The Guilford College Quakers Were Your NAIA National Basketball Champions
Life was good back in 1973 when 1320 WCOG radio used to carry all of the Guilford College Quaker’s basketball games. It was fun to listen to Tom Wall call those games back in the late 60’s and early 70’s and it was a time when the Carolinas Conference had some of the top players in the nation and many of those young men played for Jack Jensen and Jerry Steele right here in Greensboro out on West Friendly Avenue and New Garden Road at the Quaker campus.
Guilford won it all back in 1973 and the team was made up of guys that just about everybody around here knew. When we say around here we mean those who followed hoops in the Gate City. The Guilford players were very well known and that ’73 team was what many considerd the best ever. The 73′ Quaker club could compete with many teams from the ACC.
I stopped by the Guilford gym the other day and before I went in I had already written down all of the ’73 players that I could remember and I had only forgotten one name. That goes to show you how closely we all tracked that team back in the 70’s. You had World B. (Lloyd) Free who played for several NBA teams including the world champion 76’s, there was ML Carr who was later on the General Manager and coach of the Celtics after his NBA playing days were over, Greg Jackson who made it to the NBA, you had Robert Kent who now coaches the boys at Page H.S., Johnny Ralls who is the girls coach at Ledford, (Ralls and Kent were both graduates of Western Guilford, Carr came from Wallace-Rose Hill H.S., and Free was from New York), Guilford had the bean pole center Ray Massengill 6’10 and 170lbs., the former Marine Steve Hankins was around 28 years old and Hankins coached at Ragsdale, Dudley, and at Page and was an assistant coach at Northeast and they say Hankins was a pall bearer at JFK’s funeral, on the Quaker team was Robert Fulton who coached at Guilford and at Glenn H.S., Guilford had a young guard Teddy East who was as slick as they come and of course there was Greg Speas who played at Grimsley and later became a local painter.
The 1973 Quakers won the NAIA title and like I was saying earlier I was able to remember 9 of the 10 team members(they only dressed ten guys) and it just goes to show you how much impact this Jack Jensen coached team had here locally. Jensen still coaches golf at Guilford and former coach Jerry Steele is still in the area. Man those Quakers were good…… But even with the achievements of the 1973 team Guilford always ruled the local basketball world throughout the late 60’s and early 70’s. The Guilford players and the Carolinas Conference players in general could compete with the ACC. The two leagues would go at it in barn storming all-star games after their seasons were complete and the Carolinas Conference would come out on top say 3 games to 2 in the best of five state wide series. The ACC boys couldn’t hang with us back then and Guilford would always have at least 2 players on the News and Record all state team which included ACC schools.
The Carolinas Conference had talents such as Henry Logan 3 time NAIA All- American from Western Carolina College, Gene Littles All-American form High Point College, Tommy Cole from Elon College, Dwight Durante form Catawba, and from the NAIA local area there was Earl Monroe from Winston Salem State. The conference and our local landscape was loaded with stars.
It’s fun to look back on the past seasons and talk about how things were so great back when Guilford had those glory years. We mentioned the 1973 run in detail but Guilford’s greatest talent ever did not play on that ’73 squad. David Smith was NAIA All-American in 1971 and 1972 but David didn’t make it to 1973. David was probably the toughest player to come out of Guilford, even tougher than Hankins, and David’s attitude helped end his career. Smith attacked a ref in ’72 and he was banned from the league for life. Smith had talent on the level of ACC players but it cost him his basketball future. The young man from Arrat, Virginia up around Galax, never starred in hoops again.
Smith later died from some still unknown health complications, but there was always the story about the motorcycle accident too. For the all-around toughness, competitiveness, and talent there will never be another player like David Smith. “A once in lifetime talent”, was how former News and Record editor Smith Barrier descirbed David Smith. Smith was a better player than ML Carr and Lloyd Free combined.
Now you have it, some of the real life stories of Guilford College basketball and of the old Carolinas Conference. Guilford’s talent pool was very deep and other men we should put somewhere near our Hall of Fame at Forrest Valley would have to include Bob Kauffman who made it to the NBA and played for the Buffalo Braves, for the Knicks and the Pistons, Bert Feik, Jerry Crocker, Tom Ennis, Geoff Clark, Pat Morriarity, John Brooks, Ed Fellers, Eddy Dyer, Chris Culpepper, and from of the class of ’61 Don Linneberry, who said he had to tape his own ankles back when her wore the gray and maroon.
The Glory Days are gone but we can still help them live on at Greensboro Sports.