Strange: Temple set stage for shot clock

From left, Tennessee’s Bill Seale, Mike Jackson, Austin Clark, Wayne Tomlinson, Rodney Woods, Len Kosmalski, John Snow, Ernie Grunfeld and David Mitchell celebrate their 11-6 Volunteer Classic championship victory over Temple on Dec. 15, 1973 at Stokely Athletics Center.

Photo by News Sentinel file photos

From left, Tennessee’s Bill Seale, Mike Jackson, Austin Clark, Wayne Tomlinson, Rodney Woods, Len Kosmalski, John Snow, Ernie Grunfeld and David Mitchell celebrate their 11-6 Volunteer Classic championship victory over Temple on Dec. 15, 1973 at Stokely Athletics Center.

That isn’t a first-quarter score on the scoreboard at Stokely Athletics Center in 1973. It was the final outcome: Tennessee 11, Temple 6 in the Volunteer Classic.

Photo by News Sentinel file photos

That isn’t a first-quarter score on the scoreboard at Stokely Athletics Center in 1973. It was the final outcome: Tennessee 11, Temple 6 in the Volunteer Classic.

Only one member of Tennessee's basketball team was born when the shot clock was introduced to college basketball in 1985.

They know nothing of an era when a stubborn or crafty coach could bring a game to a grinding halt.

They can't imagine the freaky night that happened last time Temple - UT's season-opener opponent Friday - came to play hoops in Knoxville.

In the Bruce Pearl era, the Thompson-Boling Arena scoreboard is likely to read "11-6" before the first media timeout.

On Dec. 15, 1973, that's what the Stokely Athletics Center scoreboard read at the final horn:

Tennessee 11, Temple 6.

That night, in the championship game of the Volunteer Classic, next to nothing happened. A newspaper account said Temple held the ball for 32 minutes and 5 seconds of the 40 minutes.

It was the lowest-scoring college game of the modern era. And it will stay that way, considering the shot clock arrived in 1985-86 - to prevent precisely what happened that night.

"I remember it was so tight and nerve-wracking, because every point was important,'' Rodney Woods, Tennessee's 1973-74 point guard, recalled this week.

What happened was two coaches, UT's Ray Mears and Temple's Don Casey, got into a standoff and wouldn't budge.

Mears didn't like his man-to-man defensive match-up against quicker Temple and packed the Vols in a zone.

Casey, having watched UT rout DePaul 96-61 the previous night, didn't want to run with Tennessee. His intent was to milk the clock each possession, but then he got carried away, trying to force the Vols out of the zone.

Mears refused.

"Austin Clark kind of ventured out a few times,'' said Woods, "and I remember them (Mears and assistant Stu Aberdeen) threatening to kill him if he didn't get back and keep things tight.''

Ernie Grunfeld, a freshman, scored to put UT up 7-5 at the 12:44 mark of the first half. The Owls stalled the rest of the half until turning the ball over just before the horn.

There wasn't a single field goal in the second half. John Snow hit a technical free throw with 17:58 left to make it 8-5.

Temple held the ball, guards John Kneib and Rick Trudeaux exchanging passes, until only a couple of minutes remained.

Snow hit three more free throws in the final seconds, leaving it 11-5. Temple got a free throw at the end and that was it, 17 total points.

Nobody liked it. The crowd pelted the floor with ice. UT president Ed Boling asked Mears to bring the players back on the court for an intrasquad scrimmage, which he did.

Mears used the fiasco to lobby for a shot clock, although nobody listened at the time.

The 24-second clock had come to the NBA in 1954. It would be three decades before the college game got a clock.

By then, North Carolina's Dean Smith had made the "Four Corners" stall offense a dreaded tactic. When the Tar Heels got a lead, Smith would frequently spread his team out to dribble away the final minutes of a game. Opponents could either stand there or send the Heels to the free-throw line. Carolina's lowest-scoring game of the Smith Era was a 21-20 loss to Duke in the 1966 Atlantic Coast Conference Tournament.

