University of Arizona hoops legend Ernie McCray touched on different topics in tonight’s AllSportsTucson.com Blog Talk Show, including his school-record 46 points in 1960 against Cal State-Los Angeles and his background as a student at Tucson High School.
McCray, who is the No. 22 scorer in Arizona history with 1,349 career points, is fond of his hometown, although he admitted he will not leave his beautiful San Diego home near the Pacific Ocean to retire in Tucson. McCray, 76, has lived in the San Diego area since 1962, two years after his career at Arizona was complete. He was an educator and principal in the San Diego Unified School District for 37 years.
“The university is like home to me,” McCray said. “Whenever I go home, whether I have any business on campus or not, I’ll go up and do my walk. That’s my main exercise now, kind of walk at a real good pace for close to an hour.
“I have to see the Catalina mountains every now and then to know that everything is all right with the world.”
He continues to volunteer his time with students and educators at San Diego-area schools because of his extended history there. He coaches teachers on how to properly relate to their students.
“I work with them to help make their lessons fun and exciting,” McCray said. “I do a lot of drama and improvisation and movement and creative things with kids. Children are the most creative people on the planet especially when you give them opportunities to show who they are.”
Other than writing a blog for this site and for SanDiegoFreePress.org, McCray also does theater work and is with a San Diego dance company working on a project called “The Corner of Rhythm and Rhyme”.
Other Blog Talk Show subjects include former Arizona football linebacker Julius Holt, long-time Tucson sportswriters Steve Rivera and Anthony Gimino, and AllSportsTucson.com high school sports editor Andy Morales (click on the photo to access these shows).
During his playing days, McCray was known as “Easy” Ernie, a nicknamed bestowed upon him by former Tucson Daily Citizen reporter Don Porter.
“I took that nickname with honor because that’s what I was trying to do,” McCray said. “I’m really easy-going, very easy-going. I used to drive my mother crazy because she was a Type-A personality and was always driving hard. She wanted me to move like she did.”
McCray’s mother, Mary, was a church musician who took him to operas, ballets and symphonies at Arizona’s campus. She helped raise Ernie during the “Jim Crowe days”, as McCray calls them, when racism was part of their every day lives in Tucson. He mentioned that restaurant owners deprived him of their food when he was hungry because he is black.
He could not join his teammates at a restaurant the night of his 46-point performance because African-Americans were not allowed at the place.
“That’s not very capitalistic,” McCray quipped. “That was the reality of the times unfortunately.”
A remarkable stat for McCray: He is ranked No. 22 in career scoring at Arizona in only 76 games played in three years (freshmen were ineligible back then). Among Arizona’s top 10 scorers, the lowest amount of games played was 114 by Bob Elliott and Al Fleming. Sean Elliott, the career scoring leader with 2,555 points, played 133 games, an incredible 57 more games than McCray.
In the hour-long interview, McCray also discusses why he believes Arizona coach Sean Miller is a “dazzling human being” and why he has an affinity for San Diego product Bill Walton as a person and announcer.