Staff writer Matt Daniels, who wasn’t born until 1986, went back in the archives to find out what was going on when the Assembly Hall was christened:
... in the news
The big deal in Champaign-Urbana 50 years ago was the opening of the Assembly Hall. Nearly 40,000 people (39,317 to be exact) attended the grand opening. But that wasn’t the only event going on locally, statewide and in the rest of the world in 1963.
1. On the same day as the grand opening at the Assembly Hall, Dave Downey scored 29 points on 12-of-27 shooting, but the Illini lost 84-81 at Michigan in front of 9,450 spectators, the second-largest-attended game in Michigan history.
2. Five days after the Assembly Hall opened, a 108,000-square-foot Kmart opened in Champaign at North Prospect Avenue and Bloomington Road. The store was Champaign County’s first national chain discount store.
3. Mississippi State received permission from school officials the night Assembly Hall opened to have its men’s basketball team compete in the NCAA tournament. Mississippi State had turned down its bid three times in the previous four years because of the school’s refusal to play teams with black players.
4. Can’t afford an attorney these days? You can thank 1963. The Supreme Court ruled states must provide free legal counsel for all defendants in criminal cases.
5. St. Patrick’s Church in Urbana got a brand-new organ, which cost $20,000 and included 926 pipes.
6. The United States and the Soviet Union agreed to set up a “hot line,” which was a direct telephone link between Washington, D.C., and Moscow to prevent the start of a nuclear war by accident.
7. Jack Nicklaus won his first Masters at age 23, the youngest golfer to take the title on those famed Augusta National grounds.
8. Popular TV shows of the year included “The Twilight Zone,” “Mr. Ed,” “Perry Mason,” “Gunsmoke,” “Leave It to Beaver,” “Bonanza” and “The Dick Van Dyke Show.”
9. The Beatles hadn’t made it big in the States yet, but John Lennon, Paul McCartney, George Harrison and Ringo Starr were tearing up the English charts with “Please, Please Me” and “Love Me Do.”
10. More than 800 water meters were installed in Champaign-Urbana in 1963, and James L. Capel Sr., head of the Champaign County Telephone Co., announced his company would provide toll-free services in Champaign, Urbana and 17 other area towns.
... in college basketball
Dave Downey, Tal Brody and Skip Thoren weren’t the only college basketball players who thrived during the 1962-63 season. Even in Illinois. Fifty years ago, the state produced its lone Division I NCAA tournament champion when Loyola Chicago edged Cincinnati 60-58 in overtime of the national championship game at Freedom Hall in Louisville, Ky. At this point in history, Loyola had won more national championships than UCLA. What other teams and players thrived 50 years ago on the college basketball landscape? We’re glad you asked.
1. Loyola Chicago — Duh. The Ramblers won their first 20 games of the season and played at a frenetic pace, averaging 93 points. Loyola beat Tennessee Tech and Mississippi State before dispatching Illinois, Duke and Cincinnati en route to the national championship. Since the title-game win, Loyola has won three NCAA tournament games — and none since 1985.
2. Cincinnati — These weren’t your grandfather’s Oscar Robertson-led Bearcats. The “Big O” had left Cincinnati after three seasons in 1960, during which he averaged 33.8 points, 15.2 rebounds and 4.8 assists. Ironically, though, the Bearcats won two straight national titles in 1961 and 1962 before their runner-up finish in 1963.
3. Duke — No surprise you might think. Quite the contrary. The Blue Devils, who finished second in the final Associated Press poll behind Cincinnati, had never been to a Final Four prior to this season. And they’d only made two NCAA tournament appearances (1955 and 1960) before this breakthrough season, the first of 15 Final Four appearances for Duke.
4. Oregon State — The Beavers did not finish the season in the Top 10 of the final Associated Press poll, but the school in Corvallis made its second Final Four appearance this season, knocking off Seattle (post-Elgin Baylor), San Francisco (post-Bill Russell) and Arizona State (pre-James Harden) en route to the Final Four, where it finished fourth (Yes, they had third-place games 50 years ago).
5. Arizona State — The Sun Devils made their third straight NCAA tournament appearance a decade removed from competing at the NAIA level. Arizona State handed UCLA its last NCAA tournament loss this season until North Carolina State beat the Bruins at the 1974 Final Four.
1. Ron Bonham — The Cincinnati forward averaged 21.0 points to lead the Bearcats, including a game-high 22 points in the NCAA tournament championship game. Bonham — who went on to a brief professional career with the Boston Celtics before playing one season with the Indiana Pacers in the ABA — is seventh on the school’s scoring list with 1,666 points.
2. Gary Bradds — The Ohio State product and 6-foot-8 forward was a key focal point for the Buckeyes the year after Jerry Lucas, John Havlicek and Bob Knight (that’s what the Classic Bully went by back then) led the Buckeyes to a runner-up finish at the 1962 NCAA tournament. Bradds picked up the slack, averaging 28 points his junior season, a precursor of his 30.8 scoring average during his senior campaign that helped him wind up with 1,530 career points.
3. Jerry Harkness — The Loyola Chicago guard, who hailed from the Bronx, N.Y., averaged 21.4 points and 7.6 rebounds during a senior season that saw him shoot 50 percent from the field. He finished with 1,749 career points in three seasons, good for fifth on the school’s all-time list.
4. Art Heyman — The 1963 Final Four MVP (despite Duke finishing third) led the Blue Devils in scoring at 24.9 points and rebounding at 10.8. Heyman fouled out of four games, tops on the team, this season before getting drafted by the New York Knicks with the No. 1 pick in the 1963 NBA draft. Heyman is tied for 12th with Shane Battier on the school’s career scoring list with 1,984 points.
5. Barry Kramer — The New York University guard finished his junior season with first-team All-America honors after he averaged 29.3 points, doing most of his damage at the free throw line. He made 235 of 283 at the foul line to account for more than one-third of his points. He helped NYU advance to the NCAA tournament, the last appearance in the Division I tournament for the now-D-III program.