Gary’s January 11, 2012 Blog, Including Eerie Memories of the fateful 1966 and 1967 Danvers High Basketball teams that ‘Almost’ Won Two NEC Titles

Tricky dribbling — with an occasional fiddlin’ and diddlin,’ as the inimitable Johnny Most used to say — all over the place today, but starting with a plea that you read a couple phenomenal journalistic efforts from the December 12, 2011 issue of Sports Illustrated, which honored Pat Summitt and Mike Krzyzewski as its Sportswoman and Sportsman of the Year.

Read Alexander Wolff’s masterpiece on the honored pair first, then move to L. Jon Wertheim’s look back to the 1976 recipient, Chris Evert. She still looks great except for the plastic surgery. 

Then chuckle at some of the silly things  said by Wayne Gretky, the ’82 honoree and second greatest hockey player of all time after Boston’s No. 4, Bobby Orr. Gretzky, maybe not in disrepect, just ignorance, said of receiving the SI Sportsman of the Year award, “It was one of those awards that I thought, Wow, a hockey player or a guy living in Canada could never win this.” Well, Boston’s — and Canada’s — own Robert Gordon Orr was duly honored in 1970. Pay attention, Waynzo.


Same issue, way in back, SI’s legendary photographer Walter Iooss, Jr. shows he’s an exceptional writer as well in “The Education of Walter Iooss, Jr,” in which he shares candid memories of his fifty years at the finest sports publication ever produced. I’m saving it. You may too.

Tiger Woods skipping the PGA Tour’s Farmers Insurance Classic in San Diego to play in Dubai?? I’m shocked, shocked, the way I’m shocked when the sun rises in the east every morning. No American athlete/golfer possesses the depth of greed this man does. We’re getting the same old Tiger in 2012. It’s all about the money.

Golf is in a terrible Catch 22 when it comes to Tiger. Most people despise — or at least loathe — him as a person. I shan’t explain it. But many people in golf accept the fact that the world of golf business does much better when Tiger is playing and winning, though this agent hopes he never wins another tournament. I repeat: Tiger is the worst face golf can project, and, sadly, he remains the No. 1 story in golf no matter what he does. This would be the perfect time for “Lefty” Mickelson to take over the game for two or three years so we can forget about the womanizer for a long, long time. C’mon Phil, one more great run as champion.


Belated congrats to Boston’s Dan Davis, a former leading voice on Boston sports radio and whose call of Doug Flutie’s miracle pass to Gerard Phelan in 1984 will live forever in the region’s sports folklore, on his retirement after 20 years at ESPN Radio (ever since it was inaugurated). At the same time, congrats to Marblehead favorite son Doug Brown, who followed Davis to ESPN Radio in 1993 and is still going strong, most recvently gaining major acclaim for his coverage of the 2010 World Cup in Germany.

Hope you caught where Don Carter, Mr. PBA Bowling, the sport’s first superstar, died January 5 in Miami at 85. When bowling was one of the primary sports staples of national (and local, i.e. Candlepin matches every Saturday at noon on Channel 5 with Don Gillis) television, Carter was the Arnold Palmer of his time.

He was a star on the weekly ABC-televised PBA Tour events on Saturday afternoons, but enjoyed an even larger focus on the weekly pre-filmed head-to-head matches syndicated to the local TV markets. The enthusiasn leve of the galleries and broadcasters for those matches were incredible.

Great to see the Danversd High boys basketball team rolling along at 7-1 behind the coaching of John Walsh and the “big 3” performances of George Merry, Nick Bates and Nick McKenna. This team may have a Division 3 state championship in its future. This is certainly the best DHS squad since the Falcons’ last Northeastern Conference championship unit in 1975, coached by John McGrath and led by Ed Gieras, Mike Hennessey and Pat Veilleux, the current girls’ coach. That’s 37 years and counting.

Makes me also reflect back 45 years to 1967 when your humble servant wrapped up an inauspicious DHS cage career and McGrath was in his fourth season as coach. My last two teams were snake-bitten and deserved better, though we had our moments. After McGrath had won the NEC title in 1964, his first year in charge thanks to the talents of Jeff Ryback, the late great Bob Cunninghma, Steve Lenz, Bob Bonner, John Keane and Pat O’Shea, his second team went 7-7 in the Conference (my sophomore year).

We had terrific chances to win the next two NEC titles, but my junior year our captain and leading scorer, Jon Tiplady (recently retired from the Danvers Police Department as Captain), suffered a serious knee injury the next-to-last game of the regular season, forcing him to miss the final game, a showdown at Winthrop for the title. We both came in 12-1 in NEC play. We’d beaten Winthrop earlier by 10 in Danvers in Vye Gym before what was believed to be the largest home crowd in DHS hoop annals to that date. But we’d lost a four-pointer at Gloucester later on, setting the stage for the winner-take-all rematch.

The new Winthrop gym was packed before the junior varsity game even started. By the time we took the floor for warmups it was so hot in there I could hardly breathe. Oh, I almost forgot. As sixth man, I got the call to take Jon’s place in the starting lineup. We were all crushed for Jon. He was with us that Friday night in uniform. It must have killed him not to be able to play. Anyway, the game went back and forth throughout, tight all the way. We led for the last time at 48-47 when I hit a top-of-the-key jumper with 2:45 left. Sadly, I was only 7-for-23 from the floor for the night; not exactly a fairy tale performance. But we were right there. Doubly sadly, we couldnt’ score another point and lost 50-48.

Even worse, several of us had to face the music the next morning at 7:30 for college board exams. Our consolation prize was a trip to the Tech Tourney and what turned into two games on the old Boston Garden parquet. We won our first over South Boston, then fell in Game 2 to Don Bosco. At least we got to play on the floor that Cousy, Havlicek, Russell and Sam Jones made famous. That was grand.

My tale of pity continues. The next year, my senior year along with Terry Baronauskas, Paul Strauch, Neil Berry and Peter Dzierzak, among others, we had another shot at the title. We entered the next-to-last game of the Conference season at 11-1, one game behind 12-0 Swampscott (they’d beaten us in Danvers), with a Tuesday afternoon date in Swampscott’s aging bandbox gym. It snowed Tuesday, so the game was pushed back another day, giving me two sleepless nights in succession.

Wednesday, gametime 5 p.m. I’m back in  my sixth man role for a third season (doesn’t say much for my improvement over three years, does it?). I hit three mid-range jumpers the second half, two late in the fourth quarter, and we appeared headed for victory, leading by 54-48 with two minutes left. But we botched this one as well, falling 55-54, thanks to another fatal scoreless spell at the end. No Tech Tourney this time. We got bludgeoned by eventual state champion Melrose, coached by future Celtics assistant coach John Killilea, in two non-leaguers the final week and finished 12-8 when 13-7 would have gotten us in (65% was the requisite winning percentage in those days.

Oh well, we had a lot of fun screwing up our championship chances two years running. I wouldn’t have missed it for the world. Just to have the chance to play in those two title-determining games was unforgettable.

Don’t worry, McGrath got over it, too. His 1970 squad led by Lon Cohen, Jay Veilleux and Dana White won the Northeastern Conference, washing away the eerie memories we’d created in 1966 and ’67. Then we all moved on to our lives beyond DHS.


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