Pearl remembers life before the shot clock. He was a young student manager for Tom Davis at Boston College, then an assistant for Davis at Stanford.

Davis preached the breakneck style that Pearl uses today.

"But everybody back then had a delay offense for the end of the game,'' Pearl said.

No innovation has changed the college game more than the shot clock.

"My first thought,'' said Pearl, "was that the rich were going to get richer. That you would no longer have David and Goliath upsets.

"Maybe at first that was the case, but that was not accurate.''

Originally set at 45 seconds, the clock was shortened to 35 seconds in 1993. The women use a 30-second clock.

The shot clock didn't guarantee exhilarating offense, as Tennessee fans found out during the Kevin O'Neill era (1994-97).

I remember an O'Neill road trip to Penn State that was tied 33-33 at the end of regulation. It was no fluke as a month later the Vols lost 43-35 at Auburn.

May those days rest in peace but never return.

"I like the uptempo game,'' said Pearl, "but we're still patient at times. With 35 seconds, you can still be patient.''

Patient is fine, within limits. Thankfully, the shot clock defines those limits.

Mike Strange may be reached at 865-342-6276 or

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Comments » 29

gohawks1 writes:

Great story and a fun read. Thanks, Mike.

Einstein writes:

I remember the Temple Game (???). Someone asked Ray Mears or the AD what they thought about the way Temple played. The answer was "They will never be invited back."

FatherVol writes:

I was in the house, too, TDTN. I loved Stokley!

FatherVol writes:

I was in the house, too, TDTN. I loved Stokley!

FatherVol writes:

I was in the house, too, TDTN. I loved Stokley!

lnbadger320 writes:

when i was in high school we played a team that was about 20x better than us. we used that four corner stall against them. they hated it. they were yelling at us to play and we just stood there dribbling the ball and passing. it was funny watching them get all made. they still beat us(we did beat them in the tournament)but it was pretty boring.

james#216392 writes:

I remember that game. A newspaper article said one TN fan went to sleep and fell out of his seat. Probably was not true but it made a good story. It must have been pretty boring, kinda like the UK Wildcats (68) game last night against Gardner Werner (84). Being a VOLS fan in KY might be fun this basketball season. For KY fans, there is always football!!!

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Listened to that game on the radio. That UT team was fun, they'd probably do okay today.

I live in a state w/no high school shot clock. there are still coaches around who use that garbage stall. Let's put it this way: I'll always be a shot-clock fan, it creates THE SPORT by default.

CoverOrange writes:

Interesting that nothing happened in the whole second half but fouls were still called and FTs made. If Temple had Chris Lofton or even a Michael Brooks, the stall technique would have worked.

Volchaz writes:

I hope the parody in football doesn't translate to basketball as well, would love for UT to earn a 1 or 2 seed this year. What a crazy score.

arkyvol writes:

i was a law student at the time, but i'm glad to say i missed that one. otherwise, dean smith was a good coach, but how can you respect a coach who is afraid to play the game? the shot clock saved college basketball.

slsmithsr#269458 writes:

Didn't Ray Mears do the same thing against Kentucky
....Cotton Davidson's era?

missrvrvol writes:

It was Fulmers fault.

CoverOrange writes:

Maybe it was a different game but I thought there was an anecdote about one of the players on the court ordering from a vendor and eating ice cream during the stall. Myth or a different game?

