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Gold and Black Illustrated is celebrating 30 years of publishing. For the next few weeks, we will look at each publishing year, recalling the moments that took place in that particular year. Note: Captions describing each cover are not available on mobile platforms. My memories of 1993-94 Purdue basketball was […]


Gold and Black Illustrated is celebrating 30 years of publishing. For the next few weeks, we will look at each publishing year, recalling the moments that took place in that particular year.

Note: Captions describing each cover are not available on mobile platforms.

My memories of 1993-94

Purdue basketball was at its zenith, and Purdue football was in the depths of despair. That familiar refrain in the early 1990s is what I recall, watching Boilermaker sports from a distance in 1993-94.

Jim Colletto started the season hoping to earn some respect, but it ended up a disaster. Quarterback Matt Pike didn’t work out, giving way to redshirt freshman Rick Trefzger initially in the season opener and full time later in the season. Despite a strong performance by sophomore back Mike Alstott (816 rushing yards and 12 touchdowns), the season was a mess and ended in a 1-10 heap (0-8 Big Ten).

I remember listening to Larry Clisby, the football play-by-play voice at the time, during Purdue’s 59-56 loss at Minnesota’s Metrodome. Somehow, I was barely able to get a faint radio signal (thanks to it being a night game) in my Columbus, Ohio, bedroom. The “Cliz,” like he always has, wore his emotions on this sleeve, and wasn’t happy that the Boilermakers couldn’t hold four, 14-point leads in the contest.

I remember hearing the story about a physical scuffle between a couple of Purdue defensive assistant coaches in the locker room after the game. I knew that was possible because I had played noon basketball with Colletto’s assistants when they first arrived two years earlier and I was still working in the athletic department. They fought just about every day on the basketball court, so why would a physical altercation in the locker room after a demoralizing loss be unexpected? After the loss to the Gophers, Colletto accepted the resignations of defensive coordinator Moe Ankney and defensive line coach Tony Caviglia. It was the first time that I can recall assistant coaches leaving the football program in the middle of the year.

The defense improved in the final weeks of the ’93 season, and gave Purdue legitimate chances to beat nationally ranked Michigan State and IU in the last two games of the year. But, as was the story for much of the Colletto Era, the Boilermakers fell short.

To be honest, there wasn’t much focus on football after the middle of the season, however. Everyone was looking forward to seeing if Glenn Robinson and company could put aside a disappointing end to the season before. It didn’t take long to find out, as the Boilermakers went from unranked to the top-10 with a 14-0 start to the season. Even though there wasn’t a victory against a ranked foe during the best start in the program’s history, Robinson was emerging as a national star. The “Big Dog” became THE ONLY national player-of-the-year to average over 30 points.

Still, Purdue was looking up at Michigan in the Big Ten race until the final week of the season. The Wolverines had come into Mackey and upended Purdue by a point, and had a clear path to the Big Ten title. That is, until the the return game in Ann Arbor in early March. That’s when the Boilermakers battled from a seven-point deficit in the game’s final 97 seconds to an improbable 95-94 win. Robinson may have traveled in his game-winning shot, but All-Americans sometimes get the benefit of the doubt. (See below for your self.)

Then, Northwestern did Purdue a big favor by upsetting the Wolverines in the final game of the regular season and clearing the path for an undisputed league title for Purdue. A day later, Robinson put up 49 points vs. Illinois to give the home team not only the league crown but also its second No. 1 seed in the NCAA Tournament of the Keady Era.

Yet, it is funny what one remembers. Always being one for numbers, I recall Robinson missing a free throw and a wide open layup in the game’s last minute or so, or he would have broken the 50-point barrier vs. the Fighting Illini. Still, everyone knew that Robinson was likely headed to the NBA after the season, and it was as good of a swan song performance as ever has been witnessed in Mackey.

Purdue’s run in the NCAA Tournament was also memorable. The throngs of Purdue fans in Lexington, Ky., for the opening two rounds and in Knoxville, Tenn., for the Sweet 16 and Elite Eight games were memorable … along the same lines of what fans in Louisville, Ky., experienced in 2019.

Robinson’s 30-point first half in the 83-78 win over Kansas in the Sweet 16 was also one for the ages. He ended up with 44 points, but it was Cuonzo Martin’s 29-point performance, including his critical four-point play in the second half, that allowed the Boilermakers to advance to the regional title game against Duke.

As the story goes, Robinson and Martin were having a towel fight in the hotel between the Kansas and Duke games, and Robinson hurt his back. I re-watched both the Kansas and Duke games last night, and while Robinson may have been hurting in his season-low13-point performance, Duke did an excellent job of keeping the ball away from him ,as well, and fighting back from a first-half nine-point deficit for a 68-60 win.

It was a disappointing end to an amazing year, as the Boilers fell a game short of their first Final Four since 1980. Robinson declared for the NBA draft and was the No. 1 overall pick, going to the Milwaukee Bucks.

For Lin Dunn’s women’s team, it steamrolled its way to the Final Four with four lopsided NCAA wins. Yet, the No. 1-seed Boilermakers fell flat against No. 3-seed and eventual national champ North Carolina. But for one season, freshman Leslie Johnson (Baby Barkley) captured the attention of just about everyone, only to be gone from the program less than a year later.

My Favorite Cover/What is still relevant from 1993-94

John Wooden returned to West Lafayette for a banquet put on by Gold and Black Illustrated in early October 1993.
John Wooden returned to West Lafayette for a banquet put on by Gold and Black Illustrated in early October 1993.

Purdue’s close association with John Wooden was re-kindled when the legendary coach returned for a banquet put on by Gold and Black Illustrated. It was one of the best things that GBI did in its early years, as it did much to cement Wooden’s ties to Purdue basketball during the final phase of his life.

That close relationship grew for 17 years, until Wooden’s death in 2010, and in some ways it came full circle. Wooden’s presence was front and center in and around Purdue athletics and remains to this day with the statue on the northwest side of Mackey Arena and the Wooden Leadership Institute that serves all the student-athletes today. On a personal level, my wife and two children were the last “Purdue people” to see Wooden alive on March 17, 2010, as we secured his signature for the basketball autograph board that is in Mackey Arena.

Yes, the impact of the Big Dog is also something that still resonates. National Player-of-the-Year and NBA No. 1 draft picks don’t come along very often. And having a player like Robinson was proof positive that the Purdue basketball program could attract that level of talent to West Lafayette. It definitely has played a role in the lore of Boilermaker hoops. Still, IMHO, it falls short of the legend and message of Wooden.

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