Westmont College offered a much different prophecy, foreseeing it as the year it would break free for basketball redemption and its first NAIA Final Four.
This year’s Warriors have stirred memories of that storybook season with a perfect 10-0 start. They’ll put that winning streak on the line when Vanguard visits Murchison Gym on Saturday at 7:30 p.m.
Westmont opened the 1983-84 season with 18 consecutive victories while on its way to a 31-4 record and the NAIA National semifinals. The winning streak remains the longest in school history.
“It was an amazing team,” said current coach John Moore, Westmont Class of 1978 and older brother of 1984 point guard Mike Moore. “They had two sets of five — 10 guys who could’ve started for any other Westmont team.”
He laughs when asked if this year’s team is better. He saw enough games in 1984 to know.
“You kidding me?” he replied. “I don’t say that because my brother was on the team, or that my close friend (current assistant coach) Jeff Azain was also on it.
“There’s never been a better Westmont team that I’ve seen.”
His own 2015 squad which advanced to the NAIA championship game was “more of a Cinderella team.” The 1984 club, in comparison, was the crown prince of Kammerer Court, the Murchison Gym floor that would be named after its record-setting coach.
The 1984 roster was stocked with three Division 1 transfers – Mike Moore from San Jose State, 6-7 forward Mark Sheard from Portland, and two-time NAIA All-America guard Dave Schultz from Arizona State.
It also had an imposing post presence with 6-foot-9 Troy Knechtel and 6-7 Kent Eaton, an athletic small forward in 6-4 Torrey Larsen, and a bench unlike any other in the NAIA. The reserves included Sheard, 6-5 co-captain Joe West, guards Dave Church and Jeff Crosby, and Azain, a sophomore forward who had just transferred in from Cal State Northridge.
“Sheard was an All-American that year and he didn’t even start,” John Moore said. “Church had scored a ton of points at Cuesta College … He was an older and more mature player who told the coaches that he was willing to come off the bench.”
Westmont had a brain trust headed by Chet Kammerer and Randy Pfund, both future NBA coaches and executives, as well as a dozen set of broad shoulders that carried a big chip: The Warriors’ upset defeat to Point Loma in the 1983 District 3 finals. That loss denied them a trip to the NAIA Tournament in Kansas City for the fifth straight year.
“Throughout this whole season,” Kammerer would admit during the winning streak of 1984, “that defeat has been gnawing at us.”
John Moore, the point guard on the previous Westmont team to qualify for the NAIA Tournament, had followed the Warriors’ progress so closely in 1983 that he’d planned to travel with them to Kansas City. He’d have to wait a year to make that trip.
“I was so certain they’d win the game against Point Loma that I called my mom and asked, ‘When are we leaving?’” he said. “She told me, ‘No, they lost.’
“I literally fell out of the chair I was sitting in. Then I went, ‘No Mom … When are we leaving?’
“That loss really incentivized them. It gave them the motivation to put in the work that would make them as great as they were the following year.”
Westmont, unranked at the start the 1984 season, asserted itself immediately with consecutive romps over a trio of then-NCAA Division 2 schools. The victories were by margins of 17 points at Northridge and 23 at Cal Poly. The Warriors also demolished San Francisco State 79-41 at Murchison Gym.
The previous night, San Francisco State had handed UCSB its first loss of the season.
The Warriors were 7-0 and ranked 14th in the NAIA by the time they took a post-Christmas trip to Quincy, Ill. for an eight-team tournament that included several other top-25 teams. They opened against Carson-Newman, Tenn., another NAIA Tournament team that was riding a seven-game winning streak of its own.
“I got a scouting report from a friend and he said, ‘Believe me, they have more talent than your team,’” Kammerer told reporters before the opening game.
But Shultz scored 22 points, Larsen added 18, and Knechtel played what Kammerer called “his best game ever at Westmont” to power the Warriors to a 107-91 win.
Kammerer did suffer a loss that night, however: his voice. It relegated him to “sign language” for the semifinal victory over tournament host Quincy. It looked like Harpo Marx was coaching the team, Pfund mused afterward.
Kearney State, Neb., another team that would punch a ticket to K.C., punched the Warriors in the mouth to start the championship game, taking a 35-33 lead with 13 minutes to go. But Westmont rallied furiously behind tournament MVP Schultz to romp to a 76-58 victory and then cut down the nets with just as much energy.