Volunatic writes:

I remember a somewhat-similar game between Kentucky and Cincinnati in '83 back in the Joe B. Hall days. Cincinnati played the four corners stall for the entire game. Kentucky won that game 24-11.
It's hard to blame the Bearcats for trying something different, though-- they finished 3-25 that year, while the Wildcats went to the Final Four after that season (Sam Bowie was on that UK squad, along with Melvin Turpin, Kenny Walker, and Winston Bennett-- all eventual NBA players, while I doubt anyone here would recognize any of the UC players' names). Conventional basketball would have given UC zero chance.
Joe B. Hall was MAD about it, though, as were the majority of fans there (who were Kentucky fans despite the fact that it was being played at Riverfront Coliseum in Cincinnati). Bearcats fans enjoyed seeing how mad the Kentucky folks got about the whole thing. I guess you'd call that a "moral victory" or something.
Here's an article I dug up about that game (thank goodness for Google):

bmiller#222442 writes:

I also am a Vol fan stuck in hell.. I mean KY. I sat last night watching Gardner Webb destroy UK and laughed so hard I almost split my gut. Just want all you Vol fans living in God's country (TN) to never take for granted those Tennessee mountains that I miss so much. Go Vols!!!!!

C123456 writes:

Yeah, great story for the most boring game I've ever seen "played". The after-game scrimmage wasn't well received, though I'm sure it was well-intended. I think most of us just wanted our money back at that point.

I'd forgotten that Grunfeld was a freshman, but I remember
Jackson's corner shooting, Woods handling and long shots, and, Kosmalski's play under the basket. Of course, they didn't do much of that in that game, but they did the rest of the season.

Makes you wonder what Dean Smith's record would have been had the shot clock been implemented when Coach Mears suggested it. There's no way to know, but I suspect there would have been a few less in the win column. Still, he was a great coach.

I'm looking forward to being there tomorrow night. It's not often that you get a chance to avenge a game that you won.

C123456 writes:

marc_ash. I think most of the fans were simply angry. There was a lot of booing, yet the place rocked every time we scored. We led for most of the game, so there wasn't much anxiety about losing. Just angry because we came to see another great UT game in Stokley.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

John Snow was Mike Edwards heir-apparent, right??

Used to watch Mike (on a blach and white tv) shoot from the left and right hashes. Those old vols teams were so much fun, and John Ward was absulutely great at calling a game:

a questionable foul: "well, I don't know"
a made long shot at a critical point (growled, of course: "bottom!!!!"
and of course "guuuuuddddd" for good

Big Koz against Steve Turner (vandy was tough then, too) and any UK game, and Bama....

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

hey, who was the first black UT bb player???? Lester McClain was football, I thiik.

I probably have it buried somewhere in my brain, but can't think of it. I was thining it was a power forward.

missrvrvol writes:

I think it was Eddie Murphy

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Okay, it was LARRY Robinson; I thought it was Robinson, but I kept thinking of Trcuk, and he was at tennessee state (Leonard "truck" Robinson).

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

just thinking about some of the early black athletes....
I saw some online video of Condredge playing QB. Just absolutley amazing. he was a star then, today he would be a Hesman candidate.

Colliervol writes:

I personally wish that John Chaney had been able to get his hands on John Calipari at that news conference several years ago. Now that would have been entertainment.


i saw that game on tv. wait a minute...that was hoosiers.

Titan writes:

Sports talk in Nashville today said that UT didn't send Temple their check for playing in the tournament for nearly a year. Something about Temple was supposed to have PLAYED in the tournament to get paid. Maybe just legend but still a good story.

C123456 writes:

UT vs UK in Stokley: "Sit, Joe, sit"! At times, I think we were more with him standing than the game. I guess it's a good thing that Pearl just did away with his seat completely.

Timed_vol (Inactive) writes:

Bernard's first game with the Vols was an explosion. John Ward was in awe. John was used to guys like Edwards, Jimmy England, John Snow, Widby, or even Jackson and Robinson.

Then, Bernard steps on the court, lighning quick, and puts up, what, 30+ in his first game? And, all of it was in the paint, this was before Bernard shot much outside.

I think even Grunfeld was impressed.

hoskinsfive#468391 writes:

I played for Rodney Woods and he told me once that this was not what mears wanted to do, but it worked out for us. Rodney is still coaching and is in my mind the best high school coach out there today.

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