Ram Ramblings: It's tournament time and its time to remember legends Gaines and McLendon
Feb 27, 2013 (Winston-Salem Journal - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --
The CIAA men's and women's basketball tournaments are in full swing in Charlotte.
On the men's side this is the 67th CIAA Tournament but I bet not a lot of folks know much about the history of the tournament.
When it comes to the history two men that stick out for me are the late John McLendon and Big House Gaines, two legendary coaches who competed against each other but were also friends. I bring this up because I'm sure a lot of the younger fans of CIAA schools have heard of McLendon (N.C. Central) and Gaines (Winston-Salem State) but don't know much about them.
One of the unique things about the two was how McLendon wasn't afraid to help Gaines early in his career at WSSU. In fact, they used to go on recruiting trips together and were chasing the same players.
I'm pretty sure that Mike Krzyzewski and Dean Smith never traveled together to recruit players. And by the way, it was McLendon who came up with the four corners and Smith copied it from him.
Gaines didn't have a car to recruit in during his early years at WSSU so McLendon would pick him up in Winston-Salem and they would go up and down the east coast looking for players.
As the tournament cranks up this week it's a good time to remember two of the coaching giants of the CIAA.
My best memory of Gaines came in 1999 when WSSU won the tournament at Joel Coliseum. It was the first time the Rams won without Gaines as the coach. When Rick Duckett, who was then the coach, came off the floor after the championship game he hugged Gaines and you could see the pride on Gaines' face.
Gaines, who died in April of 2005, loved the CIAA Tournament even after he wasn't coaching anymore. I remember he told me it got easier for him to soak in the tournament atmosphere after he stopped coaching because he could see and talk to his former players and former students while casually watching games.
I was sent a video that talks about McLendon's legacy and Gaines' legacy and their friendship. It's a must see, especially during tournament week.
Here's the youtube link to the video:
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