“If you don’t want a ticket you better move on” – Midnight Star
In this five-part series, I honor my dad and the players that made magic happen on a “God-awful blue court” in a gym located on the campus of Seminole Junior College in Seminole, Oklahoma. My dad and those players were more than just a coach and his ballplayers. They were my heroes, and this series of posts is a dedication to that time, those men, and some unbelievable basketball. And, oh yeah, you know I’m going to bring some sweet sounds from that era as well! Previous: Part 2: Just “Win”
Part 3: The ABC Gang
Win Case spent the summer of 1982 working in the Upward Bound program in Seminole helping underprivileged youth and working on his game. He also worked on his recruiting (a role and talent that has served Case well through his post-basketball and current coaching career that has taken him from Oklahoma colleges to Middle Tennessee to his current position as an assistant coach at Ole Miss University).
“I told coach there’s no way that Westark is going to beat us again,” Case was quoted as saying early into the ’82-’83 season, and he went to work that summer making sure that it didn’t happen again. Part of his plan was helping to recruit two under-appreciated Tulsa players who were teammates at Tulsa East Central and were initially planning to attend NEO in Miami, Oklahoma.
Those two players were Anthony Bowie and William “Chilli” Childs.
“We didn’t really know about Seminole,” recalled Childs. “We knew that Win Case went there, but we had friends going to NEO and Connors and so we were leaning that way until our high school coach (1982 All-State Coach of the Year Rodger Lefler) said ‘I’m not trying to tell you all where to go, but if it was me I would go with Jim Kerwin at Seminole. We said ‘who is that?’ and then he told us how he played for Phillips (Phillips 66ers AAU team based out of Bartlesville, OK) and his history and how he knew your dad.”
“Your dad set us down and told us like it was. He didn’t promise us no starting positions or anything like other programs were telling us. Win (Case) sold us on it and Adam Frank too. That was our decision to go there and one of the best decisions I ever made in my life.”
William Childs was a strong 6’5″ swingman who could play inside or out. Possessing a smooth left-handed jumper, he was known to everyone simply as “Chili” or “Chilli (his preference)” or “Chilly” depending upon who you ask to spell it for you. It didn’t matter how you spelled it though because William Childs was a b-a-l-l-e-r. The nickname that Coach Lefler had given him as a junior in high school was based off of the penguin cartoon character “Chilly Willy,” but William didn’t like that nickname. It was his teammate Anthony Bowie who shortened it to “Chill” during practice one day, and soon everyone followed suit by referring to him as “Chill” or “Chilli.”
“The coaches loved Chill (at E. Central), but they were pretty rough on him,” recalled Bowie. “But we knew Win. He was kind of a pivotal point for us because he was there at Seminole. We used to see Win all the time walking down the street (in Tulsa) dribbling his basketball.”
Anthony Bowie was Chilli’s 6’5″ do-it-all teammate from Tulsa East Central. Bowie could play multiple positions on the offensive side of the floor including point guard, and was a lock-down defender on the defensive end.
“It (Seminole) was good for us. It gave me an opportunity to venture out slowly without going to a big college. I think it got me ready to go to the University of Oklahoma. I thought it was a good thing to take that road of going to junior college and then to really see where I was at with my skills. Junior college basketball reminds me of when the CBA was the CBA (Continental Basketball Association). It was a fast-paced game and you had to be ready and in great shape and condition. Your dad was based upon playing defense and stopping people but at the same time getting out and getting it going. I don’t remember him putting limits on us as long as we were doing what we were supposed to be doing.”
The third piece of that recruiting class was a 6’5″ post player from Wewoka, Oklahoma named Ray Alford. Ray was a heralded player coming out of Wewoka where he averaged three blocks and 17 rebounds a game his senior season. His high school coach Jim Lawson was quoted as saying that Ray could have played point guard if he wanted. Ray was also a part of the famous OKC Rams AAU team during the summer where he teamed up with players like Wayman Tisdale, Darryl “Choo” Kennedy, and Mark Price, who ran point on the Rams’ 1981 national championship team.
The three Seminole signees were teammates at the All-State game the summer of 1982 before embarking on two historic years together at SJC.
Win Case also proved important in the recruitment of Alford: “Ray had all the fanfare coming out of Wewoka (OK). He had great grades but he was an undersized post. He would come to a lot of our games and I would tell him if you want to realize your dreams you need to come play for Coach Kerwin. He will care about you more than just as a ball player. And he listened.”
“I thought Ray was pretty cool, said Bowie. “He was the coolest dude there. That’s why they called him “Sugar.” It was great how we came together and the three of us just hit it off. I think what it really was is that we were so damn competitive with each other. The first time I saw him dunk – I was like what the hell?! Ray could get up off the floor quick. He wasn’t the biggest, but I thought ‘hey we were going to be alright.'”
Future SJC teammate Archie Marshall remembers Ray’s attributes as well: “You talk about dunks. Ray Alford had crazy hops (the highest vertical on the team), and had the little mid range jumper and did the simple things. He was real quiet. I didn’t realize how intelligent the dude was until later on. Years later we hooked up over Thanksgiving dinner and he would tell me stories about how he was studying while we were out partying.”
Because of the lack of student housing and lack of any campus dormitory, the players lived in a two-story house a few blocks from Seminole High School on Jefferson Street that they called “The White House.” It was either a rental or a house that the Booster Club owned. I remember riding with my dad over to the house on occasion during the summer just to make sure the yard looked kept, and that the house hadn’t burned to the ground I guess.
