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A Hale of a Coach: CHD interviews Hall of Famer Rick Barry about his father-in-law Bruce Hale

Miami will need to score a few more points this week as they try to get off of the bubble and into the tourney.  50 years ago the Hurricanes were an unstoppable offensive machine thanks to Coach Bruce Hale and star scorer Rick Barry.  After spending the winter of 1965 leading his team to an NCAA record 98.4 points per game, Barry spent the summer enjoying married life after his wedding to his coach’s daughter Pam.  Hale played pro basketball before becoming a college coach and later got back into pro basketball as coach of the ABA’s Oakland Oaks, but is best known for his 12 straight winning seasons at Miami.  Hale passed away in 1980, but CHD’s Jon Teitel got to chat with Barry about his relationship with Hale both as a player and as a son-in-law.

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Bruce was nicknamed “Slick” due to the way he combed his hair: who gave him the nickname, and how did he like it? I think he got it back in his playing days: his hair was always kind of slicked back.

As coach at Miami he sent you a full scholarship on the advice of scout Buzzy Fox: what did it mean to you to have a coach recruit you without ever having seen you play? I had about 35 scholarship offers but his advantage was that he had nice weather and was as far away from New Jersey as you could get! He was a nice guy who did not pressure me a lot and he played a pro-style game. We lived in on-campus apartments that were fully-equipped. It was a great decision on my part.

In the 1963 NIT Mike McCoy scored 29 points in a 1-point win over St. Francis (NY): how were you able to pull out the win? We were a good team and Mike was the prototype 7-footer who liked to shoot from long range.

NIT MVP Ray Flynn scored 38 points in a 10-point win by eventual champion Providence: was it just one of those scenarios where every shot he put up seemed to go in because he was “in the zone”? I remember that we made a great comeback. Playing at MSG against a team from the Northeast was like playing 5-on-7 due to the home-court advantage. When I got called for a foul late in the game I lost my cool, threw the ball against the rim, and got called for a T.

In 1965 your team set an NCAA scoring record with 98.4 point per game: how on earth was your team able to be so unstoppable on offense? We played man-to-man defense and were a good rebounding team that pushed the ball. Our starting guards had unbelievable range. John Dampier was the greatest long-distance shooter I ever saw and had pretty good size but he hurt his knee. If we had a 3-PT line back then we would have scored a ridiculous number of points because we could all shoot it from long-range.

After that season you married Hale’s daughter Pam: how did your relationship change from coach and player to father-in-law and son-in-law? He was a great man and was like a second father to me. I wish I spent more time learning about his past and what he had experienced. He taught me and prepared me so well to play in the pros, which is how I became All-Pro as a rookie.

You two won an intramural tennis doubles title together: who was the better tennis player? He was better to start with but I got better over time: I never played tennis until coming to college. He was not a big power guy but could hit some nice shots.

He posted 12 consecutive winning seasons from 1956-1967: what made him such a great coach, and what was the most important thing you ever learned from him? He was able to utilize his personnel in the best way possible and the up-tempo style was fun to play. He got in there and taught me how to use my body properly.  He was one of the top five pro players himself back in the day.

In 1968 he became coach and GM of the ABA’s Oakland Oaks: why did he take the job, and how close did you come to playing for him again? I went over there to go play for him but had to sit out a year, and by the time I was ready to play they had hired Alex Hannum (who had coached me during my rookie year). The game was always fun for me so it was intriguing for me to be reunited with my former coach/father-in-law.

He died of a heart attack in 1980: when people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? As the best coach in the history of Miami, without question. He established the program for the university and they are starting to make strides again.

JonTeitel