The great game of basketball has provided me with some outstanding memories since that day in 1944 when I started playing the sport.
Looking back, I’ve picked out my five greatest basketball memories as a player, coach, official, radio/TV commentator and fan.
Here they are in the order they occurred:
— As a senior on the 1955 Bangor High School team, I was able to to play three games in the famous old Boston Garden in the New England tourney in front of 13,909 fans during a quarterfinal win, semifinal loss, and consolation game victory.
In the consolation game, we played tournament favorite Hillhouse High of New Haven, Connecticut. They were 25-0 going into the tournament and were upset in the semifinals by Somerville High of Massachusetts. We went on the beat Hillhouse 66-60 to finish as the third best team in New England in 1955.
— When coaching at Orono High School in the 1968-69 season, my brother-in-law, Gerald “Red” Briggs, was coaching at York. We thought we might meet in the Class B state final. Instead, he ended up coming to Orono as my junior varsity and assistant coach because he was not rehired.
Orono went undefeated (21-0) after winning the Class B East championship and we went to scout York as our tourney ended before its started. After York won the Western Maine title, I said, “Red give me the game plan as you know them better than I do.”
He did just that and his game plan was to go right at them inside as their 6-foot-6 post player and 6-5 forward hadn’t been challenged. We matched them up against our 6-7 Peter Gavett and 6-6 Fred Radke. Their big players were in foul trouble by halftime and we went on to win the state title 64-45, In the postgame ceremonies, I introduced Red as “former York coach Red Briggs who came up with the game plan for tonight’s win.”
— As an official in 1978, I subbed in for the game between Boston University and UMaine at Memorial Gym, “the Pit,” in Orono with a young Rick Pitino as the BU coach. I had officiated the JV game with an official who worked for UMaine.
The assigned officials for the varsity game had missed their flight so I was asked to do the varsity game along with a high school official who was attending the game, Butch Canaan, as Pitino wouldn’t take the other official from the JV game because he worked at UMaine.
I told Pitino to wait a day for two college officials but he refused.
Jokingly, I told him of the two words I wouldn’t accept if he was upset with a call and I was surprised when he yelled both during the game. I called a technical for each word and asked if he wanted a third — then it took three technicals to eject a coach.
He replied no to my question and sat down. After the game, which UMaine won, Pitino said he should have listened to me.
“About the two words?” I said.
“No, we should have played tomorrow,” he replied.
— As a color commentator for WABI-TV in Bangor, I was doing the Class A state final between Bangor and Deering. I watched Bangor’s Joe Campbell lose his balance and the ball in the foul circle in the final seconds. A Deering player dribbled the ball in backcourt and Zack Ray stole the ball and threw up a desperation 35-footer which was too short but Campbell hustled under the Rams basket, caught the ball and scored to win the game at the buzzer.
— As a fan watching a Division I college game on TV, the team with ball was down one point with 15 seconds to go when a player drove into the lane, lost the ball and fell down. A defender scooped up the ball, dribbled down the court, missed a dunk and the rebound went all the way back to the player who had missed the first shot. He grabbed the ball and hit the winning basket at the buzzer.