ELGIN BAYLOR STATUE AT STAPLES WAS REDLANDS REMINDER

When the Los Angeles Lakers unveiled the statue of NBA legend Elgin Baylor at Staples Center on April 6, there must’ve been nostalgic reminders about the moments when he was twisting his way to the basket against the likes of Bill Russell and Wilt Chamberlain.

In those Southern California days, Baylor was as highly regarded as Dodger legend Sandy Koufax, the Rams’ Fearsome Foursome, UCLA’s John Wooden and his center, Lew Alcindor, not to mention Baylor’s teammate, Jerry West.

Baylor, in fact, came to Redlands.

Elgin Baylor drives vs Celtics Bill Russell cropped
Elgin Baylor, 22, goes up against Boston great Bill Russell in a 1960s duel between the Lakers and Celtics. On April 6, 2018, the Lakers honored Baylor with a statue outside Staples Center (Photo by nba.com).

It was back in the early 1970s when Baylor, along with UC Riverside coach John Masi, Gail Goodrich, his father, Gail, Sr., plus Redlands coaches ran a weeklong clinic at Currier Gymnasium in that early 1970s setting.

“After the last night of camp,” said Sal Valdivia, a lifetime Beaumont resident, “I invited them to my parents’ house for dinner – and they came.”

Baylor, Goodrich, Sr. and Masi, along with Redlands coaches, showed up at the Valdivias’ home, corner of 10th and Palm in nearby Beaumont.

Gail, Jr. had been invited, too, “but he had something else going on,” said Valdivia, who had been a Beaumont player, later its coach before spending 25 seasons as the assistant to Mt. San Jacinto College legend John Chambers.

Goodrich, Sr., in fact, was an All-American at USC in 1939.

Baylor and Goodrich, Jr., of course, were the headliners at the Redlands camp. Both are NBA Hall of Famers. Valdivia said he took part in the camp’s scrimmage.

“It was the highlight of my life,” said Valdivia, who spent 32 years teaching juveniles in Beaumont.

On that night at 10th and Palm, Valdivia’s mother, Palmita, made tacos, enchiladas, rice and beans.

“And beer,” said Sal, laughing.

That 5-day Redlands camp had been incredible, said Valdivia.

On the final day inside historic Currier Gym, the younger Goodrich gathered about 100 campers around the basket. He told them, “Here’s what shooting 500 times a day will do for you.”

Valdivia said the Lakers’ sharpshooter told them he’d take 50 shots from different spots on the court – corners, wings and top of the key – “and he guaranteed he’d make 90 percent.”

His recollection: After nailing a shot from the corner, Goodrich missed from the wing, then proceeded to drain 46 straight.

Goodrich
Laker legend, Gail Goodrich, hit 48 out of 50 long-range shots at a youth basketball clinic at the University of Redlands in the early 1970s (photo by Wikipedia Commons).

Said Valdivia: “He made 48 out of 50. The kids were going nuts. They were jazzed. He hit nothing but net.”

Baylor, who retired just prior to the Lakers’ NBA championship season in 1972, served as an executive for the Los Angeles Clippers for 22 years. During his 14-year playing career, having been selected as the NBA’s first overall pick in 1958, he averaged 27.4 points and 13.5 rebounds.

During his on-court days, Baylor was associated with a Laker franchise that reached the NBA finals on eight occasions – only to lose against the Boston Celtics seven times. The other time came in 1970s when the New York Knicks beat L.A.

Baylor became the sixth Laker honored with a statue. Magic Johnson, Kareem Abdul-Jabbar (formerly Alcindor), West, Shaquille O’Neal and announcer Chick Hearn, all having preceded Baylor.

All of which reminded Valdivia of that 1970s time at Redlands, plus the night at his parents’ home when his presence created a festive occasion.

“I told my mom I was going to invite them,” said Valdivia, “but that I didn’t think they’d come. I was surprised when they did.”

 

 

 

 

PART 2: VILLANOVA PLAYED TEMPLE, GEORGETOWN, SIENA … AND REDLANDS?

Redlands Connection is a concoction of sports memories emanating from a city that once numbered less than 20,000 people. From the Super Bowl to the World Series, from the World Cup to golf’s U.S. Open, plus NCAA Final Four connections, Tour de France cycling, major tennis, NBA and a little NHL, aquatics and quite a bit more, the sparkling little city that sits around halfway between Los Angeles and Palm Springs on Interstate 10 has its share of sports connections. – Obrey Brown

Villanova’s Allan Ray hit for 38 points, Randy Foye had 25, Will Sheridan 23 and Mike Nardi had 19 in the Wildcats’ 114-103 triumph over the University of Redlands. The date was Nov. 3, 2003.

