Posted on Nov 30, 2012

JUNIOR YEAR at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales I kept a detailed diary of the entire 1972-1973 Centaur season. [SEE TITLE ABOVE.] One-hundred-and-forty-six bus-bounced, hand-scratched pages in a reddish-brown Royal Composition notebook. A blog before its time. Starting later today, November 30, 2012, CENTAUR SEASONS will post these entries in real time, all season long, 40 years later to the day.

JUNIOR YEAR I roomed with Dave Glielmi, in 311 Tocik Hall. Dave and I went everywhere together, did everything together. A sophomore on the team, Dave had played high school ball at St. Joe’s Prep in Philadelphia. He was exactly the kind of kid Allentown needed to attract if the basketball program was going to go anywhere, do anything.

JUNIOR YEAR, for the first time, I got into the education. An English major (in case you couldn’t tell from the title above),  I was never without a book. “Invisible Man,” “Vanity Fair,” “Rabbit, Run,” “Slaughterhouse Five.”  I spent hours reading in my dorm room, stretched out in a plastic blowup chair (all the rage), or curled up conspicuously in a chair in The Atrium, for all the school to see. Two teachers were hugely influential, in that wonderful way that only teachers can be: the Oblate Gene Luyster for Pre-Seminar Reading List and Mr. Carroll for Contemporary Fiction. I worked hard in their classes not for the grade but to please them, which would please me. By no small coincidence they were regulars at basketball games. The next day Luyster always made a point in class of throwing some basketball jab my way. I rarely remember him being complimentary, but that he wasn’t hardly mattered. Having been to the game he had earned his right to say what he wanted. Mr. Carroll usually came to games with his wife and their little kids. He introduced one of his lectures with – AND I WILL NEVER FORGET THIS – “Today we begin the study of John Updike’s ‘Rabbit, Run,’ the story of Steve McKee in twenty years.” Not exactly a compliment, but so what? Like with Luyster, he came to games and earned his rights.

JUNIOR YEAR was seeing the movies “American Graffiti,” Deliverance,” “The Candidate,” “Deep Throat,” Butterflies are Free,” “Lady Sings the Blues. It was listening to “Summer Breeze” by Seals and Croft, the “Super Fly” soundtrack by Curtis Mayfield, anything by Marvin Gaye or Santana. And “Sympathy for the Devil” by the Rolling Stones, blasting at parties at an off-campus apartment, the placed packed and sweaty, dimly lit, ripe with possibility (if, sadly, by me never realized), the host standing on a table leading the assembled in the “Ooo-Who” chorus, his blown-out white-boy afro bouncing to the beat.

JUNIOR YEAR, coming off the 8-and-8 season of the year before, basketball expectations were immense. We had lost two players, yes — important players, Jerry Wilkinson and Tony Mazzeo — but everyone was replaceable, right? Plus there was a new kid, a freshman, P.J. Brennan, a 5-foot-10-inch fundamentally trained ball player from Pottstville, Pennsylvania. If Dave Glielmi was one sort of prototypical Centaur going forward (player on a Philly Catholic League team) P.J. was the other (Pennsylvania coal-cracker fully schooled in the CYO leagues that carpeted the state). P.J.’s footwork on defense was impeccable, he could handle the ball and shoot the eyes out of it. Oh my, could he shoot! From anywhere! Completely unafraid! It was clear from the get-go: P.J. was the next generation Centaur.

JUNIOR YEAR, on the first day of preseason practice, senior Chris Cashman, who had played in every game all three of his years – a singular Centaur achievement and he was eager to extend it — rolled his ankle during one of the very first drills.  It didn’t look too bad, but only at first.

