Jon Teitel's Forgotten Legends: Evansville's Larry Humes
In the latest installment in his "Forgotten Legends" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel caught up with Larry Humes, the all-time leading scorer in Evansville history. Playing alongside Jerry Sloan, Humes was also a two-time All-America selection.
Jon Teitel: You only lost one regular season game during your four years at Madison HS under Coach Bud Ritter (who called you "the best all-around player I ever coached"), where the team had only recently become fully integrated. Do you remember the one loss, and did you feel like you were a racial pioneer?
Larry Humes: The one loss was during my freshman year. We lost by five points. At the time I did not see myself as a "racial pioneer", but looking back on it now I guess I was. I was just fortunate to have Bud as a coach because he treated everyone the same.
JT: In 1962 you were named Indiana's Mr. Basketball and MVP of the Indiana-Kentucky All-Star game. How big a deal was the All-Star game back in the day, and why did you decide to go to Evansville?
LH: The all-star game was big back then, and being named Mr. Basketball was a dream come true. We played one game in Indiana and one in Kentucky, and I was named MVP of one of the games. I had several offers from schools like UCLA and Purdue, but Coach Ritter (who was from Evansville) told me that Evansville was the best place for me due to several factors: a good brand of basketball, a new stadium, etc. We had a very hard non-conference Division I schedule (LSU, Notre Dame, etc.), so once we got to our conference schedule it was easy. I have no regrets about my college choice.
JT: At Evansville you played for legendary coach Arad McCutchan, who still holds the Division II record for most national titles with five. What made him such a great coach, and what was the most important thing he ever taught you?
LH: Coach McCutchan was way ahead of his time. He was fundamentally sound and a great teacher. We were like one big happy family. He was a fanatic when it came to conditioning and we felt like we could play two games a night if we had to. I learned a whole lot from him both on and off the court, just as I did with Coach Ritter.
JT: One of your teammates was future Hall of Famer Jerry Sloan, who was a two-time Division I tournament MOP. What made Sloan such a great player, and did you get the sense back then that he wanted to go into coaching?
LH: Jerry is just a country boy from Illinois who was a hard worker and a good defender. He deserves everything that he received and has turned out to be a great coach. Even though he is a millionaire he never forgot where he came from. We became good friends and have remained in contact. I saw him speak at a banquet a couple of years ago. Someone asked him who was the best player he ever played against and he pointed at me and said, "Well that is easy. He is sitting right here in the audience."
JT: In 1965 your team went 29-0, capped off by a three-point overtime win over Walt Frazier's SIU team en route to your second straight national championship. How was your team able to stay focused every night throughout the season, and did you think that Frazier was going to ruin your perfect season?
LH: Walt was only the third-best player on his own team, which most people do not realize. We played them three times that year and won all three by a total of only five points. We knew them and they knew us and we both respected each other.
JT: You were a two-time All-American. What did it mean to you to win such outstanding individual honors?
LH: You cherish every honor you get, but you cannot do it without good teammates and a good coach. When you are young you do not cherish the awards as much as when you get older.
JT: You remain the all-time leading scorer in school history. Did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were, and do you think anyone will ever break your record?
LH: At the time I did not. I just tried to play to the best of my ability and played hard in every game. It is a great honor, especially because it was before the three-point line. Someone will probably break it someday (I own a couple of other records as well), but records are made to be broken.
JT: In the summer of 1968 you were drafted by Cincinnati but did not make the team. Were you thrilled to have been drafted or disappointed to not make the roster?
LH: I actually got drafted by Chicago in 1966. They only had about 10 teams in the league at the time but if there were more teams then I think I would have made it. I was an offensive forward/defensive guard, while Jerry was an offensive guard/defensive forward. I had a chance to go to Europe but turned it down because I did not know what country I would end up in. I also turned down an offer from the Harlem Globetrotters because I always took basketball seriously. I guess I was a bit disappointed, but I can live with it.
JT: Five of your brothers followed in your footsteps by playing basketball at Madison High, and some of them went on to play in college. Was it a coincidence that you had such an athletic family, or do you credit at least some of your success to genetics?
LH: I think it is a little of both. I was the first Black player to play on a regular basis at Madison and I kind of opened up the door for my other brothers to play. Howard ended up playing at Indiana State, Willie went to Idaho State, and another brother went to IUPUI. In a small town back then there was not much else to do besides sports: we saw it as a way out of our situation.
JT: You were an assistant at your alma mater until 1977, but shortly after you accepted another job the Evansville team and coaching staff was killed in a plane crash. What was your reaction when you heard about the crash, and how did it feel to know that you would have been on that flight had you stayed at your old job?
LH: I knew most of the boys on the team because I was there for the summer and I knew all the coaches as well. I got a call at 3AM the night it happened and I was just in shock. Even today I still cannot believe it. I very possibly could have been on that plane, but I left Evansville because I had an offer to become a high school head coach. There were so many great people on that plane who were killed. I heard from someone that it was supposed to be Notre Dame's plane but that Evansville took it because they had to play sooner than Notre Dame had to.
Humes is also on Jon's list of best fantasy players in MVC history.
Bradley: Hersey Hawkins (1988) 3008 PTS (#1), 259 STL (#1), 53.9 FG% (#5), 80.6 FT% (#5), 2-time All-American, 2-time conference POY, national POY
Creighton: Kyle Korver (2003) 1801 PTS (#5), 172 STL (#4), 371 3PM (#1), 89.1 FT% (#1), 45.3 3P% (#1), 2-time All-American, 2-time conference POY
Drake: Josh Young (2010) 1789 PTS (#1), 248 3PM (#1)
Evansville: Larry Humes (1966) 2236 PTS (#1), 2-time All-American, conference POY
Illinois State: Doug Collins (1973) 2240 PTS (#1), 3-time All-American
Indiana State: Larry Bird (1979) 2850 PTS (#1), 1247 REB (#1), 240 STL (#1), 53.3 FG%, 82.2 FT%, 3-time All-American, 2-time conference POY, national POY
Missouri State: Curtis Perry (1970) 1835 PTS (#2), 1424 REB (#1), 2-time All-American, conference POY
Northern Iowa: Ben Jacobson (2006) 1787 PTS (#3), 154 STL (#4), 203 3PM (#1)
Southern Illinois: Darren Brooks (2005) 1761 PTS (#5), 410 AST (#3), 258 STL (#1), 2-time All-American, 2-time conference POY
Wichita State: Xavier McDaniel (1985) 2152 PTS (#2), 1359 REB (#1), 103 BLK, 114 STL, 56.4 FG%, All-American, 2-time conference POY