Parsons-Gonzaga game remembered as Bulldogs open tournament
The year was 1970.
Coach Bill Carlyle was in his second season at the helm of the Parsons College Wildcat basketball team. According to The Fairfield Ledger, “It is hard to tell who’s the most enthusiastic about the upcoming basketball season: Parsons Coach Bill Carlyle or his Kelly Green Squad. I’ve never coached a team with as much spirit and enthusiasm as this group.” Thus set the tone for the upcoming season.
Leading the team as tri-captains were Ben Robinson from Mount Clemens, Mich.; Dan Breen from Lorain, Ohio, currently living in Fairfield; and newcomer Lovell Luddell, a transfer from Midwestern College. Greg DeAth, currently of Fairfield, and Tim Dieters, currently of Ottumwa, were also on the squad.
The Kelly Greens’ schedule that season shows a December 7, 1970, away game being played in Spokane, Wash., against up-and-comer Gonzaga University. Of course, at the time no one in Fairfield knew how high-reaching Gonzaga would become — they’re currently seeded first in the West Region of the 2013 NCAA tournament.
The game recap in The Ledger reads, “Upstart Parsons College gave Gonzaga University a run for its money ... here before the Bulldogs pulled out a 62-58 victory. Parsons played their best ball of the season, the Kelly Greens powered a furious finish against a veteran team, which is contending for the Big Sky Conference crown. Ace guard Ben Robinson sparked the Greens with 12 goals and three gift shots for 27 points. Dieters was next with 13 and Dan Breen, Robinson’s running mate, had 12.”
“Gonzaga Coach has warm praise for the Greens after the game. ‘If they play like they did this evening, I don’t see how they can lose another game the rest of the season,’ he told Parsons Bill Carlyle. It was the Greens’ hustle and pressing defense and not their shooting ability that kept them in the game. They hit only 34 percent of their shots from the field while Gonzaga was making 44 percent.”
“Gonzaga, fresh from an overtime victory over Washington State, grabbed an early lead and appeared headed for an easy victory. The Bulldogs held a 34-22 halftime edge and were in front by 16 points with three minutes to go.”
“The Greens suddenly seized command at that point, using their press to force eight Gonzaga turnovers in the closing minutes.”
Prior to Parsons’ closing in 1973, Carlyle ran a very successful program during his four-year stint. Two of those four years, Parsons was rated in the top 20 NAIA small colleges in the country. Gonzaga, on the other hand, has gone on to earn 16 bids to the “Big Dance” since 1995.
Details of this story were obtained from The Fairfield Ledger dated Dec. 8, 1970. Information was provided by former Parsons student Dave Neff.