“They were filled with emotion,” Kammerer acknowledged afterward.
The Warriors’ next big task was a trek to Flagstaff to play Northern Arizona, a Division 1 school from the Big Sky Conference. NAU had already defeated Arizona State and it lost at Arizona by just six points.
“We knew we would be measured by how we did,” Kammerer said.
They came up big, 74-58, for their 11th straight victory.
The Warriors increased their streak to 13 wins while capturing their own Tom Byron Classic, named in memory of the program’s former coach.
They tied the school record for consecutive wins in their next game, vanquishing Vanguard — known then as Southern California College — by an astonishing 121-76 score. Sheard scored 29 points on 13-of-15 shooting and then publicly thanked his teammates for making him “look good.”
“You can’t help but love the guys out there,” he said.
The lovefest continued the following game when Westmont broke the school’s win-streak record by beating Biola 67-54 before a sellout crowd of 2,200 at Murchison Gym. Biola co-coach Howard Lyon, the only District 3 voter in the NAIA national poll, declared, “Right now, they look like No. 1 in the nation to me.”
The college’s student body was also caught up in the hoopla. One of the signs posted at Murchison Gym that night referred to top-ranked NCAA power Houston while declaring, “Move over Phi Slama Jama … Here comes the Maroon Monsoon.”
But the Warriors’ captains, West and Schultz, issued a monsoon warning the next week.
“We’re a good team, but not as good as we could be,” West told his teammates during a players’ meeting. “I’ve lost three years in a row in the district semifinals or finals, and I don’t want that to happen again this year.”
They responded by crushing L.A. Baptist, 86-36, and Cal Baptist, 86-53 to up their winning streak to 17 games and their NAIA ranking to No. 1.
With no shot clock, Cal Lutheran tried to end Westmont’s streak the following week by stalling for several minutes a possession. The Warriors waited out the Kingsmen, however, for a 57-40 victory to improve its record to 18-0.
The perfect season was finally blemished on Jan. 28 at Grand Canyon College in Phoenix. The Warriors were called for a controversial blocking foul with three seconds left and Grand Canyon made both foul shots for a 47-46 lead.
Schultz was fouled soon after taking the inbounds pass but was awarded no free throws: Westmont, victimized by a foul discrepancy of 23-12, was not yet in the bonus.
Kammerer made it a practice to never criticize the officiating, but even he could not hold back that night.
“Anytime you go on the road, you don’t expect favors,” he said, “but you should at least get a fair shake.”
Grand Canyon coach John Shumate felt the end of Westmont’s streak had been preordained: The game was played on the 10-year anniversary of the Notre Dame victory that he led which halted UCLA’s 88-game winning streak.
Westmont would lose only once more during the regular season, 67-65 at Biola, before going on another streak of 11 wins. Included in the string was a 73-56 romp past Southern California College in the District 3 title game, earning that elusive ticket to Kansas City.
The Warriors celebrated by chugging gallons of apple cider as though it were champagne.
“I had a hole in my heart from last year,” Schultz said, “but I plugged it up tonight.”
Westmont would win three straight games at Kansas City’s Kemper Arena, defeating St. Thomas Aquinas of New York 78-65 in the quarterfinals to advance to the Final Four for the first time in school history.
Schultz, who scored 27 points on 11-for-13 shooting, admitted to throwing up one prayer: “I spent a little time praying today,” he said.
“Five weeks ago, we lost a game at Biola and that was the lowest point in our year,” he continued. “The next day we decided to make it a goal to reach the Final Four.
“Now we’ll have to sit down and make some new goals.”
But Westmont drew future NBA All-Star Terry Porter and his Wisconsin-Stevens Point team in the semifinals. A close game got away in the final minutes, 79-53, when the Warriors were forced to foul.
Two days later, they also lost the third-place game to Chicago State, 86-82, in overtime. But the Warriors were still able to appreciate their breakthrough year.
“It was a wonderful season,” Church said. “You couldn’t ask for much more.”
The Warriors have done more in the 35 seasons that followed. They’ve made it to Kansas City 15 additional times, advanced to the Final Four again in 1999 and to the championship game in 2015 where they lost to Dalton State, Ga.
Only one more step needs to be taken. It’s a big one, coach Moore acknowledges, but at least this year’s team has gotten off to a running start.