A swarm of fly-by-night opinions are constantly ensnared in the world wide web, many of which span the world of sports.
The latest debate raging on a local internet site called “Gaucho Locos” argues about an all-time UCSB basketball team.
Fun stuff, for sure … except none of these Locos were sis-boom-bahing the Gauchos when the basketball first got rolling at UCSB. The history of the program predates the current campus — and even the nickname of “Gauchos.”
They were the “Roadrunners” — although “Pterodactyls” might’ve fit the time period better — when the university fielded its first team in 1921. That was the same year that Santa Barbara State Normal School, located in the town’s Riviera foothills, changed its name to Santa Barbara State College.
A kind of Abnormal School thing also happened that year when a home economics professor by the name of Miss Alice Bradley agreed to take over the first basketball team when they couldn’t find a coach. Her record of 8-5 gives her the third-best winning percentage (.615) in UCSB basketball coaching history.
Alice, of course, doesn’t live there anymore — and her players have been forgotten to history. But we’re going to dig as deep into the history books as possible to give you our picks for the best Gaucho quintets during the next four generations:
THE GREATEST GENERATION (the coach Willie Wilton Years, 1937-57):
Starting five (listed chronologically) — Tommy Guerrero, Lowell Steward, Harvey Hubler, Tommy Williams, Bob McCutcheon.
The History — They were real heroes of the time. Tommy Guerrero, the Gauchos’ first basketball All-American, served as a fighter pilot in the Army Air Corps during World War II and spent a year in a British hospital after getting shot down over Belgium.
Lowell Steward was a pilot with the famed Tuskegee Airmen, flying 143 combat missions over Europe in a P-51 Mustang for the 100th Fighter Squadron.
Steward was the star center and Guerrero the high-scoring forward of a Gaucho team that led then-Santa Barbara State to the 1941 NAIA Final Four in Kansas City.
But Steward, the first black man to play in the California Collegiate Athletic Conference, was barred from playing in the national semifinals because of Missouri’s Jim Crow laws. Racism cost UCSB its best shot ever at a national basketball title.
Hubler was a two-time all-league center after the war, in 1947 and 1948, before becoming a coach at Monrovia High. He was killed in 1953 in a deer hunting accident.
McCutcheon, another two-time All-CCAA player, also remained in the game after setting UCSB’s single-season scoring record in 1950. He coached Santa Maria High to a CIF-Southern Section championship and later guided Hancock College to a state JC title.
Tommy Williams was the MVP of two of Wilton’s last and best Gaucho teams (1954-1956) when they won 35 of 50 games.
Also Noteworthy — Dick Rider was the sophomore defensive stopper on the 1941 NAIA Final Four team and he won first-team all-CCAA honors as a junior. The war denied him a senior season, however. UCSB named its MVP Award after him after he was killed in action.
Wilton, who picked his best five during an interview in the 1990s, put Rider on his second five along with Gordon Gray, Quentin Sims, Billy Levielle and Bill Russell (not the one who went on to play for the Boston Celtics — he probably would’ve made Wilton’s first team). And you can’t overlook big Dick Acres, who set a UCSB record in 1956 with his rebound average of 14.3.
THE BABY BOOMER ERA (the coaching years of Art Gallon, Ralph Barkey, and Ed DeLacy, (1958-1983).
The Starting Five — Doug Rex, John Tschogl, Don Ford, Richard Anderson, York Gross.
The History — Rex, the center who ushered UCSB into Division 1 basketball, averaged a double-double of 18.4 points and a school-record 10.6 rebounds for his career (1968-1971). Tschogl, a forward who was only a year behind Rex, made first-team All-Big West Conference (then known as the PCAA) three straight years before playing the next three seasons in the NBA.
Ford averaged 19.6 points during his junior year of 1976 and then signed with the Lakers, playing seven seasons in the NBA. He was the best Gaucho to never make an all-league team: UCSB had been kicked out of the PCAA the previous year for having dropped football, forcing the Gauchos to play as an independent.
Richard Anderson, who averaged a double-double of 16.0 points and 11.1 rebounds in 1982, played six years in the NBA after the Clippers drafted him in the second round.
Gross averaged a double-double of 20.9 points and 10.4 rebounds the following season. The Denver Nuggets took him in the fourth round of the NBA Draft but mental illness derailed his basketball career.