Chilli remembers: “It was probably more like Animal House. Parties, chicks, all of that… like a frat house. We wasn’t that rowdy, but I heard after we left Seminole they had to close it down.”
The house was located in a residential neighborhood, so maybe it wasn’t ever too rowdy if you listen to the players, but Athletic Director Thurman Edwards does remember one incident:
“I had to go to the house one time because the heater didn’t work and some of the guys were tearing up chairs and had started a fire in the fireplace to stay warm.”
Win Case recalled using “The White House” as part of his recruiting pitch:
“I told those guys – I just want you all to know – you’re gonna love the White House! It’s this luxurious mansion. It’s sacred. This is a really good place to live. It’s legendary!”
Anthony Bowie added: “It was big house. It was nice, but it was a lot of house. The guys were pretty good about being in the house. I think Win Case thought he was the headmaster of the house though. It had to be at least 6-7 guys in that house. I don’t even remember how many lived in there, but it was the best thing because we could all get up together and go to class together and get in the gym.”
But at the gym, the practices were not easy, and it was no secret that my dad could be tough on players. And it was never more evident than it was at one particular incident during practice that season involving William Childs. It was early in the season that began with six straight wins before a two point loss to Westark. After two more wins, the Trojans experienced two straight losses – a double OT loss to Independence, Kansas and a two point loss to Connors put our record at 8-3.
“The practices were pretty tough,” said Chilli. “Your dad could be pretty tough. We were rolling good our freshman year. I think we had loss to Independence though and at practice coach was getting on us and I was kind of getting mad because he was on me about getting more rebounds, and so I said I’m going to quit coach. And he said then get your ass out of here! (laughs). So I walked out of practice. I tried to come back in that day and he said, nope you’re not coming back to practice today. It took me a couple of days to get back on the squad. It was during a break or something so I didn’t miss any games. It was no feud or anything, but it made me snap. He knew how to motivate us. He was upset we lost and we shouldn’t have lost.”
Athletic Director Thurman Edwards also recalled the incident:
“I was outside the gym and I see (Ron) Moddelmog and (Larry) Sims talking to Chilli. Your dad had just kicked him out of practice and they were talking him into going back.”
Practices may have been tough and intense, but the games are what made it worth it.
Bowie: “My freshman year the big games that stood out for me was the games against NEO because I knew a lot of those guys. A lot of them were from Tulsa too on that team. Coach Gipson really wanted us to go to NEO. It was crazy playing against them because we knew them and most of them were about one year ahead of us.”
“Your dad had that high voice when he was talking especially when he was angry and upset. It was hilarious. Chill has a good impression of Coach Kerwin. You know your dad was a cool character. He didn’t really want to show that he was mad or angry, but when he got upset that voice got real high,” said Bowie.
Chilli remembers one particular game from early in the season:
“The game that stands out that we talk about all the time is when we were at Allen County, Kansas. It was probably our 6th or 7th game playing Allen County and we were losing. We were losing and Win (Case) called a timeout and he started going crazy because he didn’t think we were playing very hard and the crowd was hyped up. They had a guard named Eric Watson who signed with K-State and he and Win were going at it, but we were losing. Win pumped us up at halftime and said we ain’t losing this game and we came back and won that game. They had some 6’9 and 6’10 guys and their guards were bigger than ours and I think we were down like 10 or 12 and came back and won that game. That game stands out for me as well as the games against Independence and Connors.”
After an 8-3 start, the Trojans started to gel, and before we knew it had won 19 of our last 20 to finish the regular season. Our only loss during that time? Westark again.
We entered the state tournament at 27-4 and proceeded to destroy Bacone 99-71 in the first round setting up a semi-final matchup with St. Gregory’s. Win Case was 7 for 7 from the field and made both free throws to finish with 16 points. Adam Frank, who started the game 2 for 12, hit eight straight shots at one point and finished with a game-high 24 points in the 88-68 win.
A championship matchup with a very good NEO team was up next. We had beaten them twice during the regular season, but both games were tough, defensive battles played in the 50’s and decided by seven and four points respectively.
Game three between the two teams would prove to be even more defensive and tighter than the previous two as the championship game never made it out of the 40’s. It was Adam Frank who carried us that night though hitting 6 of 12 from the field and 10 of 11 from the free throw line scoring 22 of our 45 points. He was tournament MVP as the Trojans prevailed 45-42.
“The guy is a great player,” said my dad after the win. “People have underestimated him all year. He’s a winner.”
We had just won a third straight Oklahoma Junior College championship, were now 30-4, and expected another tough best-of-three series with Westark. Little did we know that the unexpected had happened over in Arkansas. The Westark Lions had been dethroned from their perch as the best juco team in Arkansas.
“No parking baby. No parking on the dance floor”
Another funky R&B band I absolutely thought was awesome was Midnight Star. I actually posted one other time about them on this site, but this 1983 hit was always my favorite. The distinctive sound of Midnight Star along with the clothing and the hair styles of 1983 really help this video stand out. At this time in my life, I was trying to learn how to break dance in my room with an instructional break dancing book. I never practiced enough to be any good, but this song got me onto the dance floor, and let me tell you – if the blue rubber floor on the campus of Seminole Junior College was the dance floor, these Trojans were never in park. It was always 0 to 94 feet in no time when there was a basketball involved.
Thanks for reading.
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