AllSportsTucson.com is running a series that features the top 10 games of the Fred Snowden era as Arizona’s head basketball coach from 1972-81 leading up to the 50th anniversary of his historic hire March 21. Snowden became the first African-American head coach of a major college basketball program when Arizona athletic director Dave Strack hired him March 21, 1972. “The Fox,” as he was called because of his prowess on the basepaths as a young baseball player, ignited the Arizona fan base with a run-and-gun style of basketball. The success of the program (reaching the Elite Eight in 1976) under Snowden, who was an assistant at Michigan before his hire, was a precursor to what Lute Olson developed with the program.
You can access the entire series by clicking here.
2. Herman Harris’ 31 points, nine rebounds & nine assists overwhelm UNLV, Jerry Tarkanian in 114-109 OT win in Sweet 16
The lede paragraph written by the Tucson Citizen’s Bruce Johnston after Arizona’s 114-109 overtime upset of No. 3 UNLV on March 18, 1976, was poetic:
“Herman Harris tapped a finger to the left side of his chest and quietly said, ‘It was just in me tonight. Beat Vegas.'”
No Arizona player — Sean Elliott, Damon Stoudamire, you name him — has played a greater game than Harris exhibited in the classic at Pauley Pavilion that day.
The junior guard from Chester, Pa., scored 17 of Arizona’s last 25 points in regulation. He played all 45 minutes and scored 31 points with nine rebounds and nine assists.
Much was written about UNLV coaching legend Jerry Tarkanian and his rivalry with Lute Olson. Before that happened, Tarkanian had quite a run against Fred “The Fox” Snowden.
Tarkanian, a candidate for the Arizona vacancy before Snowden was hired in 1972, split six games against The Fox. The 1976 Sweet 16 game was the best of them all.
After the grueling loss, in which a total of six players fouled out, including four of his own, Tarkanian sought solitude under the stands at Pauley Pavilion. Reporters eventually found him and he conducted interviews there.
“I don’t know what to say,” Tarkanian was quoted as saying. “Our kids have worked so hard and so long. It’s a shame to see it all end now.
“Really, I don’t know anything about anything right now.”
UNLV, which had Reggie Theus, Eddie Owens, Lewis Brown and Glen Grondrezick as its leaders, entered the game with a 29-1 record. Arizona, behind a gritty crew that included Jim Rappis, Phil Taylor, Al Fleming, Bob Elliott and Gary Harrison, was 23-9.
While Harris had one of Arizona’s best performances, Rappis showed “guts” like Arizona fans have never seen before or since.
“Guts”, Rappis’ nickname, played on one leg most of the game after bruising his left heel in the first half, yet he made 10 of his 14 shots from the field. He scored 24 points and accounted for 24 more with a game-high 12 assists.
“He’s the epitome of courage,” Snowden told Johnston of Rappis. “I believe in every one of our young men and they justified that belief tonight.”
Arizona’s fortitude as a team showed in the rebounding numbers. The Wildcats outrebounded UNLV 61-46. Taylor (15 rebounds), Elliott (12) and Fleming (11) had double-digit rebounds. Harris almost made it four players with that amount.
UNLV, living up to his run-and-gun style under Tarkanian, attempted an incredible 96 field goals.
In the next game, Arizona battled UCLA close in the Elite Eight game for 32 minutes. The Wildcats, with a hobbling Rappis, ran out of gas in the last stages of that game as the Bruins pulled away in front of their home crowd and won 82-66.
Harris was unable to return to his Philadelphia home for the Final Four that year, but he offered a performance for the history books against UNLV and the venerable Tarkanian.
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ALLSPORTSTUCSON.com publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He is a former Arizona Daily Star beat reporter for the Arizona basketball team, including when the Wildcats won the 1996-97 NCAA title. He has also written articles for CollegeAD.com, Bleacher Report, Lindy’s Sports, TucsonCitizen.com, The Arizona Republic, Sporting News and Baseball America, among many other publications. He has also authored the book “The Highest Form of Living”, which is available at Amazon. He became an educator five years ago and is presently a special education teacher at Gallego Fine Arts Intermediate in the Sunnyside Unified School District.