Nov. 6, 2011
Hall of Fame Profiles: McKay | Shaw | Spencer | Kim | Walsh | Mortenson | Whitfield
STANFORD, Calif.- One of the highest scoring guards in school history, Don Griffin's 1,256 career points rank 25th overall on Stanford's all-time scoring list.
A three-year starter from 1967-69 for head coach Howie Dallmar, Griffin's career scoring average of 16.1 points per game is tied with all-time great Hank Luisetti for 10th in the school record books.
Griffin averaged 15.6 points per game as a sophomore and 12.2 as a junior before a stellar senior campaign in which he averaged 20.4 points per contest, a mark that ranks ninth-best all-time.
Griffin was later drafted by the Atlanta Hawks in 1969 and also played for the ABA's Oakland Oaks.
Recently, www.gostanford.com caught up with Griffin to get his thoughts on his selection to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame, his favorite memories from on The Farm and much more.
Editor's Note: The rich and proud tradition of Stanford Athletics will come alive on Friday, Nov. 11, as Stanford formally inducts nine new members into the University's Athletic Hall of Fame. The list of inductees includes: Don Griffin (men's basketball), Mhairi McKay (women's golf), Jay Mortenson (men's swimming), Alex Kim (men's tennis), Don Shaw (volleyball), Stan Spencer (baseball), Trisha Stevens (women's basketball), Kerri Walsh (women's volleyball) and Bob Whitfield (football).
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Congratulations on your selection to Stanford's Athletic Hall of Fame.
Thank you. My initial reaction was surprise and delight. It's a genuine honor; one that I did not anticipate at this date and time. Selection to the University's Athletic Hall of Fame places one in a class with Stanford's most elite athletes of all time and tells me that my contributions have stood the test of time. That is both humbling and gratifying and I am truly very appreciative!
Other than being a native of Oakland and a product of Fremont High School, what factored into your decision to attend Stanford?
There were several factors. As a Bay Area native, I was well aware of Stanford's reputation academically, the prestige nationally and the successes athletically, particularly, recent accomplishments of the basketball program (having finished second in the conference in the 1964 and 1965 seasons. The opportunity to combine all that in my selection of schools made for an appealing and easy choice. I am next to the youngest child from a family of nine. My oldest brother, Joe, was the first of what would be six in my family to attend college. Joe, who was a track star at Cal in the mid-50s, set the tone for what became a foregone conclusion: one, that I would go to college, and two, that it would be Cal.
That all changed the first time I set foot on the Stanford campus. I was blown away and knew this was where I wanted to be. It felt right. I still had to overcome the expectation that I should go to Cal. My mother, sensing my personal preference, stepped in and expressed her desire to have a child attend both Cal and Stanford, blunting any outside pressures to attend a school which was not my first choice.
You averaged 20.4 points per game during your senior season. At the time, only two previous players (Tom Dose and Art Harris) had averaged at least 20.0 points per game. Talk about this accomplishment.
At the time, it was very satisfying to have delivered a season long performance which paralleled that of two of Stanford's most dominant basketball players- ever. Beginning the day after my junior year ended, it became a singular mission not to repeat the offensive disappointment of that season and we were able to make that happen. It was then, and still is, a source of pride to be included in the same conversation with these two all-time greats.
You were drafted in the fourth round of the 1969 NBA Draft by the Atlanta Hawks. Can you talk about the experience of getting drafted by an NBA franchise?
I suspect it was very different from today. There was not the pre-draft hoopla that occurs today and a player generally heard sometime after the fact, where and when he was selected. I had an 8 a.m. Biology final the morning of the draft and it was apparently during that time when the Baltimore Bullets called wanting to confirm that I had not already signed with the Oaks. Baltimore was planning to select me in the second round. Missing the call, I dropped to the fourth round with Atlanta. Ironically, I ended up signing with the Oaks later that summer. Literally, just weeks before preseason camp started, the Oaks declared bankruptcy and dissolved the franchise. So, for me, the day and the experience were disappointing.
Describe what it was like to play for legendary head coach Howie Dallmar.
Coach Dallmar was the consummate gentleman and professional, both on the court and off. I believe he received one technical foul during his entire career and that would be unheard of in today's game. Outside the Stanford universe I don't think he receives the credit he deserves for developing players, especially big men. When you look at the likes of Tom Dose, Ray Kosanke, Bob Bedell, and Rich Kelley, his work with centers was on par with John Wooden and Pete Newell, two of his better-known contemporaries. It was a pleasure and a privilege to know and play for him.
Any memories or experiences stand out, perhaps maybe a memorable conversation, you had with Coach Dallmar?
Throughout my junior year when my offensive production was down in comparison to my other two seasons, he repeatedly and consistently pointed out my successes and contributions defensively. This served to keep me upbeat mentally and I believed paved the way for the rebound year I had, offensively, in my senior year.
