Big Green Donor of the Week: Charlie Slack|
Nov. 7, 2013
Hometown: Pomeroy, Ohio
He starred for Marshall basketball nearly six decades ago, but his name still resonates very tall in the sport. If you don't believe it, you can look it up, right there on Page 11 of the 2013-14 NCAA Division I Men's Basketball Record Book.
Charlie Slack is still the greatest single-season rebounder in NCAA history - at 6 feet 5. His 25.6-rebound average in his junior season - Coach Cam Henderson's last on the sideline - has stood the test of time.
It also wasn't an exception. Slack, who came from Pomeroy, Ohio, to Marshall on a football scholarship, averaged 16.3, 22.1, 25.6 and 23.6 rebounds per game in his four Herd seasons. His 1,916 career rebounds rank third in NCAA major college history. His 21.8 average remains the highest for a four-year NCAA player and his No. 17 is retired by Marshall.
In Slack's senior season, he averaged 22.5 points, followed by Cebe Price at 21.2 and Paul Underwood at 20.2. A sophomore named Hal Greer averaged 15.5, and the other starter, Dave Kirk, averaged 6.0.
"Dave was a very good player," Slack said, chuckling at the recollection. "Someone had to take the ball out of bounds so the rest of us could shoot."
These days, Slack - he and wife, Alma, have been married 60 years -- is retired in Massillon, Ohio. He worked for Goodyear, where he starred for the Akron Goodyear Wingfoots in the National Industrial Basketball League ... and he also owned NIBL rebound standards, too.
He was a fourth-round NBA Draft pick by the Fort Wayne Pistons (31st overall), but like many top players then, took the better offer with a job future in the industrial league.
Last week, Herd Insider Editor Jack Bogaczyk visited on the phone with Charlie, who handled some questions as he did those rebounds long ago.
Jack B: What is your fondest memory of your basketball years at Marshall?
Charlie S: It would have to be winning the Mid-American Conference championship my senior year (1955-56).
JB: You had 43 rebounds in a 1954 game against Morris Harvey, the second-highest total in history. But what do you consider your best game?
CS: Gee, it was so long ago, it's hard to recall ... maybe it was my last (home) game my senior year. We beat Bowling Green and I had about 30 points.
JB: Who would you say were the best players you went up against while in a Marshall uniform?
CS: It would have to be Jim Gerber of Bowling Green, and certainly Wayne Embry, of Miami (Ohio). (Slack, Gerber and Embry were All-MAC first team selections in their careers.)
JB: Are there Marshall teammates of yours that you could say were your favorites?
CS: Probably the two teammates with whom I was best friends were Cebe Price and Paul Underwood. Those two were classmates of mine. Another was Walt Walowac (who was a senior when Slack was a sophomore). Those two and Walt were special guys.
JB: Some say there was as much or more talent in the Industrial League as in the NBA when you played in the late `50s. Is that true?
CS: Not completely. The pros weren't paying an awful lot of money back then, and so a lot of All-Americans did come into the Industrial League. But the superstars still went to the NBA, like a Bill Russell. That maybe gave the edge to the pros. But there were a lot of very good players in the Industrial League.
JB: Your rebounding numbers -compared to today's game - are astounding. What do you think made you such a good man on the boards?
CS: Well, I think it was more than one thing. I was aggressive; I had a football mentality I brought to basketball. And I anticipated where the ball was coming off. I had a knack, I guess, a feel, somehow. I always played for position, and I was pretty strong back then, so it was a combination of things. It was all positioning and how you get there, and how you stay there, how you hold your position. And then I never saw a rebound I didn't like.
JB: You mention your `football mentality.' You came to Marshall as a football player, right?
CS: Yes, I came on a football scholarship. I played football for just not quite a full season. I started as a freshman (1952 season) for six games. We had a pretty weak team (finishing 2-7-2). Well, I was called into Cam Henderson's office on a Monday, and he said he told (football) Coach (Pete) Pedersen that he might be able to use me in basketball.
So, the plan was I'd work out with the basketball team that Monday and Tuesday. There was a full-scale scrimmage on Monday and the next day, I got a call from coach Pedersen and he said I was to switch to basketball, as long as the next season, I'd come back to him football.
Well, then a couple of things happened. One, I got married. I also had hurt my ankle in the fifth football game (and he played the sixth game only on defense) and I ended up having some ankle problems. Then Coach Pedersen had left by the next ('53) season, so I didn't feel the loyalty to go back to football then. So, I stayed with one sport.
(In that freshman season, on a club led by Walowac, Slack averaged 14.7 points and 16.3 rebounds, too. His 16.3 still ranks No. 2 among freshman rebounders in history, behind only 17.3 by Pete Padgett of Nevada in 1972-73. Slack had 29 boards in that rookie season in a game against Marietta.)
JB: Your senior season, Huntington's Hal Greer joined the varsity as a sophomore as the first African-American athlete at any college in West Virginia. What was it like to be together as a team and have restaurants refuse to serve Hal in those days of segregation?
CS: One experience we had ... We were driving back from playing at Morris Harvey, by car, five of us in a car, and we stopped at a restaurant coming out of Charleston somewhere. The restaurant wasn't busy. The five of us walked in and sat down, and the waitresses were all standing up around the counter.
Finally, I went up the counter and asked what was the problem, why no one was waiting on us. And one of them said, "We can feed you (four guys), but we can't feed the one fella." I said, `Well, if you can't feed all of us, we're leaving.' And we got up and walked out.
JB: You are a member of the M Club at Marshall and a donor to the Big Green and the Vision Campaign to build new facilities at Marshall. How important is it to you that former student-athletes like yourself support the school, herd athletics and the capital campaign?
CS: In order to compete at the level we want at Marshall, you need to really keep updating what you currently have, and it requires a lot of money for us to maintain our status in major college athletics. In the vision Campaign, what Chad and Mike (co-chairs Chad Pennington and Mike D'Antoni) are doing is just great, just outstanding. A lot of us have contributed in different ways, different amounts, and there's a lot to be said when those of us who have played for Marshall get involved and stay involved. It's been a lot of years, but I try to stay active. I remember my time at Marshall with great memories. What Chad and Mike and a lot of others are doing is a real tribute, and very important.