Carolina Cougars Fan Memories (Page 1)

MEMORIES OF KEN MARSH: "I used to attend Carolina Cougars games in North Carolina, when I was in my early teens. The Pittsburgh Pipers came to Raleigh to play the Cougars in November 1970. About midway through the first half, a Pipers forward named Charlie Hentz quickly drove to the basket, soared, and threw down a vicious one-hand dunk, shattering the backboard. It happened so quickly it took everyone's breath away. The sound was akin to a shotgun blast when the rim gave way and the glass exploded. A Cougars forward named George Peeples was trying to get the shards of glass out of his Afro.

The game was stopped and the officials couldn't find a replacement glass board. I was one of those kids who ran onto the court and scooped up the shattered glass as a souvenir. They proceeded to erect a wooden backboard on the existing goal and then they proceeded with play. It was a bizarre turn of wooden goal at one end and a glass backboard at the other end. With the Cougars leading by about 15 points late in the game, Hentz caught an outlet pass and had no one in his way for another uncontested dunk. The newspapers later said that the referee told him not to destroy the glass backboard as he was about to dunk. Hentz then proceeded to shatter that backboard with another tomahawk one-hander.

The crowd was absolutely stunned that Hentz had destroyed a second glass backboard on top of the first one. The refs, the Carolina coach, and the Pittsburgh coach Pittsburgh then conferred about what they should do. Pittsburgh was down by about 14 points at the time of Hentz's second "demolition," so their coach graciously decided to call the game. It wasn't a forfeit, but instead finalizing the score as it stood. Carolina got the win."

MEMORIES OF CHUCK WRIGHT: "I was at the game of November 6, 1970 where Charles "Helicopter" Hentz of the Pittsburgh Condors broke both glass backboards against the Carolina Cougars in Raleigh's Dorton Arena. The first board was replaced by a wooden back board…which took over an hour. We had been behind that backboard before it broke. Because we couldn't see through it, we were allowed to move to the other endzone. So, I was under the second backboard as well when Hentz shattered it too. With a couple minutes to go and the Cougars well ahead, they didn't bother to fix the second one. I think it's the only time a single player has broken both backboards in a single game…though I'm not sure. I used to have pieces of both boards…even some pieces with the white tape of the "window" still on it."

MEMORIES OF DUDLEY T. BOKOSKI: "In March 1972 my dad asked me if I wanted to go see a Carolina Cougars game. The company he worked for had good seats at the Greensboro Coliseum. I wasn't that much interested in going. But when I found out that the opposing team was the Memphis Pros I decided to go, because Johnny Neumann (the 19 year-old "next Pete Maravich") was playing for Memphis. The game turned into a run-and-shoot affair. What was unusual was that Larry Miller had about 19 points for the Cougars after the first period. Miller was a former North Carolina Tarheel star and local favorite. He was a decent scorer, and it wasn't that unusual for him to start on a streak. Miller was described in the Carolina program as a "Lochnivar in Lowcuts", which is a nice way of saying that he got a lot of attention from women. In fact, one of the biggest Cougar promos of the year was the "Win a Date with Larry Miller Contest," which turned out to be rigged when his girlfriend won. All that aside, he generally hustled (on the court) and was a model of consistency. He seldom was great, but rarely had an off night. Anyway, during the second quarter Miller continued his hot shooting. He repeatedly hit his usual spot up jumpers, but also began driving around Johnny Neumann the way a car moves around a cow in the road. At the half he had about 30 or so points and the crowd loved it. By the third quarter the Cougars had the game well in hand, and all the Cougars players began feeding Miller (even Joe Caldwell, who sometimes forgot how to pass the ball). At the time, the ABA single-game scoring record was 63 points (Zelmo Beaty) and I remember that the PA announcer even made reference to the record in the third quarter. By this time, Miller was having some trouble shooting, probably from sheer exhaustion. But he had about 50 points by the end of the third quarter. In the 4th, it became a race between the clock and Miller's scoring. As I recall, he hit the record with a couple of minutes to spare, got up to 67, and was removed to a standing ovation. Neumann got about 19 points and didn't appear to be at all bothered by being outscored. He had made the night memorable, just not in the way I had anticipated."

