In the shadows of greatness . . . on the shoulders of giants

1942 Southern Conference Queen

Anne Geoghegan, 1942 Southern Conference basketball tournament queen.

Today’s post is by frequent contributor Jack Hilliard and is the second post on the 1942 Southern Conference Basketball Tournament

Background: When the 59th annual Atlantic Coast Conference Men’s Basketball Tournament tips off at noon on March 8th in Atlanta’s Philips Arena, the players and coaches of the twelve teams (soon to be fourteen) will be playing “in the shadows of greatness and on the shoulders of giants.”  Not only have the fifty-eight previous tournaments and players set a high standard, but the ACC’s parent conference, the Southern Intercollegiate Conference, played at an equally high standard for thirty-two seasons.

The Southern Intercollegiate Conference, or Southern Conference as it has been called over the years, or SoCon as it is often called today, was founded on February 25, 1921 when representatives from 14 of the Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Association’s (SIAA) 30 member institutions met at the Piedmont Hotel in Atlanta.  Among the fourteen member schools were North Carolina State and the University of North Carolina. The decision to form a new conference was motivated in part by the desire to have a workable number of games by each member school.  It was impossible for the thirty member schools in the SIAA to play each other each year.  (Does that sound familiar Carolina and State fans?)

Play began in the Southern Conference in the fall of 1921 and men’s basketball was the first sport to hold a tournament.  The inaugural tournament was held in Atlanta’s Municipal Auditorium and was won by North Carolina.  Monk McDonald and Billy Carmichael led Carolina as they won five tournament games to claim the championship.

An interesting side note: Carolina went without a head coach during the 1921–22 and 1922–23 seasons because Fred Boye left after one year and they could not find a replacement.  Bob Fetzer, who coached football and baseball for North Carolina, would often accompany the team on road games but would sit in the stands.  Carolina would win seven more Southern Conference championships.  Duke joined the Southern Conference in 1928 and won its first of five tournaments in 1938.  NC State won its first tournament in 1929.

At the Southern Conference annual meeting on December 9, 1932, Dr. S.V. Sanford of the University of Georgia announced that thirteen of the then twenty-three Southern Conference schools would be forming the Southeastern Conference thus leaving the Southern Conference with ten members.  Wake Forest joined in 1936 and by 1942 there were sixteen teams.

A side note from the editor: an organization named the Naismith Memorial Committee dubbed the period of December 1941 to December 1942 as the “golden jubilee of basketball”—which was really their capital campaign to raise funds for the construction of a monument to honor basketball’s founder James Naismith in Springfield, Massachusetts.  The effort was delayed in the face of World War II, but it was an early effort to establish what is now the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.

Duke basketball team after winning the 1942 Southern Conference Tournament.

This Morton photograph appeared in THE CHARLOTTE NEWS, captioned "DUKE'S HAPPINESS BOYS with another basketball title: Clyde Allen, Garland Loftis, captain Ray Spuhler, Cedric Loftis, Bill McCahan, Sam Rothbaum, Coach Eddie Cameron. They grinned about the trophy, but they knew it was coming all the time."

1942 Southern Conference Basketball Tournament:  The Southern Conference held its 1942 basketball tournament in Raleigh’s Memorial Auditorium with its top eight teams.  On March 5th, 1942, the 21st Southern Conference Tournament tipped off with Duke playing Washington and Lee.  Greensboro Daily News sportswriter Frank Gilbreth’s lead sentence on March first was:  “Washington and Lee’s Generals today drew the suicide assignment of playing top-seeded Duke . . . in the opening round of the Southern Conference Basketball Tournament.”  The Duke–W&L game was followed by UNC vs. Wake Forest, and North Carolina State vs. South Carolina.  Yesterday’s post feature a photograph from the USC–State contest.  Duke prevailed in its contest, and the Deacons, led by Herb Cline upset the UNC White Phantoms 32-26.

UNC versus Wake Forest College in the 1942 Southern Conference Tournamant

Herb Cline of Wake Forest College and UNC's Reid Suggs during in the opening round of the 1942 Southern Conference Tournament

Two days later, Duke and NC State squared off in the finals with Duke winning its third Southern Conference Tournament.  Clyde Allen, Duke’s veteran center and Hap Spuhler led the boys from Durham, while the star of the North Carolina State “Red Terrors” (as they were called then) was Horace Albert “Bones” McKinney—easily the most memorable player in the ’42 tournament.  McKinney would go on to play for UNC after the war, and later coach at Wake Forest.  And he even had a Duke connection: McKinney played for Durham High where three of his teammates (Bob Gantt, Garland Loftis, and Cedric Loftis) went on to play for Duke in 1942.

Horace "Bones" McKinney drinking from a ladle at the 1942 Southern Conference Tournament

Horace "Bones" McKinney drinking from a ladle at the 1942 Southern Conference Tournament.

Several of Hugh Morton’s images from the ’42 tournament—featured throughout this post—appeared in newspapers thought the state, including the Charlotte News, Greensboro Daily News, Winston-Salem Journal and Sentinel, and, of course, the UNC student newspaper, The Daily Tar Heel. In future years, Morton would become a permanent fixture courtside at Southern Conference and Atlantic Coast Conference tournaments well into the 2000s.

Southern Conference . . . Atlantic Coast Conference:  Basketball in North Carolina changed forever in 1946 with the arrival of Everett Case at North Carolina State.  Starting in 1947 and continuing through the 1952 season, Case won six straight Southern Conference Tournaments.  Names like Dick Dickey, Vic Molodet, Ronnie Shavlik, Lou Pucillo, Cliff Dwyer, Sam Ranzino became familiar to almost everyone in the state.  It was a magical time in Raleigh.  State beat Carolina fourteen times between 1947 and 1952.

Enter Frank Joseph McGuire.  Coach McGuire was given two challenges when he came into Chapel Hill in 1952: beat State, then beat everybody else.  He did both.  On January 24, 1953 he finally broke the long losing streak by beating NC State 70-69.

Later, in the spring of 1953, there was another conference meeting.  This one at the Sedgefield Inn in Greensboro on April 8th, and yet another change for the Southern Conference was in order.  By then the conference had grown to seventeen teams so seven members withdrew to form what would become the Atlantic Coast Conference.  Among the seven were Carolina, Duke, Wake, and State.  And four seasons later, Frank McGuire was able to overcome the second part of that challenge by beating everybody else.  It’s often called “McGuire’s Miracle.”  During the 1956-57 season UNC won 32 games and a national championship.  New “giants” made the news: Lennie Rosenbluth, Pete Brennan, Joe Quigg, Bob Cunningham, and Tommy Kearns.  Plenty more from teams in North Carolina would follow, with NC State’s National Championships in 1974 and 1983, Duke’s in 1991, 1992, 2001, 2010, and UNC’s 1924, 1957, 1982, 1993, 2005, 2009.

Who knows what “March Madness” will bring in 2012?

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