SECRETS OF THE CENTAUR (part 4): “Keep your foot in that bucket, Steve!”

Posted on Dec 10, 2012

“You keep your foot in that bucket, Steve, you keep your foot in that bucket!”

“Harry! I can’t do it! It’s killin’ me!”

It really was. My right foot was in a dorm-room trashcan, in up to my knee. After my foot went in, Harry had filled the can with ice and just enough water to make it all soupy. Now here I was, my foot only a minute or two in, and I was in agony.

The Eastern Baptist game had been over now for maybe two hours. The 75-73 defeat, the standing ovation we Centaurs got at the end, it was all still coursing through us, just now being absorbed, back in the dorm. We had acquitted ourselves exemplarily, we Centaurs, and we knew it. WE HAD MADE IT HAPPEN. With 100, 150 students at the game — maybe a third of all dorm residents — it had created real buzz, a real glow.

Now my room was jammed with guys and girls, everyone talking game and the promise of this new season, the Centaurs 2-and-1 and despite the loss looking like a real team.

Everyone was checking in on me, too – fallen hero! – and my twice-sprained ankle from during the game.

You keep your foot in that bucket, Steve, your foot in that bucket!

I don’t know why there is nothing in the diary of my junior-year season about any of this, this after-the Eastern game night, when Harry Cooper took it upon himself to take care of me and my ankle. Maybe it was too painful to reflect upon in real time. (Plunge your foot into a bucket of ice and try to keep it there.  The pain is enought to make you faint.)

Harry stayed with it. Harry was intense. At times he even took to putting his hands on my knee to force my foot down into the bucket. Until, finally, my foot went numb and the pain of the sprain and, more thankfully, the thousand knives of the ice-water torture blissfully disappeared. I wouldn’t miss a game going forward, maybe because of Harry Cooper.

Here’s the thing about that night. About Harry and the bucket, and how he took charge and got it done. That’s how it was then at Allentown College of St. Francis de Sales.

We got it done on our own. Because there was no one else to get it done for us.

If there are secrets as to why the college worked the way it did back then, this is another one. Another “Secret of the Centaur” that this CENTAUR SEASONS is trying to discover.

We did everything for ourselves.


Where did Harry get the ice? Did we have ice machines in the dorms? I don’t recall that we did. Harry had a car; maybe he went and got some. But we were out in the middle of nowhere, just us and the cornfields. Maybe he persuaded one of the guys who worked the cafeteria and had a key to go lift some. I don’t know. Harry figured it out.

It sounds simple, but it really wasn’t.

I don’t remember there being any official, uniformed, at-night, on-campus security until my senior year. Imagine that today. Two dorms stuffed with 400 kids and no outside policing.

We had resident advisors and floor prefects, sure, but we tried to stay away from them. The Oblates lived at Wills Hall on campus, but really, they were the last people we wanted to bring into things. Just because. So when people got drunk we got them to bed. When people got drunk and cracked a head open, we got them to the emergency room at Sacred Heart Hospital. I don’t remember the real police ever being called to the campus.

For that matter there was no student union, no student activities council. If something was going to happen it had to rise up out of somebody’s head, get organized, get done. Dances, parties, talent shows. “The Dating Game.” Even a couple of student-organized full-blown musical comedies.

At Allentown College we had nothing, so we made it into something.

Jim Van Horn said it best in CENTAUR SEASON’s first post: “Allentown College defied logic.”

As a result the education we got at Allentown College  – right there, right then — was singular and unique.

Because this is what I learned about learning while learning at Allentown College. I learned that learning is what you make it, what you make of it, what you do with it. Learning isn’t what others make for you. And I learned little of that in a classroom. I learned it on nights like the one after the Eastern Game, back in the dorm, my foot screaming at me in a bucket, Harry Cooper in charge, screaming at me, getting it done because someone had to.

Years later, at an alumni function, when Harry and I shook hands hello he greeted me with: “You remember that night when I made you keep your foot in that bucket of ice for your sprained ankle?”

Yeah, Harry, I do. Thanks for the education.

On December 11th, 2012 at 7:55 pm, Jeannie and Steve Ivcic said:

Just around 1 this afternoon Steve called me from work and told when I got a minute I had to read Steve McKee’s latest installment of “Centaur Seasons.”

It is now almost 8 PM and I finally got a chance to check my e-mails. I didn’t play basketball at A C–(Oh that’s right, I think I did, briefly) but you didn’t need to have played basketball , or any sport at AC to appreciate the sentiments in Steve’s story. It pretty much covered the nature of life on the campus back then; we could make something out of nothing– we took a little imagination, a dash of ingenuity and a heaping of shared efforts and mixed it all in with genuine care and concern for each other. We were actually living what they were trying to teach us. I think they call it Christian Humanism.

On December 12th, 2012 at 7:34 am, Walt Pfeil said:

When Harry said keep your foot in the bucket –YOU KEPT YOUR FOOT IN THE BUCKET. Noone defied Harry Cooper. I remember sitting in his car on cold, cold winter nights headed for Greasy Mike’s Hot Dog shop and no matter how much we begged, Harry wouldn’t move the car until the green warm-up light went out. I think I finally gave up on Harry and Greasy Mikes so I didn’t have to sit in the dorm parking lot freezing to death. I decided I’d rather die of starvation.

On December 12th, 2012 at 4:13 pm, Ed Brookes said:

Walt – You are 100% right. We would sit there freezing trying to convince him otherwise. I wonder with the cost of gas today if he still lets it run?

On December 17th, 2012 at 5:34 am, Steve McKee: Centaur Season said:

[…] SECRETS OF THE CENTAUR (part 4): “Keep your foot in that bucket, Steve!” […]


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.