MEMORIES OF STEVE BLANKENBEKER: "I was born in 1961 in Indianapolis and went to a few Pacer games until we moved from there to Greensboro in 1969. We went to a lot of home Carolina Cougar games there. The Cougar stars over the years were Larry Miller, Joe Caldwell, and Billy Cunningham. I was at a game where Miller scored 67 points or so. I think it was announced as a record. He had 25 or 27 points at halftime and his teammates pretty much just fed him the rest of the game. I also remember George McGinnis getting a rebound record once, where he threw one of the backboard to get an extra rebound."

MEMORIES OF HARVEY LIPSKY: "I saw many Nets games in the late 1960's and early 1970's. An opposing player who I remember was Jumpin' Joe Caldwell. The first time I saw him play for the Carolina Cougars, there was a question (right up to the game) whether he would be playing at all. Caldwell had jumped from the NBA from the Atlanta Hawks and the Hawks were trying to get him back. Rumors flew around all day that he was going to be served with an injunction, preventing him from playing in the ABA. But somehow Caldwell won the battle and ended up staying with the Cougars. In another game against the Nets (it probably was a different game than his first in New York - I'm not sure) he provided a moment of pure comic relief. Caldwell, the "old pro" in a league with mostly inferior talent at that time, went to shoot a free throw and missed everything. Not missing a beat he turned to the crowd, smiled, and gave a big wink. It was one of the most hilarious moments I ever saw in the middle of a game."

MEMORIES OF DON THORNTON: "I remember a playoff game in 1973 between the Carolina Cougars and the Kentucky Colonels. It was held in Greensboro, NC. I was fortunate enough to get tickets in the first row, directly behind the Kentucky bench. Midway through the third quarter, with the Colonels nursing a slender lead, "Pogo Joe" Caldwell broke free (after a steal, I believe) and crossed mid-court with the ball on a breakaway. There was only one minor obstacle standing between him and a resounding dunk: Artis Gilmore! I can still see the picture today as Caldwell left the court from near the foul line and *dunked* the ball over the top of the waiting Gilmore! In all the 30-some years I've watched basketball, it was the most impressive dunk I've ever seen. The crowd actually sat in stunned silence for about 3 seconds, before erupting in an ear-splitting was vintage ABA!"

MEMORIES OF KEN NEESE: "I'll never forget the first ABA game that I went to. It was the Cougars against the Colonels in Charlotte on November 25, 1972. I was just 14 at the time but I remember there was a big crowd on hand that night and the Coliseum was filled with great anticipation. The game featured some of the best players in the league - Billy Cunningham, "Pogo" Joe Caldwell, Mack Calvin, Artis Gilmore, Dan Issel, Louie Dampier, and Rick Mount. It was a very exciting, close game but Kentucky came out on top. There was a lot of running, dunking and shot blocking. The crowd loved it. Billy Cunningham always seemed to be driving and slashing to the basket--either making those one-handed runners or hitting a cutting Caldwell with a bounce pass. Calvin ran around like crazy and scored at will. Gilmore and Issel were also unstoppable in that game. Every time Gilmore got the ball down low he seemed to dunk it. Too much for Ira Harge, Ed Manning and Tom Owens to handle I guess. On the Kentucky side, Issel and Mount just bombed away. After the game, my uncle and I walked down on the court where some of the players were signing autographs and doing interviews. I'll never forget standing next to Artis Gilmore. I was in complete awe. He had this huge afro which just added to his physique. I remember thinking that this giant was just too strong - nobody can beat his team. Two of the most vivid memories that I still have of the ABA are the size and strength of Gilmore and seeing the red white and blue leaving the hands of shooters like Rick Mount and Gene Littles. If you were a Carolina fan during that time, tuning in a Cougars game with Bob Lamey doing the play-by-play was something special. Every possession was exciting."