Amir_Mazarei (Photo by University of Redlands)
Amir Mazarei, who is the University of Redlands’ all-time leading scorer, had 15 as a Bulldog freshman in his game against Villanova in Nov. 2003. (Photo courtesy of the University of Redlands.)

Amir Mazarei eventually became Redlands’ all-time leading scorer, even leading the entire NCAA – that’s D-1 through D-3 – with an average of 6.2 three-point field goals per game in 2005. He was second in Division 3 with a 28.6 scoring average.

He was only part of Redlands’ counter-attack against Villanova.

Redlands, playing its up-tempo defensive and offensive brand of organized mayhem, led 51-50 at halftime and really put the scare into the onetime NCAA champions. It was a game that included six ties and five lead changes.

Afterward, Wildcats’ coach Jay Wright reflected that Redlands “put the scare into us.”

“They should’ve been scared,” said Bulldog coach Gary Smith, moments after the game.

Smith, for his part, rotated his much larger roster in and out of the game against the eight-man Wildcats’ squad. Villanova needed every ounce of skill and discipline to knock off the physically smaller Bulldogs.

“I started my career coaching at Division 3 University of Rochester,” said Wright, “so I know how good those players are – very skilled, very talented. They maybe aren’t as big or as athletic.”

Redlands’ Donald Brady remembered his first play in the game, “coming down the court with Randy Foye guarding me. He deflected a pass. I couldn’t believe how quick he was. Luckily, someone came up with it. I almost committed a turnover.”

Wizards v/s Clippers 03/12/11
Randy Foye, the No. 1 draft pick by Boston in 2006, scored 25 points at Currier Gymnasium in Villanova’s win at the University of Redlands. Here, Foye is shown when he played for the Los Angeles Clippers from 2010-2012. (Photo by Wikipedia Commons.)

Villanova had more turnovers (23) than Redlands (18).

Redlands led by 10 points with nine minutes left. Ray hit a pair of difficult baseline jumpers, eight-footers that helped the Wildcats back into the game. “We missed a lot of lay-ups,” said Redlands’ Carson Sofro, whose team shot 36 percent to Villanova’s sizzling 63 percent.

“We might’ve had the advantage on talent,” Wright told me afterward, “but you and I know that. It doesn’t matter what a coach tells his players. What matters is what they hear.”

In that 2003 game, Derek Flegel and Billy Shivers combined for 51 of Redlands’ points. Mazarei, a freshman who would eventually become the school’s all-time leading scorer, added his 15, while Ryan Pelo netted six. Brady and Sofro barely saw action.

Flegel hit a game-opening three-pointer, lifting the smallish-gym’s capacity crowd to its feet. “The place erupted,” said Sofro, “after he hit that shot.”

In a way, I guess some of Redlands’ players were saying, it might’ve been an honor to lose such a game.

Fast forward some 27 months: The Wildcats, at times ranked No. 2 in the nation in 2005-2006 season, were a No. 1 seed in that year’s NCAA Tournament.

Several key members of that team were inside Currier Gymnasium, in uniform, in that November 2003 game. Villanova is still coached by Wright, who is still considered one of the bright coaching stars.

Mike Nardi, Ray and Will Sheridan were still playing when Villanova won its national championship in 2005-2006. Foye, a 6-4 senior, and Ray, a 6-2 senior, were the team’s top scorers at 20.3 and 18.9 points a game. Nardi, 6-2, a junior, was hitting at 11.5. Sheridan, a 6-foot-8 junior, netted five points a game. Ross Condon was another current Wildcat who played at Redlands.

Baker Dunleavy, son of then-Los Angeles Clippers’ coach Mike Dunleavy, was then a freshman. Dunleavy, a 6-5, red-shirt junior, was held scoreless at Redlands in a limited role. The brother of Warriors’ onetime No. 1 draft pick Mike Dunleavy, Jr., had played limited roles throughout his career.

He was not a factor against Redlands.

In 2005-2006, Villanova, ranked No. 2 behind Duke heading into a Big East loss at Connecticut, was 22-2 after that game. Wright’s team was gunning for an NCAA Tournament championship to cap the March Madness.

The Wildcats (18-17 in 2003-2004) failed to reach the NCAA Tournament field that season, losing to Rutgers in the NIT quarterfinals. “They’ve come a long way,” said Brady, a couple years later, “since they played us.”

Redlands finished 8-14 overall that season, taking fifth place in the Southern California Interscholastic Athletic Conference.

“A lot of us became Villanova fans after we played them,” said Mazarei, adding with a chuckle, “If they beat someone (like Duke or North Carolina), it makes us look better.”

Foye became a No. 1 pick in the 2006 NBA draft by the Boston Celtics, but started his career with the Minnesota Timberwolves. Ray played an NBA season with Boston.

And A Redlands Connection was struck forever.