New e-book recounts Southwest’s basketball title run

sports@macon.comNovember 12, 2012 

If you are into Macon sports history -- and specifically basketball -- you will want to be on the lookout for a new e-book that is available at major e-book retailers, “Duck’s Boys.” It the true story of Southwest’s run to an unbeaten season, a state championship and a mythical national championship during the 1978-79 school year.

It was written by Henry Goss, a member of that team and, interestingly, the only white player on the 15-man roster.

The “Duck” in the title refers to the Patriots’ hall-of-fame head coach, the late Don “Duck” Richardson. I had the opportunity to read the script before it went into book form and found it be very enlightening and entertaining. Goss definitely did his homework, mostly drawing from his personal experiences as a reserve guard on a talent-laden squad that featured four players who went on to have successful Division I college careers, with two of those excelling in the pros -- one in the NBA and the other in Europe.

Coming off a state title and a top-20 national ranking in 1977-78, much was expected of the 1978-79 team, with Richardson, even though not espousing it, eyeing the national title. And his schedule said as much. It was almost like “We’ll play any team, any time any place,” taking on schools from outside the borders of Georgia, including the team’s opener against Tennessee High of Bristol, Tenn., led by Derrick Hord, who went on to a successful collegiate career at Kentucky.

The Tennessee school was first of 28 to fall to the “Pats” during the magical season. Others included Vanguard High School in Ocala, Fla., St. John’s Prep from Washington, D.C., Oak Hill Academy in Virginia and Baylor Prep of Chattanooga, Tenn., which was led by future North Carolina standout Jimmy Braddock.

In addition to the out-of-state tests, Southwest also played and defeated Georgia’s best, including Southwest-Atlanta, Douglass-Atlanta, Baldwin, Cedar Shoals and, of course, Northeast, but more about the Raiders later.

While the games got the headlines, they did not define the Southwest team. That goes to the practice sessions.

Goss describes those practices as sometimes brutal, not just physically, but mentally, as well. Richardson didn’t win six state titles and a national crown with a choir boy approach. Goss describes him as a great teacher who knew how and when to push the right buttons, and he never did it better than during that season. The five- and six-hour practice sessions prepared Southwest for any challenge, and they knew the second half -- and especially the fourth quarter -- was theirs because of the practices and conditioning work that Duck put them through.

Southwest basketball that season was a happening. Playing before less than a full house was rare, as the team packed its 1,200-seat home gym where they played only six games, or the 8,500-seat Macon Coliseum where they competed in most of their other home games. Crowds got there early to make sure they had a seat and also to see the team’s warm-up drills, best described as “showtime” before the Los Angeles Lakers perfected the practice in the 1980s.

Goss and teammate Bobby Jones were the key players in the warm-ups that not only attracted fans but, more often times than not, opposing teams who stopped their own warm-ups to watch.

Beating a team twice in one season is a difficult task, but Southwest had to take on archrival Northeast, arguably the second best team in the state, four times during the 1978-79 campaign. The teams met twice during the regular season, once for the region crown and finally in the state championship game. All were dogfights, especially in the final matchup when Northeast led by double digits in the third quarter.

That’s when Richardson’s magic took over.

His stars, Terry Fair, Jeff Malone, Michael Hunt and Bobby Jones, had good games, but the hero of the night was Carl “Ironhead” Tyler. Down by 10 at halftime, Richardson replaced Jones with Tyler, who had four back-to-back steals that resulted in eight quick points, the catalyst in a 69-60 win that meant an unbeaten season and state and national titles.

If you were able to see the 1978-79 team in action you were fortunate, but if not I think you will enjoy reading about them in Henry Goss’ book, “Duck’s Boys.”

Contact Bobby Pope at bobbypope428@gmail.com

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