U of M basketball great, Cazzie Russell, will be honored at the 20th Annual Legends of the Hardwood Breakfast.
It is being held in conjunction with the Final Four and the National Association of Basketball Coaches Convention in Houston on the weekend of April 2 - 4.
2016 Coach Wooden “Keys to Life” Award Winner Cazzie Russell
Russell grew up in Chicago and was the Chicago Sun-Times Boy’s High School Player of the Year in 1962. He went on to earn All-America honors at the University of Michigan while leading them to three consecutive Big Ten championships and two Final Four appearances, losing to defending National Champion UCLA under John Wooden. In 1966 he was named College Basketball Player of the Year, averaging 30 points a game. Russell was the first player taken in the 1966 draft by the New York Knicks and had a 12-year career in the NBA where he won the NBA championship in 1970 with the Knicks and was named an all-star in 1972 with the Golden State Warriors. He went on to coach in the CBA and most recently at the Savannah College of Art and Design for 13 seasons. He is currently an associate pastor at Immanuel Baptist Church in Savannah, Georgia.
My wife and I are heading south at the end of the month and are staying in Savannah, GA for a day and a half. I was hoping to meet Cazzie Russell there and have been trying to set this up but the church he was last at (Live Oak in Savannah) appears to have closed. Cazzie is my first sports hero and has remained highly respected. This is a "bucket list" sort of goal on my part and would appreciate any information the board can give me. Is he still living in Savannah?
Thanks very much!
Via Michigan Basketball's twitter account:
For comparison, a shot of 1968-71 PG Dan Fife:
As the Michigan basketball team returns to its traditional place among the nation's elite programs, Alan Glenn, in a Michigan Today piece, looks back a half-century at another time when the program resurrected itself, led by Cazzie Russell, Cager for the Ages
Bob Cantrell played in the Wolverine backcourt before and after Russell's arrival. "The first two years were really torture," he told an interviewer in the '70s. "The roof [at Yost Field House] leaked, there were no fans, we lost all the time. It was just unbelievable. We only had about 200 people at one game, I remember. Everything was football. Basketball was the big joke. If you were a basketball player, everybody looked at you like you were a freak. Then, overnight, they knew who you were. All of a sudden, we were the number one team in the country."
Of course Michigan's reversal of fortune wasn't quite that abrupt, and it wasn't all due to Russell. Coach Dave Strack had been building up the team since 1960, and by 1963 the Wolverine lineup overflowed with talent: Cantrell, Bill Buntin, Larry Tregoning, George Pomey, Oliver Darden. But it was Cazzie Russell who emerged as the star. Almost as soon as the lanky, six-foot-five-and-a-half, 210-pound guard stepped out onto the court, records began to fall. In his first game, a 90-76 victory over Ball State at the end of November, Russell led the team with 30 points. By the following March he had acquired 640 more, earning him the school's season scoring record.
Also included with the article is this vintage video:
I don't know how many of you remember my post about four months ago where I showed off my UM card collection (which led to my meeting a couple great fellow collectors, so thanks again to those guys!) but I wanted to give the board an update on that mainly because of something I received today: the eighth and final card I needed from Cazzie Russell's 2011-12 SP Authentic By the Letter "Michigan" nameplate. Every one of these cards is a manufactured letter autographed by Cazzie and serial #d to 50 (except for the "M" for some reason, that's to 25). Today I finally got to see all eight together and I was pretty excited, so I hoped some of you might enjoy it as well:
and another look:
So what do you guys think?
This question stemmed from a short conversation I had with my mother (MSU alum) during graduation weekend. We were talking about Crisler Arena and she asked "who is that named after?" And I said a former football coach and athletic director. Then I thought, Yost is also another former football player and coach. I began to question, why are our basketball and hockey arenas named after football coaches? Shouldn't they be named after basketball and hockey legends?
So, MGoBlog Community, do you feel that our arenas should be given new names at any point at all? Yes, the amazing legacies of Fritz Crisler and Fielding Yost should not be forgotten, but they were known for football, not basketball and hockey. I propose 3 options to tackle this question:
1. Keep Crisler/Yost the same. If it ain't broke, don't fix it.
2. Rename the arenas to Russell Arena/Tomjanovich Arena or Berenson Ice Arena, etc.
3. Compromise and do the trendy thing in college sports: Russell Court at Crisler Arena or Berenson Rink at Yost Ice Arena, what have you.
It would be very, very tough at this point to rename iconic buildings that have stood for many years, thus my vote would go for option 3 if we were to acknowledge a U-M basketball and hockey legend.