MORGANTOWN — Some old-timers think Hot Rod Hundley might have been even better than Jerry West if he had taken the game of basketball more seriously when both were West Virginia University superstars in the 1950s.
“Oh, I don’t know about that,” the Charleston native said while participating in the first annual Bob Huggins Fantasy Camp at the Coliseum over the weekend.
“We had two different outlooks about the game. I could have been a lot better, I know that, if I had Jerry’s attitude about the game. But I had a great time here having fun while entertaining the fans. We won some games. We lost a few. We enjoyed the best part about it.
“But Jerry was so serious about the game. And look what he’s done! Indeed, what he accomplished (as player, coach and executive) is unbelievable. But we’ve both been successful. I think we accomplished a lot in different ways.”
Actually, that’s an enormous understatement about two grand gentlemen who are generally regarded as the two greatest basketball players in WVU history. These legends, while never teammates here, eventually played together in the NBA.
Many of the records they set as Mountaineers still stand, including West’s 24.8 points per game scoring average and Hot Rod’s 62 points as a freshman against the Ohio U. frosh and the varsity record of 54 points against Furman. Both also rank among the school’s all-time Top 10 in virtually every offensive category.
But Hundley is remembered mostly and certainly fondly as the fun-loving, clown prince of college basketball for his variety of crowd-pleasing antics. He admittedly gave Coach Fred Schaus fits both at WVU and in the NBA.
He was extremely talented, though. There never was any doubt about that, believe me.
Hot Rod is in the National Basketball Hall of Fame at Springfield, Mass., not as a player but as one of the country’s best-known broadcasters. What’s more, in 1994 he was presented the NBA’s Distinguished Broadcaster Award, an honor bestowed just twice previously.
He has been the “Voice of the Utah Jazz” for 34 years. He plans to retire after two more years when his last five-year contract expires. He also had been with the CBS network as an analyst five years for college and pro game telecasts.
“I just need 36 more broadcasts to reach 3,000 with the Jazz,” Hundley pointed out proudly. “I’m 73 and it doesn’t get any better than this. It’s great and I’m still enjoying it.”
Hundley made five All-America teams as a senior in 1957. Then he was the first player selected in that year’s NBA draft by the Minneapolis Lakers, who moved to Los Angeles in 1960.
He is a member of the West Virginia and WVU sports halls of fame. He also is in the Utah Broadcasters Hall of Fame.
Hot Rod had his left hip replaced last summer, Two years before that, he had a knee replacement. He recalled that he underwent operations to repair damage in both knees after his freshman year here.
“But I’m getting along fine,” he said reassuringly. And he most certainly hasn’t lost his sense of humor.
When he boarded a bus taking the Fantasy Camp participants from the Waterfront Place Hotel to the Coliseum on Saturday morning, Hundley asked someone (in jest, of course): “I didn’t get arrested last night, did I?”