|Posted by Anne Siren on March 5, 2013 at 3:00 PM|
By Michael d’Oliveira
Pompano Beach – In 1963, the Pompano Beach High School Golden Tornadoes varsity basketball team earned its name by blowing through the competition to win the Class AA State Championship.
And on Friday, 50 years later, the surviving members of the team and many who still recall that winning season, gathered at Galuppi’s Restaurant to honor the coach who led them to victory – Tucker Morris.
Morris, 87, remembers the “great bunch of kids” he coached since junior high school and that final game in Gainesville against Tampa Plant, 51- 40. “By the start of the fourth quarter we knew we had it in the bag, and I asked my players, ‘Do you mind if we win the state championship by 10 points?’” said Morris.
They didn’t mind at all, but the scoreboard suggests they wanted an 11-point win.
The players and those who watched that championship season from the sidelines, remember a coach dedicated to his players and winning.
Pete McKinnon, who played forward, said Morris was demanding but his high expectations made the team what it was. “He gave us the ability to outperform the other teams,” said McKinnon.
“We were all ball handlers. We blew everyone away,” said Bob Mayne, guard. Mayne added that the other teams had more talent and even taller players, but the Golden Tornadoes had the better team because they practiced the basics. “Or as I like to call it, ‘women’s college basketball,” he joked.
“It was chemistry,” said Bob McKinnon, guard, and brother of Pete McKinnon.
But whatever it was, the people of Pompano Beach celebrated the team’s win with a hero’s welcome.
Kenny Brister, a former sports reporter for the Fort Lauderdale News, and the team’s unofficial historian, recalled the aftermath of the big game.
Brister said fans scrounged-up convertibles and met the team at the Turnpike, known then as the Sunshine State Parkway. Team players found their places in the convertibles to ride in the parade escorted by the city’s biggest fire truck and police cars. The streets were lined with cheering crowds.
Bill Fauerbach, who started playing on the team in 1964, said even before the championship game, people were fired-up. “It brought excitement to the whole city. Cars would line up. The games were sold out. They were always underdogs.”
In that winning year 1963, the team went 28-2 in the regular season and won many of its games by at least 20 points and more than a few games by 30 or 40 points.
“The thing I remember most about Coach Morris and his teams is they used to just beat the tar out of us,” said Leroy Schwab, who went to Northeast High School in Oakland Park. “I would watch them play teams that were supposedly going to beat them and Morris would run them right out of the gym.”
Despite his team’s dominant performances, Coach Morris regularly fought the referees on every call he could.
“You were one of the best coaches to officiate for because we always knew we were going to get help,” joked former referee Andy Andrews. If Morris didn’t like a call, said Andrews, his finger would often find its way close to the face of the offending referee.
The glory days of that winning season are long gone, but Morris told his players, “It’s memories that nobody can ever take away from you.”