision for me to come to Western, and Don Crosley, the other fella that I mentioned, also came……so the two of us signed here at Western after our senior year. Back in those days people didn’t have early signing dates like they do now. In fact, I didn’t sign to come to Western until July before school started……you know, I guess in August or September, and that was fairly common in those times.
HH: Did you come close to signing with anybody else?
BR: Well, I mostly considered at that time, Mississippi St., Kentucky, and Western kinda were my final three schools that I kind of narrowed it down to. And I had an opportunity that I could have gone about any place that I wanted to, but it was relatively easy. I think my family wanted me to come here, and Coach Diddle won not only myself, but all my family and the rest of them over during the recruiting process.
HH: He used to play checkers with your father during the recruiting visits?
BR: (Laughs) Yeah, he sure did. He was a great checker player and so he would come in on a visit and set down and ask, “Where’s the checker board,” and they would get to playing. That was a way of putting things at ease. And he, unlike Adolph Rupp……when Rupp came around to visit or recruit, you know he’d (Diddle)
come out into your home and do things like this, but Rupp’s kind of philosophy was he’d come to town and he’d send somebody out to your home to pick you up and take you to a motel and he’d do his recruiting in a motel like that. So, quite a bit of difference there………..
HH: So you just really wanted to play for Coach Diddle?
BR: Yeah, I guess you could say that, without a question. He made you feel wanted………Rupp, wanted you to feel like it was a great opportunity, that he was really giving you something in coming to Kentucky, you know, to play for him. So, kind of a little bit of difference there. Of course both men being very successful coaches.
HH: So did Buck Sydnor have a big part in you choosing Western?
BR: Well…….he certainly…….he didn’t sit down as such and say you ought to go to Western, or you shouldn’t go to Kentucky, but certainly in his talks and his actions and those kinds of things, in an unsettled type of way, you could get that message from him……that he would like very much to send a couple of his high school players to play for his college coach, where he had also been involved as a student coach, to play. But it was one of those things that he didn’t pressure in any way, but he was certainly glad I think, that we chose to come to Western.
HH: Well, tell me what it was like to play for Coach Diddle. What was it about him that made everybody love him so much, even still to this day?
BR: Well, I think he’s one of those people that you run into maybe once or twice in a lifetime that has so much charisma about him that just everyone that he comes in contact with are impressed with him and wants to be his friend and that type of thing. He was a giving type individual, I think. I think he was a great psychologist…..he knew individuals…..he knew when to encourage people……he knew when to brow-beat people, you know, to get on them. He was a tremendous competitor and just a great individual to have experienced being around and being in contact with in your lifetime. I really cherish that. You know you read in the Reader’s Digest, the most unforgettable character you ever met……he would be one of them, without a doubt. And through my career at Western and being around him and who he met on our travels and our games, and wherever we played, and all those kinds of things, Coach Diddle knew everybody, everybody knew him……….and they just wanted to be around him. And he had the ability to not only speak well and to get along with those people such as the players or the parents, or with presidents of universities or presidents of organizations, or whatever. And Coach Diddle, unlike a lot of college coaches today and coaches on other levels……he was concerned about you as an individual, as a person, and as a citizen. And he wanted to do any and everything in his power to see, and to help you be successful in any way that he could. Unlike some of the coaches, that once you’ve used your eligibility up……..well, they really don’t have much time for you at that point in time. And Coach Diddle in his travels, no matter wherever he went, he always wanted to stop and see and visit former players and friends along the way wherever he was. So, as a result of that I think that he was just a man that you would say was a great politician, a great leader, a great motivator, and all of the great things that make up a great individual.
HH: What about practice sessions? What was he like during practice?
BR: Well, he was very demanding. He believed in you giving 100% all the time during practice, game, or wherever. He believed that you should be in top condition. And as I mentioned earlier, he was a great competitor and he had a great desire just to win. The OVC, which Western was a part of at that time, was very competitive, it was local schools, a lot of schools in state…Kentucky and Tennessee. A lot of rivalries, heated rivalries……and it was a good situation. He demanded, he pushed you to get the utmost out of you, but he also would certainly come down hard on you if he deemed necessary, but even in doing that he would know how to put his arm around you, after he had done that at some point, and then bring you back up after he had maybe kind of broken you down. But he certainly wanted each person to give his best and he wanted you to achieve up to your greatest level.
HH: What was Ted Hornback’s role and importance to the team?
BR: Overall he was the guy that would……….I guess the x’s and o’s person you might say, the strategist, the thinking coach……in projecting ahead of what types of offenses and defenses would go against a certain team or a certain defense that you might be playing against in the next game or so. He primarily I think was……his best was offense rather than defense. I think he was a little better at that in drawing up various plays that work, and that type of thing. They worked really great together, almost like a glove fitting on a person’s hand in that he and Coach Diddle worked so well together, and they knew each other and they knew what they wanted each other to do, you know as far as coaching the team and where their roles were, and that type of thing. So they worked very, very well together. I don’t know too many coaches and assistant coaches like that…..of course they were together for so long, all those years too.
