EL PASO, Texas – David Lattin says something happens every day to remind him of Texas Western’s historic NCAA championship in 1966, when the Miners won with the first all-black starting lineup in a title game against all-white Kentucky.
The centre from that team and eight of his teammates have gathered in El Paso for a weekend celebration of the 50th anniversary of a game that is largely credited for ending segregation in athletics at universities in the South.
“Somebody mentions it or somebody calls and tells me ‘Glory Road’ is on or something just comes to me,” the 72-year-old Lattin said Thursday, referring to the movie that was released 10 years ago. “I enjoyed the movie. People ask me how much of it is true and I tell them 85 per cent. And that’s fine. The story line is right on.”
Now called UTEP, the unknown school from far West Texas shocked basketball royalty with a 72-65 win in College Park, Maryland, and remains the only Texas team to win an NCAA title.
Lattin still lives in Houston, where he grew up and starred for an all-black high school in a segregated city before joining Hall of Fame coach Don Haskins’ team.
Nevil Shed, also 72 and now living in San Antonio, was born in New York and more familiar with integration than Lattin as a youth.
“There will be a lot of teams that win a championship, a lot of great teams,” Shed said in his booming voice. “But will they stand in the history of basketball like this one? I’m not sure we will ever see a championship with so much magnitude.”
Three days of celebrating started with the players sharing memories and will continue Friday with a panel discussion. The team will be honoured during UTEP’s game against Conference USA opponent Western Kentucky on Saturday.
Lattin and Shed were among five of the seven black players from the team who made the event. The others were Willie Cager, Orsten Artis and Willie Worsley. Guard Bobby Joe Hill died in 2002, and team captain Harry Flournoy couldn’t make the trip because of an illness.
Jerry Armstrong, Louis Baudoin, Togo Railey and Dick Myers were the white members of the team. David Palacios did not attend.
“The thing I remember most about that season, about beating Kentucky in the championship game, was that I just wanted to play more games and more games and more games,” said the 73-year-old Cager, who still lives in El Paso. “It was so much fun. We were just playing some basketball and having fun.”
Armstrong became a high school teacher and basketball coach in Missouri, winning 329 games at four schools over 21 years. The 71-year-old retired in 1996 and lives in Mountain Grove, Missouri.
“I’ll always remember that Iowa game,” Armstrong said, referring to a regular-season win over the No. 4 team for the Miners, who finished 28-1. “It opened the eyes of the media. It set the tone for what kind of season we could have.”
It’s a season the Miners are still celebrating 50 years later.
This story has been corrected to show that the score of the championship game was 72-65, not 75-65.