This is part of a series of mini-Redlands Connections. This is Part 3 of the series, Quick Visits. Magic Johnson and John Wooden showed up at the University of Redlands as part of a Convocation Series. This piece on Tom Flores was another one. Hall of Fame pitcher Ferguson Jenkins, former NBA player John Block, legendary high school coach Willie West showed up. There are others. Cazzie Russell, for instance, came to Redlands with an NCAA Division III basketball team from Savannah, Ga. Russell, out of Michigan, was the NBA’s overall No. 1 draft pick by the New York Knicks in 1966.

Today’s feature: Former Univ. San Francisco basketball coach Bob Gaillard.

I guess I could understand a few reasons why visiting Lewis & Clark (Ore.) College basketball coach Bob Gaillard wasn’t in all that much of a mood to chat.

He had a basketball team to coach at the University of Redlands’ Lee Fulmer Memorial Tournament.

Plus, it had been so long since he’d coached at the University of San Francisco.

There wasn’t much he could add to a sad, dramatic and unfavorable tale about a scandal that was so richly embarrassing. At times like those, you hate being a media member. You have to ask, though.

Forty-five minutes before tip-off at Currier Gymnasium, I’d slid in beside him on the Pioneers’ bench. His players were warming up. Can’t remember if L&C was playing Redlands, or not, in the eight-team tournament that night.

Gaillard was in the midst of a 22-year coaching career in Portland.

Bob Gaillard
Lewis & Clark College basketball coach Bob Gaillard brought his team to win the Lee Fulmer Memorial Classic on three different occasions. The onetime Univ. San Francisco coach lived through turbulent times before landing in Portland (photo by Lewis & Clark College).

USF? Maybe there was something the media missed. New developments? A different side we hadn’t thought about?

“Was there any of that?” I asked.

“Look,” he said, shaking his head slowly, “I really don’t want to re-hash something like that. There’s nothing new. It happened so far back.”

What my readers might’ve wanted to know was about his USF background. There were people in Redlands that attended USF. He tried to be kind and patient.

Gaillard was at USF from 1968 through 1977, starting about a decade after Bill Russell had left the Dons.

By 1976, he was the Dons’ head coach, a team that included NBA-bound players like Bill Cartwright, Winford Boynes and James Hardy. The Dons were 29-2 that season.

That team, eventually placed on probation, was cited for academic fraud that included players getting special academic treatment, among other infractions.

Gaillard, the 1977 AP Coach of the Year, was fired.

No way he wanted to re-live those moments.

In the middle of his refusal, I kept thinking, “I really can’t blame you, coach.”

It was a lousy atmosphere in which to try and rekindle all that negative hype — the media coverage, NCAA sanctions, the outlaw nature of the players, everything.

It’s quite possible Gaillard had nothing to do with any of those scandals. What a story that might make for that tiny Redlands readership.

He’d brought his team from Oregon, flown into Los Angeles, caught a couple vans out to Redlands for this tournament. It was 1992, some 15 years after the fact.

“I’d really rather talk about this team,” he said.

Those were good years for the Pioneers, in fact, who were headed for a string of winning seasons.

Back to USF 1977. Wasn’t it curious that Gaillard’s Dons carried a 29-1 record into the 32-team NCAA Tournament? Their first-round opponent was none other than Nevada-Las Vegas, coached by Jerry Tarkanian.

Tarkanian had Redlands connections. It was right around that time that Tark himself had started getting NCAA attention.

Maybe that’s another reason Gaillard didn’t want to talk.

The Runnin’ Rebels ran the Dons out of the area that night, 121-95. In fact, USF had been 29-0 heading into their final regular season game against Notre Dame. The Fighting Irish beat the Dons by 11.

As for Lewis & Clark at the 1992 Fulmer Tournament? The Pioneers not only won it, but they came back the following season and repeated as champions.