Also Noteworthy — The 1961 team which included Ray Bosch, Gary Davis, Joel Fleiss and Bob Laird became the first Gaucho group since the NAIA Final Four team of 1941 to reach the 20-win mark. They advanced to the NCAA College Division (D2) quarterfinals in Evansville.
Other stars in that era’s constellation were Ralph Barkey, Tom Lee, Dick Kolberg, Steve Rippe, Ron Allen, Bob Schachter, Clarence Allen, John Service, Dave Brown, Ricky “Tex” Walker, Matt Maderos and Walter Evans.
THE ERA OF THUNDER (The coach years of Jerry Pimm, 1983-1998):
The Starting Five — Brian Shaw, Carrick DeHart, Eric McArthur, Lucius Davis, Raymond Tutt.
The History — Shaw, the only Gaucho ever picked in the first round of the NBA Draft, gave birth to the Thunderdome as well as “berth” to UCSB’s experience in the NCAA Division 1 Tournament. He earned them an at-large berth in 1988 while becoming the only player to ever lead the Big West in both assists and rebounds.
Shaw played 14 years in the NBA, winning three championship rings with the Lakers, and has since logged 16 seasons as a coach in the league— two as head coach of the Denver Nuggets.
DeHart and McArthur, Shaw’s sophomore teammates in 1988, got the Gauchos into the national rankings in 1989 and led them to their only NCAA Division 1 Tournament victory in 1990. DeHart held UCSB’s all-time scoring record for nearly two decades.
Davis was a sophomore on that 1990 team and later became the Big West MVP in 1992.
Although Tutt played on two losing teams, he set the school’s single-season scoring record of 24.1 points per game in 1997. He followed that up with an 18.9-point mark in 1998.
Also Noteworthy — Scott Fisher, who ranks 14th on UCSB’s all-time scoring list, is the only Gaucho to have ever played in the Olympics — although not for the USA. He represented Australia at the 1996 Games in Atlanta 10 years after his graduation. He lured classmate Conner Henry Down Under after his two seasons in the NBA to help him coach the Perth Wildcats. Henry would later become Perth’s head coach.
Other stars in that era’s constellation were Brian Vaughns, Gary Gray, Paul Johnson, Idris Jones, Mike Meyer, Ray Kelly, Doug Muse and Lelan McDougal.
ERA OF THE NEW MILLENIUM (The Bob Williams Years, 1999-2017):
The Starting Five — Mark Hull, Branduinn Fullove, Alex Harris, Orlando Johnson and Alan Williams.
The history — Hull, Williams’ first recruit, made eight three-pointers while scoring 31 points in UCSB’s NCAA Tournament opener of 2002 to nearly upset Arizona. He ranks eighth on the school’s all-time scoring list.
The other four each won Big West Player of the Year honors, with Harris becoming the first Gaucho to average more than 20 points per game in back-to-back seasons (2006-07 and 2007-08). He was UCSB’s all-time leading scorer until Johnson passed him in 2012.
Johnson led UCSB to its first back-to-back appearances in the NCAA Tournament (2010 and 2011). Williams, his freshman teammate in 2012, averaged double-doubles in his last two seasons (21.3 points, 11.5 rebounds in 2014 and 17.3 points, 11.8 rebounds in 2015) while passing Harris for second in all-time scoring. Both Johnson and Williams also earned stints in the NBA.
Also Noteworthy — Bob Williams actually included B.J. Bunton among his five all-time Gauchos even though he only played for him during his first season of 1998-99. Bunton averaged 17.5 points and 6.8 rebounds for a UCSB team that won the Big West’s Western Division.
James Nunnally, Johnson’s sidekick on the NCAA Tournament teams of 2010 and 2011, ranks fifth on UCSB’s all-time scoring list with 1,684 points. He and Johnson became the highest-scoring one-two punch in Gaucho history when they combined for 1,194 points in 2011. They also became the first two players of the Bob Williams era to play in the NBA.
Alan Williams has also played in the NBA, and Gabe Vincent made his debut this year with the Miami Heat.
Others deserving mention include Nick Jones, Cecil Brown, Chris Devine, James Powell and Michael Bryson.
The Joe Pasternack Era is sure to bring new names such as Max Heidegger to this list. The century of basketball started by Miss Alice Bradley still has another season to go.
Mark Patton’s column appears on Wednesday, Friday, and Sunday. Email: firstname.lastname@example.org