JUNIOR YEAR, despite Cash’s injury, the preseason was one continuous high — for me and the team. We scrimmaged Ursinus College down at their place.  An MAC school, a bona fide program, Ursinus one of those small steps A.C. needed to take on the way to being more than just a little college in a cornfield. Assisted by the element of surprise – it was evident the moment we arrived that we were lightly regarded — we beat them in the first two 20-minute stanzas, which were played out as a “real” game. I had 14 points and held my own against their 6-foot-7-inch center, who just happened to have been a big-time high-schooler from Allentown. Two of those points came on a fast break when I got the ball on the right side, stopped, took one dribble toward the middle with my left hand and pulled up for a jumper. Not till I was in the air did I realize I was at least 20 feet from the basket. With no choice but to continue my adventure, I poised at the top of my jump, let it go and hit nothin’ but net. Skipping backward down the floor, feigning nonchalance, I acted like I’d done that sort of thing a million times before. I had never, of course, but now I knew what it felt like. And I could tell: after two years at A.C. trying to prove that I should have/could have played basketball in high school it was  finally coming together. The first two 20-minute stanzas complete, the beaten Ursinus coach walked directly to our Coach Sabota and said he wanted another 20. We played and lost, but in the locker room after, everyone screaming and sailing three-feet off the ground, it was the first 40 that mattered. We beat an MAC team! Coach, sweating, beaming, stuttering, went around the room and one by one looked each of us in the eye as he shook our hands. We showed ’em, huh? We showed ’em, huh? We showed ’em, huh?

JUNIOR YEAR we scrimmaged the Lehigh freshman, per usual, but this time we beat them, for the first time, 67-64. In its own way a bigger deal than Ursinus. I always suspected the established Lehigh agreed to play the nascent us Centaurs only out of pity and public relations. This year Lehigh also had a 6-9 recruit from a private high school in York, Pennsylvania, my hometown. Our 1-2-2 zone shut him down. In the locker room after Joey Thompson, a sophomore guard new to the team, a guy not afraid to run his mouth, kept saying we showed ’em who the real big man was from York, Pennsylvania. I loved hearing it – the kind of comment I’d never have the guts to say out loud myself. Though for me the personal highlight was blocking the shot of 6-4, 6-5 forward deep on the right baseline by running it down from the foul line and timing my jump perfectly to take the ball completely out of the air.  I acted again like it was something I’d done countless times before. All the while again cataloging the feeling for future reference. It was finally coming together. Have I mentioned that?

JUNIOR YEAR Dennis Ramella, senior guard, this Centaur Season, had a legit shot at becoming Allentown’s first 1,000-point scorer. Centaur history and we’d be there.

JUNIOR YEAR at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales I kept a detailed diary of the entire 1972-1973 Centaur season. One-hundred-and-forty-six bus-bounced, hand-scratched pages in a reddish-brown Royal Composition notebook. A blog before its time. Starting later today, November 30, 2012, CENTAUR SEASONS will post these entries in real time, all season long, 40 years later to the day.

On December 4th, 2012 at 11:32 pm, Steve McKee: Centaur Season said:

[…] Cashman played for the first time this year. He looked like he was favoring his ankle. I don’t know. He’s got to get playing time. I think if Coach plays him – in a couple of […]


Welcome to CENTAUR SEASONS: A ‘memory blog’ of the basketball beginnings of a half-good, half-bad, all-new college team.

Once, I was a Centaur.

I played basketball for Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales in Center Valley, Pa. I was on four of the school’s first seven teams, was MVP senior year and in 1974 graduated in the fifth class.

My junior year I kept a diary: A History of the Events of the 1972-1973 Allentown College B-Ball Season, as Chronicled by, and With the Personal Memoirs + Occassional [sic] Philosophizing of the Author, One Stephen J. McKee.  One-hundred-forty-five hand-writ pages. (Yes, I was an English major.)

But it occurs to me now: Were I today a “Bulldog” playing for “DeSales University” (both mascot and name changed in 2000), my private “History” would be not a diary but a blog.

So starting November 30  “…Personal Memoirs…” will be re-imagined as CENTAUR SEASONS

A blog before its time, posted 40 years after in real time.

Meanwhile, beginning on September 24, here at CENTAUR SEASONS the preseason has already tipped off, with stories, interviews and reminiscences of the people, the place and the purpose of those early years of Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

Check back often. Sign up for CentaurSeasonAlerts. Email CENTAUR SEASONS to friends.

We were not a bad team, we Centaurs. We just weren’t very good. Winning was always the goal, if never exactly the point. How could it be, with victories so few?

Back then Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales was a couple of buildings in some cornfields.  Our commitment to the school’s basketball program was far greater than was the school’s commitment us. So what? We got to play college ball – and paid for the privilege! In return, we got to be part of a team, wear the red and blue, be Centaurs. And we got to create a place that was, right then, as much concept as it was college, making itself up as we went along.

What we got was a once-in-a-life-time chance.

All we had to do was keep showing up -- next practice, next game, next season. And so we did.