HH: So Diddle was mainly the motivator and the leader and Hornback was the strategist?
BR: Yeah, I’d say exactly that’s right and they did a terrific job at it like that. Coach Diddle would say, “Well Ted, show ‘em on the board, draw it up on the board for ‘em and tell ‘em what’s what.” Coach Diddle wasn’t much as that, but Coach Hornback was, and that was his thing. He could get up there and explain and show people on the board or in the film sessions that we had back then in those days, you know, what we should be doing, and they worked very well together. They were helpful and successful as far as coaching the team.
HH: I know Western always came up just a little bit short as far as national championships…..NIT’s, NCAA’s. How much did that really bother Coach Diddle over the years, to always come so close and never really get over the hump?
BR: I think that it did to some degree. I think he felt pretty well rewarded and successful to a large extent. I think he took a small school such as Western back in those days……with an enrollment whenever I came here of like 3,500 students, and with the resources that we had I think that he was very, very successful. So, I think that to a large degree he did not feel a lot of void there. I know he was very happy my sophomore year whenever we went to New Orleans and won the Sugar Bowl Basketball Tournament, one of the most prestigious holiday festival tournaments in those days. And that was of the big highlights in my career here at Western……Coach Diddle won the 700th game in his career, we won the Sugar Bowl Tournament, and I was selected the MVP of that tournament down there in 1960. So, all of those things put together, I know that Coach Diddle really felt good about that, and that was…….as far as winning a big tournament, that type of thing, that was one occasion that he got to do that. That was some good times back in those days and we had a terrific time……if you reflect back on a lot of your memories and things. Then after the basketball tournament was over we had tickets for the Sugar Bowl football game……it was LSU and Mississippi St. playing in the Sugar Bowl, we got to see that. So that was a really tremendous time that you’ll never forget in your lifetime.
HH: I know publicly that Diddle and Rupp always said that they sort of had their own thing going and they really didn’t see any use in playing each other and ruining a good thing, but privately what do you think Diddle really thought about Rupp? I know Rupp always refused to play state schools and he just had that attitude about him.
BR: Well, I think that Coach Diddle…..it wasn’t Coach Diddle that didn’t want to play Rupp, it was the other way around. So, we never had the opportunity when I was here, up until that time, of ever playing Kentucky.We did come close one time in the NCAA Tournament. We would have played Kentucky if we would have won a game that we lost against Morehead at that time. So we were very disappointed about that.
HH: What happened in that Moreahead vs. uk game?
BR: It was a relatively close ball game, Kentucky won. Kentucky in those days, right when I was in college in the early sixties, really was not on a high level. They were winning, as they always did, and had good teams, but they certainly weren’t to the peak of winning national championships right then. Of course they were always a threat with the team they had, but they didn’t win any back in those days, and their record was well above .500 but it was not anywhere like it has been in the last few years where they only lose two, three, or four ball games at the most.
HH: What happened in that Morehead game that you lost?
BR: Well, it was a game that…….in fact, in those days the OVC Champion got an automatic bid to the NCAA and they had to play a first round game in the NCAA Tournament. Now the larger conferences such as the Big Ten or the SEC, they received a bye in those earlier rounds. So, the OVC team would have to win a game and then they were always paired against either the Big Ten winner or the SEC winner, and they flip-flopped it each year.
HH: And twice you had to play Ohio St. right?
BR: Yes, we did. So, you know, first of all you had to win a first round game and then you up against some of the stronger conferences in existence at that time. So the small schools and conferences such as Western were at a great, great disadvantage……and you know that’s one of the reasons that you talk about being able to win national championships and those kinds of things, you’re at a tremendous disadvantage and that’s why it’s so much more difficult to do that.
HH: Didn’t Ohio St. one of those years that they beat you go on to win the national championship?