MEMORIES OF ANDY HALL: "I went to my first professional basketball game on January 5, 1973. It was at the Greensboro Coliseum, where the Carolina Cougars hosted the Virginia Squires. I was in the ninth grade and I went to the game with one of my best friends and his father. I had heard about Julius Erving and actually got to see him play, as well as Billy Cunningham, Joe Caldwell, Tom Owens, etc. The Cougars won in a 135-118 blowout, and I was hooked as a Cougars fan. From that point until the Cougars moved out of Carolina, I began reading, watching and listening to everything Cougars. I would lie on my bed at night and listen to their games on the radio, with Bob Lamey calling the action. Some of their road games were televised, and I was thrilled to see games from Indianapolis, Louisville, Salt Lake City, etc., with Gene Overby doing the play-by-play. Caldwell had a weekly local TV show that I watched religiously. I went to the school library to read two-week-old ABA news in The Sporting News. People have to remember that ESPN and the Internet didn't exist then, and the ABA got very little coverage compared to the NBA. I would read little scraps here and there about players like Ralph Simpson, Willie Wise, Ron Boone, etc. But I rarely got to see them on TV. One of the saddest days of my life was when I heard that the Cougars were leaving Carolina. I wanted the ABA to succeed very badly, but knew deep in my heart that it wouldn't. Today, I welcome the opportunity to talk to anyone about the ABA. I loved it!"

MEMORIES OF STACEY ANN (HOY) YONGUE: "My mother, Margaret Soots Hoy, brought the Carolina Cougars mascot, "Shuffles the Cougar", to life between 1971 and 1974. She loves to tell about her stint as Shuffles and her frequent halftime antics, etc. She especially likes to talk about the close calls she had with Kentucky Colonels fans during away games--they didn't like Shuffles too much. Lots of can throwing, she says! One thing that sticks out in my mind is taking center court during halftime with Shuffles and Tracie Caldwell (Joe Caldwell's daughter ) and dancing. We twirled our pinned-on "Cougar tails" in front of a packed Greensboro Coliseum. What a blast! One of my mom's most memorable moments is having to "share" a locker room with the late Arthur Ashe. Apparently, a tennis expo was going on during basketball season at the Coliseum and Ashe had to use the same dressing room as my mom. Ashe was seated with 2 other people and Shuffles told them she'd "never dressed in front of an audience before." They laughed and she went to the other end of the room, out of sight, and got into costume. My mom is a wonderful, enthusiastic, animated person; in my opinion, no one but she could have brought so much vitality to Shuffles!"

MEMORIES OF RUTH LEARY: "I used to babysit for Joe Caldwell's two girls a few times a week. What a great guy! Sometimes the girls and I would go to the games. We had GREAT seats in the 3rd row behind the visitors' bench. He always gave me $20 to buy food and goofy things the girls wanted. After the game, we would all go to IHOP with a bunch of other ball players. Then when we all got home, he would pay me $20 more! Our neighborhood, made up of mostly town houses at the time, was where many coaches and players lived: Larry Brown, Steve Previs, Dennis Wuycik, Joe Caldwell, and Larry Miller.

What a crush all the teenage girls had on Larry! He was also a fantastic guy! We would "babysit" his Old English Sheepdog, Poco (named after the Poconos Mountains) when he was on the road. When Larry left the Cougars for the San Diego Conquistadors, we kept Poco and Larry came back a couple of times to visit her. But I guess he saw that our family was so attached to his dog, he just let us keep her. Larry was a super guy and actually very shy. By the way, I believe that he holds the record for the most points in a single game. And, since the ABA no longer exists, I guess he'll hold that record forever!"

MEMORIES OF JOEY BLAND: "What I remember most about the Carolina Cougars is how the players were always willing to give autographs. And it wasn't just the Cougars players (like my hero "Pogo" Joe Caldwell, or Billy Cunningham). I can remember players on other ABA teams, like George Gervin, who were willing to stand on the floor of the Greensboro Coliseum signing autographs until all the kids were gone. Although my dog chewed up my autographed red, white, and blue mini-ball long ago, I still think fondly about the ABA players and their willingness to connect with a little 7-year old boy. It meant a lot to me."

Cougars Fan Memories (Page 2)

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