Describe your relationship with teammate Art Harris both on and off the court.
Early on during my freshman year, even though freshmen were not eligible to play varsity sports, Art and I had the most competitive relationship on the court one could imagine. We went after each other like cats and dogs. During my sophomore season, we roomed together on the road and that probably did not help. As a result, our relationship was friendly but somewhat distant off the court. We were always good teammates. To Art's credit, here was a guy who had been the team's leading scorer and MVP his sophomore year and, in the next, gave up his position and moved to forward without complaint, to make room for me in the starting lineup.
The sacrifice, no doubt, negatively affected his offensive production as a junior. Of course, his senior year was classic Art. He was awesome. Interestingly, in the mid-70s, we would reunite for a couple of years to play semi-pro ball together and during those years we were able to bridge any personal distance between us. I have a lot of respect for Art and a deep appreciation for our times together.
You and Art Harris followed Edward Tucker (1951-52) as the first African-American basketball players at Stanford. Can you describe that experience, especially in that era.
Those were very interesting times. Amidst the Vietnam War, racial unrest, increased demand for college diversity and the rise of student movements on campuses everywhere, Stanford was no exception. My freshman class had 13 blacks, which doubled the African-American population for Stanford's entire student body. As these numbers increased significantly during each year of my attendance, war and race were routinely topics of discussion, debate and analysis. However, that did not spill over to the basketball team. While Art and I were both well aware of Dr. Tucker's achievements as a player and being Stanford's first black player, it was not something we dwelled upon. Possibly, because Dr. Tucker preceded us by 13 or 14 years. To an 18 or 19-year old that seemed a lifetime ago. For me, the transition from the inner city to campus life could not have been smoother. I felt totally embraced by every sector of the Stanford community from day one.
During your playing career, the team transitioned from playing its games at the old pavilion to Maples Pavilion. Talk about both venues and making the move.
I played three-fourths of my college home games in "The Barn" (Stanford Pavilion) and in retrospect, would not trade a game played there for another venue. It was intimate, always full and the atmosphere was always electric. Not just in Northern California, but up and down the coast players were virtually unanimous about the floor being the best in the West.
At the time, though, we could not wait for the building and opening of the new facility. It had been a recruiting point even when I was in high school and the initial expectation was that it would be ready by the end of my sophomore year or the beginning of my junior year. It was Coach Dallmar's dream. To be there when they first broke ground, to watch and walk through the shell as it went up, to walk through the locker rooms (which we did not have at the Barn), to have sat in the bleachers and watched as they laid half of the floor and then have to pull it up and start over because it did not replicate our floor in the Barn (delaying the opening by almost a month)- are all great memories. To play in what was easily the best arena in the conference, at least for the four seniors on the team, was a source of pride and a major highlight of our last year.
You served as a college referee for a number of years. Describe this experience.
It was really a way to reconnect after being away from the game for over 12 years. At the suggestion of my wife, Diana, I took it up in my late 30's and ended up officiating college basketball for almost 18 years, with 15 of those at the Division I level. I also served as the Supervisor of Officials for a 16-team, Division II conference, The Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference, for a couple of years. The opportunity to be directly involved in the game, engaging players and coaches and striving to make a given game better is very challenging and satisfying when done well. It is a great avocation.
Did you continue to follow Stanford basketball after your playing career?
Yes, as best I could living in Colorado for 25-plus years. Also, during my officiating years, I was typically working either as an official or as an observer for other officials four or five nights per week. Since returning to the Bay Area in 2002, I have managed to get to a couple games each year.
How did your experiences as a student-athlete help you transition into your professional career?
It has been a continuous source of pride throughout my adult life. Life lessons such as teamwork, perseverance and the pursuit of excellence are all attributes I came to appreciate during my time on The Farm. When others learn you are a Stanford graduate, the knowledge creates an initial level of respect, which is priceless.
When you watch college basketball now, are you surprised at how much the game has evolved?
While not really surprised, I am intrigued by how players continue to be more athletic, bigger, stronger and quicker. The game has transitioned to a baseline to baseline game from a more sideline to sideline game when I played. That has made the game, in my mind, more exciting for everyone.
Do you still keep in contact with your teammates or anyone from your playing career?
Unfortunately, no. I have tended to attribute this to moving around so much, particularly immediately after I left college, playing a little in Europe and Asia, and then serving and playing in the military for a couple of years. But, it probably has more to do with being family-centric, focusing on building careers and my pursuits in officiating. It is a major regret.
Do you have a favorite Stanford memory unrelated to athletics?
My strongest and fondest memories are of the campus life and what an invigorating and enjoyable experience it was from start to finish. I am also appreciative of all of those in the Stanford community, in and out of basketball, who befriended me and who were so supportive throughout my attendance. To them, I offer a much-belated but heartfelt and sincere thank you.