George Raveling as Forrest Gump

NEWS THIS WEEK that former WSU coach George Raveling was elected to the College Basketball Hall of Fame has to bring a smile to the face of every Cougar hoops fan of the 1970s and ‘80s. George brought excitement and success to WSU. But he was far more than Xs and Os. He was and is a downright fascinating guy.

For example ...

Not long after graduating from Villanova and before getting into coaching, he by chance wound up serving as a volunteer security guard at Martin Luther King Jr.'s famous "I Have a Dream Speech" in Washington, D.C., in 1963. Raveling was so close to King as the civil rights leader left the podium afterward that he asked King if he could have the speech.

"I don't know what possessed me but I walked up to King and calmly asked ‘Can I have that copy?' Without hesitating he turned and handed it to me ... Of course nobody, including myself, realized that this was going to take on the historical significance that it did," Raveling told the New York Times in a 2003 story.

At WSU, Raveling kept the speech folded inside an autographed copy of a book on Harry Truman.

There's better care for the speech nowadays.

Raveling has been offered as much as $3.5 million for it, but has declined to sell and keeps the typed, three-page document framed and in a bank vault. Interestingly, the speech contains no title, and -- get this -- none of the "I have a dream" parts of the actual speech. All that resounding verbiage was ad libbed by King.

A year ago, ComcastSportsNet in Philadelphia did a marvelous feature piece on Raveling and the speech. CLICK for a link.

HERE ARE SOME OTHER INTERESTING facts about Raveling:

  • At the team banquet following the Cougars' highly successful 1979-80 season, Raveling asked an old pal if he'd fly in and serve as the guest speaker. Needless to say, a memorable season was made more memorable when 800 people paid $20 a seat for dinner and then were treated to an hour's worth of one liners from comedian extraordinaire Bill Cosby.

    IN CASE YOU MISSED IT:

    CF.C's recent interview with Raveling about sustaining success at WSU ...


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  • While coaching the Cougs, Raveling read dozens of newspapers from across the country each morning, and picked up so many tidbits of information about what was going in the world that he wrote a weekly column that appeared each Sunday in the Spokesman-Review and other sports sections across the state. He was a human Google feed.

  • His summer basketball camp for kids at WSU, called Cougar Cage Camp, was so popular that it grew into the most successful overnight hoops camp in the nation, attracting 600 kids each summer from around the nation and foreign countries.

  • Raveling's first prized recruit at WSU was 6-11 1/2 center Steve Puidokas. For four years he was a regular among the Pac-8's leading scorers and rebounders. More unique was the fact he was a lights out shooter from downtown. Raveling told the Seattle Times several years ago that Puidokas' career points total of 1,894 would have been way over 2,000 if the three-point arc was part of the game in those days.

  • In 1984, Raveling was an the assistant coach for the gold-medal-winning USA Olympic men's basketball team headed by Bob Knight. Michael Jordan was on the team, as was UCLA's new coach, Steve Alford. Among the last players cut from the squad were future Hall of Famers John Stockton, Karl Malone and Charles Barkley. Current Stanford head coach Johnny Dawkins was picked as alternate in case of injury.

  • The 1992 U.S. Olympic squad, a.k.a The Dream Team, is widely regarded as the greatest team ever assembled. That team, which did include Stockton, Marlone and Barkley, won their eight Olympic games by an average of 43.8 points. Yet they weren't undefeated. To prepare for the Olympics, a "development team" of college stars was brought together to scrimmage the Dream Team, and Raveling and Roy Williams were picked to be the coaches. In the first foray between the teams, the developmentals won.

  • Raveling's election this week to the College Basketball Hall of Fame is the second high honor he has received this year. In February he was selected by the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame for its lifetime achievement award. Previous winners include John Wooden and Red Auerbach.

  • Raveling retired from coaching in 1994, at age 57, following a car accident in Los Angeles that nearly killed him. He then launched a storied career with Nike that continues today as the company's director of international basketball. He also has written two acclaimed books on rebounding, War on the Boards and A Rebounder's Workshop.

  • After leaving Iowa for USC, Raveling returned to Pullman in 1987 for a game between the Cougs and Trojans. It was his first trip to the Palouse since departing in 1983. At a "welcome back" luncheon the day of the game he broke into tears as he told the audience how much WSU and Pullman meant to him.

  • Raveling maintains a website -- coachgeorgeraveling.com – that is full of interesting articles and video interviews.

    MARK YOUR CALENDAR:
    The first-ever CougsFirst! Trade Show is set for April 17 at the Hyatt Regency in Bellevue. Organized by a loyal group of WSU alums that includes Jack Thompson and Robbie Tobeck, CougsFirst! is all about Cougs supporting Cougs. It a volunteer initiative dedicated to having all WSU alumni think CougsFirst! whenever and wherever they purchase a product or service.
    Join hundreds of Cougs in a casual and fun business environment promoting a wide variety of products and services. WSU and NFL great Drew Bledsoe will provide the keynote address and display wines from his Doubleback Winery. The CougsFirst! trade show is free to attend. Register today and bring a friend.
    COUGFAN.COM IS A PROUD CO-SPONSOR OF THE COUGSFIRST! TRADE SHOW

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