People arrived early at the Seattle Center Coliseum just to see the Texas Western basketball team warm up. It was showtime. On March 5, 1966, the Miners walked out onto the floor with a 23-0 record, plenty of moxie and a willingness to entertain.
In their bright orange warm-ups, center "Big Daddy" David Lattin was a menacing-looking guy with the matching nickname. Guard Bobby Joe Hill was a flashy ball-handler, if not the team's best player. And little Willie Worsley, all 5-foot-6 of him, was the total floorshow, repeatedly dunking in the layup lines.
The Coliseum crowd was announced at 11,557, but it appeared closer to a sellout. Either way, likely twice that many people have claimed through the years they were there the night Seattle University pulled a stirring 74-72 upset of a historic team that would become the first with an all-black lineup to win the NCAA championship.
"I was there when we beat Texas Western," SU's All-America tennis player Tom Gorman insisted. "A lot of people make that claim, but I was actually there."
With Seattle U returning to full Division I championship eligibility for the first time in 33 years -- when the Redhawks host Washington in a women's soccer match at Championship Field on Aug. 17 -- this is the 10th in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
The Chieftains treated their season-ending game against Texas Western as if it were a championship event. Coming in, they were an underachieving team that had compiled a 15-10 record, which included a 74-64 loss on the road to the Miners. SU played more up to its potential in the return match.
"The scouting report on us was [that] we had the five most talented guys in the United States and the five biggest head cases," joked Chieftains guard Steve Looney, who finished with 13 points the second time around against the Miners. "We didn't play together, but we didn't back down from anyone. We went 16-10. We should have lost just three games."
With the crowd roaring with each exchange, SU and Texas Western traded the lead 19 times. They were tied at 72 when Chieftains forward Tom Workman, who led all scorers with 23 points, rose up and hit a game-winning jumper from the top of the key with 53 seconds remaining.
While stunned by the outcome, Texas Western players had no time to wallow over this lone defeat. Two nights later, they played their first NCAA Tournament game against Oklahoma City in Wichita, Kansas. They went on to beat Cincinnati, Kansas and Utah before putting together a 72-65 victory over Kentucky in the title game in College Park, Maryland.
SU players were huddled around a TV set in Seattle, rooting for the Miners to pull the historic NCAA victory because they knew these guys, and not sure why everyone was making such a big deal about the racial implications.
"Most teams we played were half black and half white," Workman said. "Half our roster was white and half was black. It was no big deal to us."
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