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Friday, April 23

Coach Kaye and '62 Lynx bound for
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Interview by Jeff Mayfield

[APRIL 23, 2004]  This Saturday, April 24, is the annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet. Coaches, teams and friends of IBCA are nominated, and the few who rise to the top are selected as inductees. This year one of the teams joining the prestigious group is Lincoln College's 1961-62 team, which featured a bevy of Logan County athletes. The LDN was able to catch up with the head coach of that crew, Norm Kaye, via telephone from his home in Florida. What follows is a transcript from that enjoyable interview…

LDN: Coach Kaye, I'm Jeff Mayfield and I represent the other newspaper in Lincoln and I want to interview you.

NK: The other paper. I heard that you guys were even a daily. Is that true?

LDN: Yes, we are.

LDN: First, of all congratulations on the induction of your team. That is quite an honor.

NK: Thank you.

LDN: As you reflect back on that 1961-62 team, did you see it coming? Did you know that the team would be that good?

NK: Yes. They were all returnees, and during the middle of that season I picked up Bobby Miller from Atlanta, who was like the glue - I used to call him. Before the season we were fortunate to pick up Tommy Zurkammer, who is now a Lincoln College provost, from Lincoln High School. That gave us a team with a very flexible six men. I knew that team was gonna be good.

And I'll share this story with you. We were down in Flat River, Mo., playing Southern Illinois' freshmen team, because in those days freshmen were not eligible for the varsity. That was for the championship of the junior college tournament, and we beat them even though they had Walt Frazier on that team. After the game I was being interviewed by the press, and a friend who had helped me drive the team down there said that the players want to know when you are gonna come into the locker room to congratulate them, because they were all excited that we were playing that well in February. I said, "Tell them I'll be in in May!" I wasn't gonna pre-empt the future. That is a true story that I have really never told outside of a couple friends. It supports your question as to whether I saw it coming.

LDN: Tell us more about the season and the playoff run.

NK: Of course, you have to have wonderful breaks along the way in a successful tournament run.

At the sub-regional against Canton in Pekin a week before the regional, we were down 18 at half, and Bobby Miller hit six free throws in a row to win that game.

We then went up to Joliet and played LaSalle-Peru, which had about 3,500 students, and we beat them anyway.

 

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That advanced us to a game with Wright College out of Chicago that was coached by an ex-Chicago Bulls' assistant, Ed Badger. We were one down with about 45 seconds to go and their star player was advancing the ball down the court. He dribbled and then stopped and saw his teammate go back-door. He released it like he was gonna pass it, one of our players got into the passing lane, the ball hit the floor, and the guy just picked it back up. I was up because that's a double dribble. Fortunately, the guy, Ed Fruen, who was a Big Ten official -- and I was up because I knew that it was a double, but it's gotta be called -- and he called it (ed. note: I wonder if that official is still available, as we understand the Big Ten has some vacancies to fill). Bobby Miller scored on a play, and we won that game in thrilling fashion.

We then played Wilson Junior College for the championship, and they had between 15,000 and 18,000 students. What was unique about that game was that I had played for Wilson back in the '40s. We won the state but had no money to go to nationals. We had quite an outstanding group. The guy that was coaching Wilson was my former teammate. Most people did not make that connection. And a guy watching the game was our former coach. After the game, which we won by 13 points (ed. note: Isn't it amazing how former coaches can remember so many details?), which was phenomenal because they were a huge team and we were kinda small. My former teammate Arnie said, "Norm I just can't believe your team could run like that," and our former coach, Charlie, smacked him on the arm and said, "Did you play with Norm or did you not play with Norm?"

One more story that I don't think I have ever told is when I took the job at Lincoln I talked to my former coach. Charlie, back in the '40s and beyond, knew Adolph Rupp and all the other big names in basketball. My coach was a great guy, and he said, "I have a bit of advice for you." I said, "Coach, you've taught me a lot. What is your advice?" He said, "Don't expect your players to play to the level of intensity that you played." I looked at him and said, "Sorry, Coach. I do expect that."

(Stay tuned for Part 2 -- the trip to nationals in Hutchinson, Kan., including more Logan County players mentioned by Coach Kaye.)

[Jeff Mayfield]

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