Monday, March 02, 2009


About a year ago I was in a secondhand store looking at books when I came across a University of San Francisco yearbook from 1965. Me being a history buff and sports fanatic decided to check out the pictures and happenings of the time.

While viewing the sports section I came across some revelatory information, to me anyway. The USF Dons (Hilltoppers) basketball program of the early 60's had some powerhouse teams. 1965 featured all-american honors for three USF players, Ollie Johnson, Joe Ellis and Erwin Mueller. Ellis and Johnson were named to the All-Coast first team and Mueller to the second. In addition Ollie was honored for the second time as Player of the Year in Northern California as well as Player of the Year in the WCC
(West Coast Conference ).

These three guys (the big three) made up the frontcourt while guards Russ Gumina and Huey Thomas directed the Dons attack with timely scoring. The Dons wreaked havoc in the WCC and led the team to a third consecutive conference championship and NCAA tournament bid.

The Dons would travel to Provo,Utah for the tournament regionals. There they would defeat an Oklahoma City University team 91-67 in the first round before falling to the UCLA Bruins 93-101. The game was much closer than the final score indicates.

excerpt from the 1965 Year Book:
Ollie's tremendous play was readily acknowledged by all as he was named Most Valuable Player for the Tournament. Shooting an amazing 68% from the floor, he garnered 72 points in the two games and shattered Bill Russell's all-time USF scoring record. Jumping Joe Ellis, who played with brilliant consistency both nights, joined Johnson on the All-Tournament team.

UCLA coach John Wooden called Ollie "the best center I've seen on the low post for position and finesse."

#32 Ollie Johnson - All American
averages over 3 seasons 1963-1965
19.9 points
15.8 rebound
58.7 field goal
66.1 free throw

Team record overall: 23-4 (excludes NCAA Tournament)
League record: 13-1
13 consecutive victories

Other Sports Records
Football 6-2
Soccer 5-3
Frosh Basketball 19-4 (equivalent to Junior Varsity)


In 1955, the University of San Francisco, behind a gazelle with a mean streak named Bill Russell and granite of a guard named KC Jones defeated heavily-favored La Salle (Hmm. These guys seem to be everywhere. Go USF) 77-63. Tournament prognosticators pegged the Explorers to romp away with their second straight title on the strength of its awesome line-up led by All-American Tom Gola. Jones recalled that “the Dons were said to have a better chance of being struck by lightning on a sunny day than winning it all.” As it turned out, not only did the Dons wallop the defending champs but they won back-to-back titles (a 83-71 win over the Iowa Hawkeyes in 1956) and 55-straight games to become the first team to go undefeated in NCAA play.
article posted at Bleachers' Brew

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