NEW ORLEANS – Of all his earthly possessions lost to Katrina’s flood in 2005, the one Richard Coffey wishes he had right now is a program from a long-ago basketball tournament. For years he had kept the program as proof that once he was part of a magnificent teenage team – one so good that 37 years later he breathes his teammates’ names as if the whole thing had been a dream. [restrict]
“I don’t think anybody would believe I played with those guys,” he says.
Back in the summer of 1980 there was a Louisiana AAU team of 15- and 16-year-olds almost too amazing to be true. Among those on its roster were two future Hall of Famers (Dumars and Malone), a player who would become one of the NBA’s best shot-blockers (Williams) and another (Anders) who turned into the most dazzling player on a college basketball dunking sensation known as Phi Slama Jama. It was the kind of team that caused heads to turn and the rat-a-tat-tat of dribbling to stop the moment its players walked into a gym.
Even today, Guy McInnis, a guard on the team, chortles as he recalls the silence that greeted them.
“We weren’t even trying to be intimidating!” he says.
But how could they not terrify? Imagine the alarm that must have blared through a high school junior’s brain as he watched a young Malone, already 6-foot-8 and chiseled from years on the farm, dunking so hard that he shook the walls of tiny gyms? Who wouldn’t stare, slack-jawed, as Anders, just three inches shorter than Malone, dribbled behind his back, then took off from the foul line hurtling toward the rim?
The Louisiana team’s players were strong and fast and played ferocious defense. Their coach, an old-time grinder from the northwest part of the state, drove them to run, run, run. Sometimes, it seemed, they won simply by showing up. Though no official record of that summer exists, the players remember dominating nearly every game they played around Louisiana or in the two national tournaments they entered. Most of those victories were blowouts. Once they scored 224 points over two games – in the same day. [/restrict]