Ron Cox holds the rare distinction of being his school's all-time leader in points & rebounds. By the time Cox was finished at Eastern Washington University, he was a 1st team, 3rd team, and honorable mention All-American. The Eagles legend was kind enough to answer some questions for CHN's Jon Teitel:
1. Why did you choose to attend Eastern Washington? I chose EWU because they showed the most interest in me and I felt very comfortable with Coach Jerry Krause (who is now the Director of Men's Basketball Operations at Gonzaga) and his staff. Both Washington State and EWU recruited me to play football, and Central Washington, Western Washington, and Pacific Lutheran recruited me to play basketball, but once I visited with Coach Krause in my home and after I made the campus visit, I knew it was the place for me. I cancelled all other trips and gave EWU a verbal commitment.
2. In 1975 you were named honorable mention All-American: how were you able to come in and contribute so quickly? #1: I had great fundamental coaches who believed in me and gave me tons of positive support. #2: I loved to play the game, and I worked very hard on my skills. Most of my days were spent practicing on my own prior to our team’s scheduled 2-hour practice, and then after practice every night Jeff MacAlister and I would play 1-on-1 for another hour. I was usually at the gym for 5 hours a day, and it was a blast.
3. In 1976 you were named 3rd-team All-American: were you happy with your individual success, or unhappy because your team did not have much postseason success? I spent very little time thinking about any individual accomplishments. We were a very close group of guys. Many of us came in as freshmen and sophomores together, and we all had one thing we wanted to accomplish: a trip to the national tournament. I was very disappointed at the time that we lost in the playoffs to Central Washington, but as time went on I realized that there were guys working just as hard as me and my teammates to get to the highest level of play, and whoever plays best at the right time will advance.
4. In 1977 you were named 1st team All-American: did you feel like you were one of the best players in the country? We had played games with schools in our own division all over the West coast, and we also had some non-league games against some D-1 schools. I felt I could compete with everyone we played against, but to say that I felt I was one of the best in the country would be a stretch. I felt very honored, but I did have some uncertainty about where I was at. I was an undersized post player, and I knew that if I was going to have any shot of playing at the next level, I would have to develop a face-the-basket game.
5. You finished your career as the all-time leading scorer/rebounder in EWU history, as you led your team in scoring and rebounding in each of your 4 years: did you realize at the time how prolific a player you were? I just enjoyed playing. I knew that I had had an excellent career at EWU, but to be honest I remember so many moments that I shared with great teammates. The records just came with playing a lot and playing hard. My memories of my career at EWU are so much more people-related: great coaches, an awesome educational university, great teammates and friends.
6. In the summer of 1977 you were drafted in the 6th-round by Cleveland: were you thrilled to realize your dream of making it to the NBA, or disappointed that you did not get selected earlier? To be honest, I found out about it when I got a call from 1 of the local news channels telling me I had been drafted by Cleveland: Cleveland did not call me the next day. I was excited about the challenge, and worked extremely hard that summer to prepare myself for camp. I came into camp in the best condition ever, and I felt mentally ready to compete.
7. You did not end up playing for Cleveland: how close did you come to making the team, and how important was it to you to play professional basketball? We were told that 4 guys would carry over from the rookie free-agent camp, so I felt very good about my chances of advancing. On the 3rd day of camp I was injured and was sent home for reconstructive surgery on my left ankle. I read the newspaper and learned that 7 guys moved on to the next camp: I felt I would have been 1 of those guys. I was in a cast for 3 months, and walked poorly for another couple of months. It was a huge letdown, and looking back now I believe that I went through some depression. I felt like I had given it a good shot, but was somewhat robbed by some bad luck. I had a chance to try out for a CBA team, and another chance to play in Denmark, but I had a wife and 2 kids, so it was time to move on with my career.
8. In 1994 you became a graduate assistant coach at EWU: how had the college game changed since the time you played, and what did it mean to you to coach at your alma mater? The 3-point line and shot clock have changed the game a great deal. The athletes are so much bigger and stronger today. It was a great opportunity to coach at that level, and it was especially fun to be back at EWU. If I have any regrets about my coaching career, it is that I wish I had given college coaching a look earlier in my life. I love EWU: it was very special to be back there.
9. You are currently a teacher at Lakeside High School, and you used to coach there as well: which role did you enjoy the most? I gave up the head basketball job 4 years ago. I am still a coach, but mostly for my family, as I coach soccer and basketball for several of my young grandchildren. I think that in order to coach you have to be able to teach. Although there are some very good coaches out there that do not teach a school subject, I think that the schools are doing a disservice to their students by not hiring more teachers that are willing to coach.
10. When people look back on your career, what do you want them to remember the most? I hope they remember that I am a good person: I cared for my players and always tried to do the best for them so that we could succeed as a team. If I gained respect from my fellow coaches, players, and fans, then I am satisfied.
BEST “FANTASY” PLAYERS IN BIG SKY HISTORY
-- based on career
stats/awards, with all-time school ranks in parentheses
Eastern Washington: Ron Cox (1977): 1741 PTS (#1), 1273 REB (#1), 62.9 FG% (#1), 3-time All-American
Idaho State: Steve Hayes (1977): 1933 PTS (#2), 1147 REB (#1), 207 BLK (#1)
Montana: Larry Krystkowiak (1986): 2017 PTS (#1), 1105 REB (#1), 56.5 FG% (#4), 3-time conference POY
Montana State: John Thompson (1930): 1539 PTS (#4), 3-time All-American, national POY
Northern Arizona: Kelly Golob (2006): 1550 PTS (#1), 295 3PM (#2), 85.1 FT% (#3)
Northern Colorado: Mike Higgins (1989): 2112 PTS (#1), 959 REB (#1), 302 BLK (#1), All-American
Portland State: Freeman Williams (1978): 3249 PTS (#1), 2-time All-American
Sacramento State: Robert Martin (1989): 1774 PTS (#1), 147 STL (#4), 294 3PM (#1)
Weber State: Bruce Collins (1980): 2019 PTS (#1), 879 REB (#3)
Northern Arizona: Andre Spencer (1993)