Like the earthquake, Nob Hill and the Golden Gate Bridge, the University of San Francisco basketball teams of the mid-1950s are Bay Area institutions. Winford Boynes, Bill Cartwright and James Hardy were not yet born when the Dons were winning 60 consecutive games—and two NCAA championships—from Dec. 17, 1954 to, coincidentally, Dec. 17, 1956. Bill Russell and K. C. Jones they know from the NBA Game of the Week. But who be those other dudes?
In their day they were members of what was considered the best college basketball team ever assembled. By current standards their pace was slow and their shooting percentages poor, but as the first unbeaten champion in NCAA history they won as no team ever had before and as only six have since: North Carolina in 1957; UCLA in '64, '67, '72, '73; Indiana last year. The Dons' success was built around the rebounding, shot blocking and short-range scoring of Russell, the center, who was such a dominant inside force that after both championships the NCAA devised anti-Russell weapons. In 1955 it widened the free-throw lane to 12 feet and in 1956 it prohibited the guiding of errant shots into the basket.
Almost everyone remembers that Russell and Jones went from San Francisco to the Melbourne Olympics, then on to the Boston Celtics and, finally, pro coaching careers. Russell is now with Seattle, and Jones is an assistant in Milwaukee. Few people realize, though, that it was Guard Hal Perry, not Jones, who was the only Don to start with Russell in both NCAA tournaments. Jones missed the 1956 event because his eligibility had expired. He was replaced by Gene Brown, who scored 16 points in the final win over Iowa. Brown is still in San Francisco, as a regional director for the Small Business Administration.
The Dons' 60-game winning streak began with Perry's first collegiate start, against Oregon State. Now he is an Oakland attorney—one of his clients is Willie Mays—and is the founder of a youth-help organization called Justice For Our Youth. Perry follows the current Dons more closely than any of his old teammates, attending all the home games and listening to the others on the radio.
There was a different set of forwards for each of the two championship teams: Jerry Mullen and Stan Buchanan in '55 and Mike Farmer and Carl Boldt in '56. Mullen today sells heavy equipment in Eureka, Calif., and Buchanan teaches English and environmental education at a high school in Marin County.
Like Russell and Jones, Farmer also played professionally, spending six years with New York, Cincinnati and St. Louis. He coached on the high school level, too, but now is a distributor of medical supplies for Sherwood Industries in Richmond, Calif.
Boldt got professional experience of another sort, first as an NBA scout, then as director of player personnel for the ABA's Los Angeles Stars. While at a high school in Southern California he coached Mike Newlin, now of the Houston Rockets. Today Boldt has his own sales and mail-order merchandising business in Los Angeles.
Even with the graduation of the Russell-Jones-Perry nucleus, San Francisco went to the final four in 1957, finishing third. Ironically, it was the Olympic team of Russell and Jones that gave the Dons their first (unofficial) loss that season; Illinois later officially ended the 60-game streak. Coach Phil Wool-pert, besieged by nervous and physical troubles, retired after two more years and worked for a local vending-machine company until 1961, when he coached 15 games in the American Basketball League. From 1962 to '72 he was coach and athletic director at little University of San Diego and now is semiretired, living in an expanded house trailer in rural Sequim, Wash, and driving a school bus.
San Francisco held the record for extended excellence until UCLA came along with its 88 wins in a row during the Bill Walton era. But the former Don players give away nothing to the more modern teams. "I just can't conceive a club with Bill Russell losing," says Buchanan. Russell recalls, with relish, that "we beat everybody."
Cartwright & Co. can look it up.
No team with Bill Russell on it lost very often.