Remembering those “record-setting” Sixers from 72-73
“I’d rather be in Philadelphia.”
Sometimes, so would I.
But W.C. Fields beat me to the line that arguably is his most recognized, as it was on his gravestone after his death in 1946.
Those who were members of the Philadelphia 76ers in the 1972-73 season may have thought otherwise.
The 1972 Eagles were eight games into an eventual 2-11-1 season, while the Flyers earned the nickname “Broad Street Bullies” on their way to a second-place spot in the then NHL Western Division.
This latest installment of my look back at YESTERDAY - a trip back in time to the late 1960s and the 1970s - is a recollection of basketball in early November and other pop culture items along the way, and what it meant to those of us who were preteens and teens during the time.
For the record, the 1972-73 Sixers posted an overall mark of 9-73 - still an NBA record for the least amount of wins and lowest winning percentage (.110) in an 82-game season.
The whole thought and scene of ineptitude among the roster of castoffs made them fun to watch.
At this point of their season, the Sixers were 0-10. They didn’t pick up their first win until Nov. 11, when in San Antonio they defeated the Houston Rockets 114-112 to improve to 1-15. Their games were televised on Channel 29. The iconic Bill “The Dean” Campbell had the play-by-play call throughout the year.
The 2011-12 Charlotte Bobcats now have the record for the fewest wins in a season with their 7-59 mark. They also have the lowest winning percentage at .107, however that was during an abbreviated 66 games. Ironically, ex-Sixer Gerald Henderson was the leading scorer of that team.
This band of Sixers from 72-73 can be recognized as folk legends. Freedie “Mad Dog” Carter was the team’s leading scorer, and eventually evolved into a popular broadcaster for the team.
Carter was allowed to smoke in the locker room during halftime by head coach Roy Rubin, who didn’t have control of the team, and posted a 4-47 mark before he was relieved at the All-Star Game by Kevin Loughery, who became a player-coach. When Loughery took over, he was asked what it would take for the team to make the playoffs, and he quipped, “three plane crashes.”
An aging 36-year-old Hal Greer was in his last year with the team and saw little time, and vet Tom Van Arsdale - the lefty known for his days with his twin brother Dick in Phoenix - would be reunited with his brother after the All-Star break. John Q. Trapp, a Vietnam vet, was the quirkiest of all the players and often refused to either go into or be taken out of games.
When Loughery took over, he cut Trapp. When he informed the rest of the team, they applauded.
Vet Bill Bridges was on the downside in his early 30s, but still managed to record double-digit scoring. Leroy Ellis was a workmanlike center who averaged nearly 14 points and 11 rebounds. Rookie Freddie Boyd was the team’s top pick and made his presence felt.
The remaining cast of characters included Manny Leaks, John Block, Dennis Awtry, Jeff Haliburton, and Dale Schuleter. Leaks and Block had decent seasons as post players. The team did manage to score an average of 104 points per game, but allowed 116.
It was just a laughable, disorganized mess that eventually would be turned around by GM Pat Williams, Coach Gene Shue, and the arrival of Dr. J.
Local Flavor: A local, longtime coach reminded me that the beginning of November was the traditional start of basketball practice in the 1970s, and there were games played before Thanksgiving.
In the 1975-76 season, Class A, B and C playoff designations for the PIAA in Pennsylvania were changed to AAA, AA, and A. The new titles took place in the 1976 playoffs.
Oldies But Goodies: Along with the same interesting basketball on different levels, Hunt’s Snack Pack Pudding, Hubba Bubba Gum (the six-foot roll of gum, remember?), Ding-Dongs and Pop Rocks (can you hear the sizzle?) hit the market in 1973. They all were great, but they contributed to our time in the dentist chair.
One item I always looked forward to seeing and getting was the Charles Chips truck that delivered the round tins of chips. There also was the weekly trip to the dairy farm or a delivery of milk in the glass jugs.
Hitting the Hardwoods: On this week in 1973, the top songs in the land were “Keep On Truckin” by Eddie Kendricks, whose title was in unison with a nation-wide slogan at the time (Do you actually have a T-shirt with the saying like I did?).
Gladys Knight and the Pips also were at the top of the charts with their hit, “Midnight Train to Georgia” that also tied in with a theme on the move.
Don’t Forget the Classics: How many times back in the day did you sing your version of “Basketball Jones featuring Tyrone Shoelaces,” a paradigm from Cheech and Chong’s Los Cochinos album. Enough said there.