BR: In 1960…..that’s a story in itself. We had a first round game in Lexington, Ky. and we played Miami, Fl. at that time and they were rated like seventh or eighth in the country. And we went there and played those guys and beat them in the first round, and then that was like on a Monday night, and then on Friday night the Mideast Regional was held in Louisville. Well on Monday night after that ball game was over was when probably the biggest snow storm that ever hit this area hit, and we had a 21-inch snow. And we had a tremendous following……buses that went up there, some fifteen or twenty…… ……fan buses, the students were all on those, and none of them were able to make it back to Bowling Green, and neither was the team bus. The team bus made it back to Elizabethtown and so we had to spend the night there. Those other student buses they got caught out on the road and they finally had to, the next day I think, they had to spend the night on the bus……and the next day they finally brought a train down from Louisville to get them back to campus. But we never did make it back to campus from Monday through Friday and we did go on in and play……we were scheduled to play Ohio St.on Friday night in Louisville, and so we were stranded in Elizabethtown for two days and then finally about Thursday we made it on back to Louisville, some forty miles or so, and practiced before that game. And we played Ohio St. when they had Jerry Lucas and John Havlicek and those guys, and they did go on to win the national championship that year. And that was one of the best halves of basketball of any team that I was ever on here at Western against Ohio St.in that first Mideast Regional game against those guys. We really had those guys in disarray, we had them down about eight or ten points at halftime and really had them on the run, but with their tremendous firepower and Lucas and all those guys, and their reserves, they came back in the second half and kind of won the game convincingly. But we felt very good about that, you know playing the game that we did, and also them going on to win the national championship.
HH: So outside of Ohio St. was there anyone that you couldn’t have beaten that year really? I mean I guess you could have beaten them, but was it just that they were too strong? So much stronger than everybody else?
BR: Yeah I think that basically their strength and their size with Lucas……of course I don’t know what their record was that year but they probably hadn’t lost a couple of ball games. And of course not only did they have great starters but they had great reserves and all of that, and we basically had five or six guys that we played, and we kind of…….more or less I believe, we kind of ran out of steam in that game and got very tired in the second half. We played…..I can’t really remember now, some of the teams that we beat, but we beat some very good teams. Just like the Miami team that we beat that was rated in the top ten in the country, you know in that first round NCAA game. So we beat some very fine teams to get to where we were.
HH: You were involved in probably the most controversial game or play at Western up here in the Red Barn against Eastern that time. When supposedly Coach Diddle hit or pushed that Eastern player. Tell me a little bit about that game.
BR: Well, we had played Eastern earlier in the season and I think Eastern had beaten us at Richmond. And they came back into Bowling Green I think in late January maybe, I’m not sure when it was, and so this was a real crucial game for both us and them, but of course if they came here to Bowling Green and beat us after already beating us in Richmond then we were really in trouble. So we were really prepared to the tilt that night and the fans as well. And they came in here and we were beating them convincingly…….and so this particular play I was on a fast break type situation and was going up for the basket, and Ralph Richardson, who a lot of people remember, and Carl Cole, two of the better players at Eastern…….we all went up as I went up to shoot this layup and there was a tremendous collision there and we all tumbled to the floor. And back in those days the benches were on the ends of the court rather than on the side, and Coach Diddle sat on the end of the bench there and we were all in a pile on the floor there and Coach Diddle…..at the end of the bench stood up and either pushed someone or…….he did not slug anybody by any means, or maybe he was trying to help us get up or whatever he was doing, and their coach then came down…..he was getting beat convincingly, and I think he was looking for an easy exit (Laughs) and he found one. But he took his team off the floor at that point and there was a lot of discussions with the officials and that type thing, and they gave him ample time to bring his team back and he refused to do that, so the officials just forfeited the game and the game ended 38-20 with five minutes left in the first half. So that is one of the times in history that a game was won by forfeit. I guess maybe the ONLY time maybe in the middle of the game that a game was stopped like that.
HH: I know on those same teams with you were Harry Todd and Charlie Osborne. Now Charlie Osborne, someone told me that he died pretty young?
BR: Charlie was killed in an automobile accident some six or eight years after he left Western here. He was driving a small sports car back up in Eastern Kentucky near Paintsville where he was from. The story was that he had had a flat tire on this sports car and he had one of these temporary smaller spare tires on the car at that time and that tire blew out, and the car, it was a convertible, and it flipped several times and rolled over and he was killed in the accident. I went to the funeral up there…..and so that was a sad occasion to see someone that you had spent a lot of time with, so young in their life, you know something like that to happen to.
HH: He was from Paintsville?
BR: Well, actually I think he said Flat Gap, was maybe where he played high school wise but it’s in the area near Paintsville, so that’s where the funeral was held, in Paintsville.
HH: Had he been playing pro ball?
BR: Charlie was drafted by Syracuse and he went up and stayed with Syracuse some time and I believe he broke a wrist or something, received an injury, and that kind of ended his professional career. But Charlie was a tremendous player, a very physical player, and a very small player….height wise, as far as the position he played. He stood only about 6′ 6″ back in those days and that was very small even then for a center. But he had the physical strength and the size, and the toughness and the roughness……..I mean he really played physical. But he was able to play there and was a tremendous player……and was a tremendous shot in a lot of ways. I think he may still at this point hold the percentage free throw record here at Western Kentucky for the best percentage for any players to play here at Western.
HH: Isn’t he one of the all-time leading rebounders also?
