The 1960 California Golden Bears basketball team went 28-2, but lost the NCAA Championship to Ohio State. In 1959, California started the season unranked and not expected to place higher than fourth in their conference. Yet, the team went 26-4 and won the NCAA Championship. Although four of the five starters from the 1959 team graduated, the 1960 team was better.
The reason for Californias success was their coach, Pete Newell. Newell invented the full court press, the four-corner stall, the reverse action offense and the concept of playing big men near the basket on defense.
On game days, Newell would drink 20 cups of coffee and smoke two packs of cigarettes. Explaining his nervousness, Newell said that Basketball is a game of mistakes, and the team making fewer mistakes generally wins. Were constantly trying to minimize mistakes.
Newell had his players play practice games at fast and slow speeds. “We want to use tempo as a weapon, Newell said. When we play a ball-control team, we try to force them into a faster tempo of play. When we play a fast-breaking team, we try to slow down the tempo with ball control.
Newells focus was on defense. The players seem to realize that through increased defensive play they can offset a poor shooting performance and still win the game. We’re usually in one form of a press throughout the game because it is important always to have pressure on the ball. Through our pressure, we are trying to increase an opponent’s mistakes.”
Newell emphasized conditioning in practice. “Sometimes we have to wear an opponent down,” Newell said. “A player should be conditioned to play the last five minutes of a game, not just the first five.”
Newells ideas were ahead of his time and have been adopted by virtually every successful coach today. Hall of Fame coach Bobby Knight has said he believes Newell is one of the best coaches ever. “He has the best all-around grasp of the game of anyone I’ve ever been around, Knight said.
Tom Fitzpatrick, the leading scorer on the 1959 team, described Darrall Imhoff and Bill McClintock, the two leading scorers on the 1960 team, in less than flattering terms. Imhoff was so uncoordinated that he could hardly walk when he came to Cal.” McClintock was so uncoordinated that in 1959 when he played with Fitzpatrick, McClintock couldn’t complete the basic practice drills as a sophomore. He couldn’t do it.”
Imhoff didnt even start on his high school team. Imhoff may have not been the most athletic 610 center who ever played the game, but he averaged 13.7 points and 12.4 rebounds in 1960. He grew into a solid defensive player and shot blocker under Newell.
Imhoffs 371 rebounds in 1960 are the second most in a season for a Golden Bear. Imhoff was named to the All-America team in 1960. He played on the gold medal winning 1960 Olympic team under Newell as well.
Imhoff was the third pick in the 1960 NBA draft behind Oscar Robertson and Jerry West. He played 12 years in the pros, averaging 7.2 points and 7.6 rebounds per game. Imhoff has the dubious honor of being the center against whom Wilt Chamberlain scored 100 points in an NBA game.
Opponents averaged only 49.5 points per game against Cals fearsome top-ranked defense in 1960. Cal blasted through the regular season, losing only once. The loss was at USC, 65-57.
In the first round of the NCAA Tournament, Cal dismantled Idaho State, 71-44 at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. Imhoff scored 19 points and had 11 rebounds.
The Golden Bears then traveled to Seattle for the regionals. Cals first opponent in Seattle was Santa Clara. Cal won 69-49. Cals defense held Santa Clara to 32.7 percent shooting from the field. Imhoff scored 16 and pulled down 12 rebounds. Cals second opponent in Seattle was Oregon. Cal beat Oregon 70-49. Cals defense held Oregon to 31.3 percent shooting from the field. Imhoff scored 18 points and had 12 rebounds. Junior forward Bill McClintock, the player too uncoordinated to run basic practice drills as a sophomore, scored 12 points and brought down 15 rebounds.
In the Final Four, for the second year in a row, California faced Cincinnati, led by senior superstar Oscar Robertson. For the third year in a row in 1960, Robertson led the nation in scoring with 33.7 points per game. Cincinnati was ranked number one in the nation from the beginning of the season to the end. Cal was ranked number two. Cal won 77-69. Cals defense shut Robertson down. Robertson managed to score only 19 points. He was a dismal 4 of 16 from the field. Imhoff scored 25 and had 11 boards. McClintock scored 18 and had 10 boards.
In the NCAA Championship game, Cal took on Ohio State. Ohio State completely dominated the first half of the game, 37-19. The Buckeyes shot 16 of 19 from the field and shut down the Golden Bears with great defense. At halftime, Newell told his players they needed to get more defensive rebounds. Imhoff answered, Coach, there have only been three, and I got all of them.
California made a comeback run at the start of the second half, but faded and lost the game 75-55. We had a defensive plan, Newell said, but they beat us with their quickness, especially Mel Nowell. The Buckeyes wound up shooting 67percent.
Imhoff was named to the All-Tournament team. Pete Newell retired from coaching after the 1960 season despite being only about 44 years old.
Name Pos Class Pts Reb
Darrall Imhoff C SR 13.7 12.4
Bill McClintock F JR 12.0 9.6
Tandy Gillis F SR 9.6 4.5
Earl Schultz G JR 9.4 3.7
Dick Doughty C SR 5.6 3.9
Bob Wendell G JR 4.9 2.8
Dave Stafford F JR 3.7 2.0
Jerry Mann G SR 3.0 1.2
Stan Morrison F/C JR 1.0 1.5
Ed Pearson G JR 0.4 0.5
How would the 1960 California Golden Bears do against the teams of today? How would they handle the shot clock and the three pointer?
The 1960 Golden Bears were not a very talented or athletic team in 1960. The more athletic players of today and the shot clock would make it even more difficult for California to compete today. The Golden Bears were small other than Imhoff, but were not good outside shooters. The inability to make three pointers would enable opposing teams to collapse on Imhoff, making it very difficult for him to score. Cal had these same problems in 1960, however, and Pete Newells great coaching took them to the NCAA Championship game anyway. Californias team defense and lack of mistakes carried them very far, and might do so even today.
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