The 1958-59 basketball season was a special one for one University of Louisville basketball fan (yes, I do go back that far).

Louisville would be invited to the NCAA basketball tournament for the first time that season. UofL would also make its inaugural trip to Final Four.

Getting there was only half the fun, however. First, Peck Hickman’s team would have to face the University of Kentucky in the tournament. The pundits and UK fans were predicting a blowout. Kentucky was a perennial power. UofL had lost 10 games, losing to teams like Georgetown College, Bradley, St. Louis and DePaul.

A week before, Louisville had beaten a good Eastern Kentucky University team in Lexington’s Memorial Coliseum to set up the game at Evanston, Ill. UofL and UK hadn’t played since the 1914-15 season. UK would never have even considered scheduling UofL in those days. A showdown loomed.

Surrounded by UK fans in Versailles, I had one hellish week leading up to the game, getting laughed at at every turn, absorbing one put down after another.  So when game time arrived, I locked myself in a room at the orphanage with a radio  so I could endure the inevitable beating without being harassed or disturbed while hoping, praying for a miracle.

I was shaking when my team was down 15 points after the first half. But the second half was a different matter.  UofL would completely dominate, outscoring the Wildcats by 30 points, winning the game in a 76-61 route. Even now, the reality of being the only UofL fan in an area dominated by UK fans is difficult to comprehend. How did the little guy even survive? Especially after all the fist pumping the next week or so.

Louisville would lose to Jerry West and West Virginia 94-79 in the semifinal game. The Mountaineers would fall to Cincinnati in the championship game. The Cards wound up with a 19-12 record that season, one that lingers as among the most memorable in the heart of this long-time fan.

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Donald Goldstein

A member of that 1958-59 team was Donald Goldstein, a 6-foot-5 forward who averaged almost 14 points per game. He made honorable mention on several All America teams that year. Goldstein graduated from the UofL School of Dentistry and continues to practice dentistry today in Garden City, NY.

UofL was on probation during the 1957 season for its recruitment of Goldstein after the Courier-Journal reported that he had accepted apparel from a local men’s clothing store.

There’s a wonderful story about Goldstein’s experiences that every UofL basketball fan ought to read on the Garden City newspaper site.

Charlie Springer

Charlie Springer is a former Louisville editor and sportswriter, a public affairs consultant, a UofL grad and longtime fan.

10 thoughts on “Milestone season for UofL basketball

  • August 10, 2012 at 12:05 pm

    Fantastic memory, observer. A fan among fans.

  • August 10, 2012 at 6:50 pm

    Very interesting story. I enjoyed reading your recollections, as well as the Garden City newspaper article about Dr. Goldstein. It’s kind of funny that the article refers to Louisville as being in the “Deep South.” Anyway, I wasn’t born until 1961, so I wasn’t very familiar with what happened in the 58-59 season. It was nice to learn about it.

  • August 10, 2012 at 8:07 pm

    John Turner was the other forward on that team. I had the pleasure of knowing him and one day innocently asked who had the “pleasure” of guarding Oscar and West in back to back games.

    John looked at me and said “I did.” Wow, imagine guarding two of the greatest players ever in back to back games.

    • August 10, 2012 at 8:09 pm

      Oops. Got the wrong Final Four. It was our next one. But the violation was both Goldstein and Mantel, also a New Yorker and the clothing store was The Hub.

  • August 10, 2012 at 10:43 pm

    6-11 Fred Sawyer was the center. The game against Eastern Kentucky was the first game I saw in person. Seeing the link to the Donald Goldstein article brought the memories back.

  • August 11, 2012 at 8:42 am

    Stories about vintage basketball during the middle of prime time football season. Interesting

    • August 11, 2012 at 10:20 am

      Yeah, I know. That’s not like me. But when I saw the story about Don Goldstein, a lot of memories were tapped. No one respects football more than this guy.

  • August 12, 2012 at 8:29 am

    “We could have won the thing if we didn’t come home,” Goldstein explained. What could have been. And, perfectly believable that the fans’ over-enthusiasm was a distraction.
    Too bad we don’t have an arena that should be home to the Final Four anymore, he said sarcastically, it would be great to have a second chance to win it all at home.

  • August 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

    Great story ! Thanks for sharing

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