BR: Oh, he would be yeah, certainly. Charlie had the ability to shoot a semi-hook shot, kind of a push-shot / hook-shot from in close around the basket and he carried his left elbow when he would swing around in that hook shot motion and he carried that elbow high. And he connected lots of times with the defensive guys, and so I’ve seen a lot of guys get injured as a result of that big elbow of Charlie’s (Laughs). But he certainly kept the guys off of him, from over-guarding him, by that method.
HH: What about Harry Todd? What happened to him?
BR: Harry is now in Cadiz, Ky. He is a tourism commissioner there. He retired from the military after spending 25 or 30 years in the military there, and I see Harry occasionally. Harry had a daughter to go through Western not too long ago, she was a volleyball player here at Western. He seems to be doing okay, he gets back on campus occasionally.
HH: Is there any one game that really stands out for you while you were playing here, other than the Eastern game?
BR: That game……of course I already mentioned the Sugar Bowl game, I don’t know, there were a lot of big games and I don’t know if any one game stands out as such like that. A game that I can think of that was also a crucial game for us in our senior year was when we went to Cookeville to play Tennessee Tech, and of course Coach Oldham, which everybody knows, was coaching at Tech at that time. And Tech and Western were either tied or one-two in the conference standings at that time and we went down there and the football team went along wearing their Western letter jackets……..they didn’t have tickets but it didn’t matter to them, they kind of rough-housed back in those days and they just actually went to the door to where you go in and………some of them had some tickets, but a lot of them didn’t have tickets, and they just stormed their way into the gymnasium. They were courteous enough not to take somebody’s seat but they just actually went in and sit on the floor near the playing floor……..
HH: Was this the entire football team?
BR: I’d say it had to be at least 30, 35, 40 of the football team, and it was a real game down there, back and forth, and it was a rough game, and a lot of tension involved in the game, an we were lucky enough to win that ball game after a real struggle. And that really put us in the driver’s seat as far as the conference standings were concerned. Well after the game was over the football players wasn’t satisfied with us just to win the game and they were going to cut the nets down, and they did get the net on the end where most of them were sitting, but on the other end were Tech’s football players sitting on the stage. And they went to that end, they weren’t satisfied with getting the net on just one end, they were going to get both nets. So they were met with opposition by Tech’s football team on the other end (LAUGHS) and the biggest free-for-all occurred on the floor that I’ve ever been involved in at that point in time……..
HH: So there was actually a fight?
BR: Oh, Yeah. A tremendous fight. And I’m talking about 50, 75, 100 people out on the floor fighting at that point in time.
Luckily back in those days they were only using their fists, they weren’t using knives and guns, so no one was really seriously injured. But I’ll never forget that game……as the game ended the horn went off and I was at the opposite end of the floor from where we went off the floor to the dressing room, and of course everyone knew the tension was there, so as soon as the horn went off and the game was already decided then everybody went on a run to the dressing room to get off of the floor. Being on the opposite end of the floor, people just swarmed the floor at that time and I couldn’t get to the dressing room and these fights broke out almost immediately.
HH: So was the basketball team involved in the fight?
BR: Not so much, it was mostly spectators and football players……
HH: What was Coach Diddle doing while this was going on?
BR: Well, Coach Diddle evidently was trying to get all of the team in the dressing room and keep them out of the fight you see. And so I got cut off and couldn’t make it to the dressing room and I wound up going into the reserved seating of the Tennessee Tech area, not the student section, but the townspeople, and was able to stay out of the fight as a result of that.
I told people all the time that I was a player not a fighter (LAUGHS). But anyway, the fight went on for some five or ten minutes at least and I finally made it to the dressing room…….
HH: Did the police finally break it up?
