"Sweet" Charlie Brown had the ball and a lot of confidence. With the clock winding down in overtime at San Francisco's Cow Palace, Brown was supposed to deliver a pass to Elgin Baylor, arguably the greatest college player at the time, so his Seattle University teammate could supply a second game-winning shot in as many nights.
"[John] Castellani called his favorite play: Give it to Elgin," said Brown, referring to his coach.
On March 15, 1958, Brown, in sizing up an ominous California Golden Bears team in the NCAA Tournament's Far West Regional, also had another option he could count on: Himself.
In regulation play against Cal, Brown already had come up with a heroic basket of his own, dropping in a short twisting shot with 10 seconds remaining to tie the game at 60 and force the extra session.
Now with a Final Four berth on the line and the score tied at 62, the Chicago native looked for Baylor. With the crowd of 14,862 on its feet, Brown next turned his attention to the rim from 20 feet out.
"I was at the top of the key when I had the ball, faked the pass to Elgin and three players ran to Elgin right away." Brown said. "I said, 'What is this? Chopped liver?' Nobody was guarding me. He had three guys guarding him like flies go to sugar. I didn't even think about it. It was instinct. I was open and had a shot.
"What's the worst thing that could have happened -- another overtime? I shot and we won, and I didn't know what all the hullaballoo was about."
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 eighth in a series of 33 stories replaying memorable SU events previously held at the NCAA's top level (1952-80).
At the Cow Palace, Brown had come up with two clutch shots in one night, and a permanent place in SU folklore. Brown finished with 12 points, second to Baylor's 26. The final margin become four when teammate Francis Saunders sank a pair of free throws after time expired, putting a capper on a 66-62 victory. Brown was the catalyst.
"In my era, in the '50s, you had to have two great players to win the tournament," Castellani said. "We had Charlie and Elgin. Charlie took over. Charlie had no fear."
After playing two seasons at Indiana, Brown had joined the Chieftains as a transfer, thinking he found a place where he could really succeed. It didn't hurt to have Baylor as a teammate either.
"People in Chicago were asking me, 'Who is this Elgin Baylor?' " Brown said. "Oscar Robertson got all this press in the Midwest. With Elgin, the news was suppressed. Everybody said, 'Who's Elgin?' I said, 'You're going to find out.' "
But for one glorious night in San Francisco, "Sweet" Charlie Brown made sure everyone knew exactly who he was.
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