BR: Yeah…….to some extent, but these football players, with no place to go…….they got separated from their buddies and so forth, and they would bring them to the basketball dressing room. They would bring them in and these guys would have knots all over their heads, scratches, and what have you, and so they’d bring them in down there. But anyway, at that time the Tennessee Tech student section was waiting at the door for us when we went to our bus. So finally they had some student people and some of their leaders to actually allow us free-way to get to the bus, but you talk about a bus getting rocked, and bricks getting thrown at it, and that type of thing, we still got that, but we were really lucky to get out of that town without anybody getting seriously injured……and that was certainly a game that I will never forget. But we had a lot of other games and trips that we went on……airplane situations, to happen. We had one in New Orleans one time where we had played there and we went out to get on the plane……..and they chartered DC-3′s back in those days, you know the three wheel type of planes……and one of those gales…..strong winds, hit about the time that we actually went out in taxi cabs out on the tarmac and had gotten in the plane, and they were gassing is up at that time when this tremendous storm hit and it started to blow the plane around……in fact it blew it around into the gasoline truck, and we were just fortunate that plane and that truck of oil didn’t blow up with that highly volatile airline fuel then. And it damaged the plane and so we had to get another plane before we could ever fly back to Bowling Green. That was an occasion…….and then we spent another occasion at Morehead one time where we got snowed in after we played a game up there and we spent the night on the bus stranded up in the hills, up in the Morehead area. Another time we were going to New York…….and Coach Diddle always took along picnic lunches, or sack lunches, that we would eat rather than having to stop at a restaurant some place. Of course he was concerned about the dollars back then and he could get the food out of the cafeteria a lot cheaper than what he could buy it in a restaurant someplace. So we were flying to New York, we always took a New York trip each year……into Madison Square Garden and playing a double header and that type of thing, and the people just loved Coach Diddle up there. By the way…….I don’t know if……anyway, to finish this story, and then I want to mention another thing, we got in this plane and we hit these air pockets, and we had started to eat our picnic lunch at the time, and we were standing up in the plane and we didn’t have our seat belts buckled or nothing else. And we had given everybody a quart of milk and we drank it right out of the quart a lot of times rather than from a cup, and so we got to hitting these air pockets and I mean this milk started flying out of these cups and these cartons, and milk was all over everybody, all over the airplane, food everywhere, and so that was another memorable thing that I’ll always remember. But Coach Diddle, as you’re well aware, and as a lot of people are, he went into Madison Square Garden in the early days and he carried the towel with him, the Red Towel, and he always put on a tremendous show for the folks there as a result of that. And he also had a pre-game warm-up activity where he used multi-colored basketballs painted like beach balls and they warmed up with those things just like the red, white and blue basketballs that they played with in the old ABA league, and it was a tremendous show for the people in Madison Square Garden. and man they really liked to see that pre-game warmup as well as to see Western’s teams play up there. So they always wanted Coach Diddle to come back up there and play in Madison Square as a result of putting on that show and also the actual game that was played up there. So that’s something that some people may not be aware of……..that was one of the things that really caught on in the early days when Coach Diddle was coaching.
HH: Did that have anything to do with maybe the ABA going with the multi-colored ball?
BR: I’m not sure about that…….it might have been, they might have gotten the idea from that, I’m not sure. But I don’t know of anyone else that ever did that back in those days, and I’m talking that was even before I got here, you know back in the late 30′s and the early 40′s.
HH: Do you have a favorite story about Coach Diddle that’s maybe not as widely known as some of the others?
BR: Oh boy, I don’t know. Most of them have been told……you know about his dog that time he locked him up, he put him in his trunk……..
HH: One that maybe happened while you were playing here?
BR: Well, one thing that people used to agitate Coach Diddle about……..you know he did a lot of fussing at various times, and one time prior to when I came here to play they played a trick on Coach Diddle and somebody put a cat in Coach Diddle’s locker. Coach Diddle had a locker in the dressing room along with all the players and he would come down there and dress and sometimes he didn’t dress out every day, but anyway, these guys wanted to play a trick on Coach Diddle and they got this cat someplace or another and they put it in Coach Diddle’s locker. And Coach Diddle was maybe out of town or whatever, I think, and he didn’t find the cat until the cat had died several days later and the cat had already started to smell at that time. And Coach Diddle never could find out who put that cat in there, they never would tell you see, but to agitate Coach Diddle they used to “meow” and it would bring this old story up. He knew what they were doing and he would get mad whenever somebody would do that. That was one of the things in the shower room……the guys would get in the shower and Coach Diddle would be in the dressing room and somebody would start “meowing” in the shower. And it was an enclosed shower and you couldn’t see who was in there and Coach Diddle would be where he could hear it and he would go running to the shower………and by that time they knew he was coming and they all got quiet. He’d go back to his locker and they would let out another “meow” (LAUGHS)
HH: So who put the cat in there?
BR: I’m not sure, I never did know about that, I don’t know if they ever told or not because Coach Diddle would have maybe went after them years later (LAUGHS). That’s one, and I’m sure you did hear the one about where he had the dog locked up his car trunk and he didn’t find it for several days and he asked the dog where he had been all that time……he had forgotten to let the dog after he got back off a hunting trip…..out of his trunk. But there’s a lot of stories like that and they’ve been told over and over many times and they’re all good ones. They’ve all been added to a little bit you know.
HH: Do you still miss him?
BR: Yeah…….I really do. And some of the things that you’re doing right here is tremendous, the history should be preserved, and you know to hear Coach Diddle on one of the tapes that I got to hear just a few days ago…….I don’t know anything that’s more refreshing than getting to hear somebody, hear their voice, you know some 20 or 30 years later, and it’s almost like he was sitting right here with you. So, that type thing really needs preserved, it needs to be carried on……the traditions that Coach Diddle had here. You know, so many of our students now and even our basketball players really don’t know much about Coach Diddle and if we don’t continue……..this gymnasium is named after him, and rightfully so, but that tradition and what he stood for is the type thing that what Western was built on and we’ve kind of lost some of that. And if we can instill that back in to some our students and to our teams then I think that will go a long way in getting us to where we want to be as far as our basketball program is concerned.
HH: Most players that have been here the last few years, they don’t know anything about the great players or coaches that came before them…….what a great tradition we have. It seems like nobody is bothering to teach them or tell them about it.
BR: I think you’re exactly right. It’s the kind of thing I think that………certainly you’ve got to look to the future but also you need to carry some of the traditions that have gotten you where you are, what you stand for, and what you really are.
HH: What’s the chances of maybe getting some jerseys retired and hung inside of Diddle Arena somewhere?
BR: Well, they’ve talked about that some and I think that’s some of the kind of things that needs to be looked into…….some of those traditions carried on. As you are probably aware, Western’s hall of fame has only been in existence for some seven or eight years and that’s the type of thing, or some of the things that we need to do not only for basketball but for all the other sports here at Western. To bring them in existence and keep those things well in people’s minds.
HH: Not only retire some jerseys for some of the players, but we could retire a “#1″ jersey for Coach Diddle and place it in there as well.
BR: Well, I think that would be most appropriate, and I think his jersey, or whatever represented him, should be the first thing to be placed there. He’s just an individual that I can just look back as long as I live and just say, “Man I’m so thankful that I had the opportunity to be around him, and for some of his influences to have made an impact on me.”
HH: I’ve suggested to a couple of people that maybe before some of the games this season that they could play a few sound clips of Coach Diddle over the PA system.
BR: Yeah. That would be great.Those are some of the kinds of things that I think will help to keep people interested in your program, involved in your program, and keep some of the old traditions going.
HH: Another thing that I have suggested to some people is maybe the week before the season starts we could have something like a “Hilltopper Week”, where we could have all sorts of activities around campus and around town involving former players and the new players, and at the end of the week hold a banquet where everybody gets together and they debut some of these old game films out in Diddle Arena on a large screen.
BR: Yeah, that would be great to do some of those kind of things………
HH: Get the new players and let them meet the old guys……..
BR: I think that’s one thing that you could do, and you could do that maybe at various times during the season at home games…..invite some of the former players or certain teams from certain eras back and have them down in the dressing room at some point and let some of these newer guys get to know some of the older guys and let them visit and tell stories like we are here right now, and that type thing. I think that would be excellent to do that.
HH: Okay, I just have a few more questions. After you left Western you went to the Phillips 66er’s basketball team, what exactly were they?
BR: Phillips 66 oil company sponsored a basketball team for some 30 or 40 years and the team was founded back in the thirties. Some of the basketball players that played on those early teams, many of them went on to hold very prominent positions in the oil company. K.C. Adams was the president of the company……by the way one of his sons I think is the owner of the Oilers football team…….Bud Adams. But anyway, his daddy was one of the early founders of the Phillips 66 basketball team, and many of those people, like I said, went on to hold vice-president, president, chairman of the board, and those type of positions, but the company sponsored this team kind of as a means of getting their story……as publicity and advertisement for the company. And we traveled all over the world, in all different areas wherever Phillips Petroleum Co. might be doing business and I played for those people for four years. It’s what you would call…..most people would be familiar with….an amateur or semi-pro type situation, and back in those days there was a league of some eight or ten teams…..there was a lot of other companies back then that would sponsor teams, and it was a very good league and it had a lot of very, very good players……Bob Curlen, one of the first seven-footers, played out there, and a lot of other guys like that in the early days, you know the 30′s, the 40′s, the 50′s, and the early 60′s. Later on some of the companies started to not sponsor teams and so the oil companies would come in and play college teams sort of like the “Athletes in Action” team might do now, an exhibition game. So we played a lot of college teams like that in the four years I was there. In 1966, my last year there we played back then what was Texas Western, and of course we were all college players and had already graduated and were playing against guys that weren’t quite as experienced as us, but we beat Texas Western and they went on to win the NCAA that year and I think that may have been the only one, or one of the very few, maybe two or three games, that they lost all year long.
HH: Don’t you think Western should have won it that year, in ’66? The year they got ripped off in the Michigan game?
BR: Well, I think they had a great chance to, and that’s talked about quite often, you know the call that kind of ended that game. So that’s what we’re talking about here today……some of those traditions and some of those kinds of things that you remember…….
HH: Western’s always…………Western could very easily have a half-dozen national championships, just a couple of breaks here and there………
BR: Yeah. That’s right. Of course you know Jim McDaniels and the great team that he played on, that overtime game that they lost down there in the Houston Astrodome……and so we’ve had some very, very good teams.
HH: You participated in the Olympic Trials didn’t you, in ’64?
BR: Yes, I did. Senator Bill Bradley was one of the participants back then and what they did back then was a good deal different than how the Olympic Trials are done now……..they would bring in groups of teams of all-stars on various teams and they would play a series of games. And generally speaking, the team that won, in these series of games, or had the most wins, then they would have the most players to compose the Olympic team. And back in those days the league that we played in ……..of course professionals weren’t eligible back then, but the league that we played in the majority of the Olympic team was made up of players from that league. So I played in the 1964 Olympic Trials in New York City against guys such as Senator Bill Bradley and others up there. We had a fella that played on our team then that went on to make the Olympic team, and was the leading scorer on that team and captain of the team, Jerry Shipp (sp?) and he was a tremendous player, a tremendous shooter, and all-around player. But we had some very, very fine teams and players that played back in those days, and that was something that I will always remember, playing in the Olympic Trials. And I also played in some other tournaments, world tournaments, and we had teams that represented the whole United States and we went into Santiago, Chile, and played in a tournament there against the Russians, the Yugoslavians, and a lot more of the major basketball-playing countries back in those times. And we played in a soccer stadium there in Santiago and it seated about 100,000 people for soccer and we had some 50,000 – 60,000 there for basketball. I’ll never forget this…….we marched in just like the Olympics each country carrying their own flag and I had the good fortune of being the captain of the U.S. team and I got to carry the United States flag in as we marched in. One amusing thing that happened at that tournament while we were playing there, being outdoors, the dew would begin to fall early in the night when the sun would go down and it made the floor slick, and guys were slipping and sliding and falling down all over the floor. So every five or ten minutes, they didn’t know what to do to keep the floor dry so they could finish the games, so they brought in piles of sawdust and put it on the sidelines, so every ten minutes after the dew would fall they would take the brooms and sweep the sawdust onto the floor where it would absorb the dew then we could play another five or ten minutes………it would be a timeout every five or ten minutes and they would put the sawdust on there. (LAUGHS) Then I played in some other countries where we played outdoors, actually on sand courts, where it would be just like a baseball diamond where you had chalk for free throw lines, the out of bounds lines, and that type of thing. So, I’ve really had some great experiences. But you had to be a pretty good shooter back in those days when you’re playing on those outdoor courts because you had to worry about the wind you see, when the wind was blowing it would blow your ball when you’d shoot (LAUGHS). So we had a lot of fun and certainly a lot of experiences, I got to do a lot of traveling and all those type things. So basketball has really been great to me.
HH: Did you get drafted into the NBA when you were graduated?
BR: I was drafted in 1962…….I was the 17th overall draft pick, but now days that would be in the middle of the first round. But I was drafted by the New York Knicks and I went up there and talked to those people at that time and they wanted to sign me. Of course I had this opportunity also with the Phillips 66 Oil Co., and I didn’t mention a while ago but not only did you play basketball for them but you had a position in the company and you worked for them, and once your basketball playing was over then you had been trained for a particular position in a certain dept. in the company and you just moved right on into that position and you had a career going for you. So back in those days that was enticing and that was a good deal for a lot of individuals, so I did do that for four years and then after that I went into the American Basketball Association, which was being formed just at the time I was finishing up with Phillips, and I played for about 2 1/2 years with the Kentucky Colonels in the old ABA up there……..and there’s a lot of good times that we had………..
HH: You played for Johnny Givens to start with?
BR: Johnny Givens was the first coach, a Western person, and John lasted only part of a year there. Then Gene Rhodes, who was here at Western at that time as an assistant coach, had a good reputation and was from Louisville, and so he was hired then to come in as the coach of the Kentucky Colonels, and so I played most of my professional career for Gene Rhodes with the Colonels.
HH: Do you ever regret not going to the NBA?
BR: Well…….not so much. Especially since I had this opportunity later to play in the ABA but if I hadn’t of done that I think I would more so, because you see, that’s kind of the ultimate maybe, the best players so to speak, that were around at the time. And I was a little bit afraid, being a country boy as I was, and being drafted by the Knicks and going to New York City (LAUGHS) and living in New York City and playing basketball, that kind of frightened me. So as a result of that it made it a little bit easier for me to decide to play with the Phillips 66 Oil Co. So I don’t regret that, I had an opportunity to travel all over the world. I’ve been to some 30-40 foreign countries and seen how all of those people live and exist, so it was an education in itself during those four years that I was with Phillips out there. So I don’t regret that at all.
HH: Okay, if you were a head coach and you could pick an all-time starting five from Western, position by position who would that be?
BR: (LAUGHS) That’s pretty difficult. Well, I’ll just mention a few that I know about, basically there’s some old-timers that maybe I don’t know about that may have been great players, but I’ll just mention a few, maybe even more than four or five. Tom Marshall, certainly as far as I know about Western players, would have to be one of the best players that’s ever been at Western……
HH: Did you see him play?
BR: Yes I did. And of course most everyone would have to include Jim McDaniels and his record that he had here at Western Kentucky and his achievements. I think that Darel Carrier was probably the greatest, or one of the greatest shooters that was ever here at Western; Clem Haskins of course, you got to know Clem, and I would include him. A person that had a tremendous record here and achieved and accomplished a lot of things, and probably never reached his full potential was Ralph Crosthwaite. He played…….he was a senior when I came in as a freshman, of course freshmen weren’t allow to play during those years, but Ralph had a lot of all-around ability at 6′ 9″. He led the nation his junior and senior and years in Field Goal percentage, he’s up there close in the rebounding records at Western, he was a great passer and also a good rebounder, so he was an all-around player really. He lacked the determination to work maybe as hard as he should have but I would have to include Ralph on one of those teams. That’s just a few of the people that I know about….
HH: What about Dwight Smith? What did you think about him?
BR: I didn’t get to see a lot of Dwight’s career here at Western. I was off, I had just left two of three years previous and I was playing all over the world myself. So I just have to go on here say on what other people say. He no doubt had to be a tremendous player. I think a player that probably……..ultimately achieved as much as anybody that’s ever been at Western Kentucky, if you stop and look at his record, is his brother Greg who played for the Milwaukee Bucks in the world championship, and he started on that team as a small forward. He probably developed and was a greater player in the professional ranks than what he was in college, which a lot of players as you know are tremendous as college players but they don’t do too well in the pros. He was the opposite of that…….and he was a tremendous player, a defensive player, a rebounder, and all the things that go along with that. So I think he’s a guy that’s kind of a lot of times not as mentioned as much as others, but when you look at the total player he should be.
HH: Well, what do you think about Coach Felton? Have you met him yet?
BR: I’ve met Coach Felton and some of his assistant coaches…….I like what they are doing. They’re working very hard. I think they are trying to put a lot of pride back in the program. And as you and I have mentioned already earlier here…..a lot of the success is going to be determined on what type, or how good of a player that they’re going to able to recruit here. They’re out working very hard at that, and I think they’re going to be successful in bringing in better players. Not only will they bring them but I think you will see a lot of pride in those guys and a lot of hard work. I’m really impressed by the program and how hard they have these guys here working and what they’re doing right now. So I think there’s a lot of bright days ahead for Western’s basketball program. Or course everybody would like to see it certainly move up to a different level than where we’ve been, you know in the last few years, so I’m very optimistic.
HH: What’s that going to take to get to the next level, a coaching staff like Felton’s?
BR: I think it begins with that…….and fan support, and then conference affiliation, and money, and ALL the things that goes into making a great program.
HH: You know how bad the fan support has been around here the last few years, what do you think Coach Diddle would think about everything, like the lack of support of from the students, if he was around today?
BR: Oh, I think he would go away kind of heart-broken, just shaking his head and sad of the fact of the lack of enthusiasm from the team, so to speak, and also that carry-over that you have in the crowd, the lack of enthusiasm there. I think that he would really be disturbed by that because he stood for the exact opposite of that, and team and fan support when I was here was at a very peak. I can remember games before they ever started, that the gym would fill half an hour or an hour before…….you know, they would just have a continuous pep rally going on and when that team finally took the floor, I mean you would think that the roof was going off the building. And if you’re any kind of individual and a player…….and if that doesn’t lift you up and motivate you a little bit then nothing will, but that was some of the conditions that I had the great fortunes of playing under here at Western under Coach Diddle and also the community support that we had at those times. So that was just tremendous…….I think that’s where everybody would like to see us get back to.
HH: If Coach Diddle was still around he probably wouldn’t allow it to be like this would he?
BR: Well, I don think so. I think he would die trying to bring it to a high peak…….and I think that he would, the type of person that he was and so forth……..
HH: Is that what we’re missing really, somebody like him, a leader like that?
BR: Well, I think so. We have had a great deal of………in the last fifteen or twenty years, I don’t know exactly how many coaches that we have had, but when you don’t have the continuity, and you’re not able to build upon what it is that’s positive…….you know we’ve had some good coaches, and they moved on to other places: Keady, Haskins, Willard, and others. Then you kind of lose something. When you bring in a coach and you have him for three or four years and then he moves on, it kind of takes something away from the program, and I know Western is the type of school, size school that it is, the conference that it’s affiliated with…….it’s almost something that you’re going to have to live with probably in the future because you bring in these other bigger schools and they will come in and buy a coach away from Western so to speak, and we’re not just able to compete because of our resources. So we’ve got to kind of readjust and do the best that we can do, but if we certainly can get coaches to stay with us a longer period of time I think that makes it so much easier.