#NAIA November 18

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The National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) basketball started out in the 1930’s to provide small colleges an opportunity to have a championship.

In the state of North Carolina in the 60’s-70’s-80’s there was a rich tradition of PUKKA (30 Day Vocabulary Challenge) teams, players, and coaches. Players included Earl Monroe, M.L Carr, Gene Littles, Henry Logan, Mel Gibson, Dwight Durante, Joe Gallagher, John Drew, and Lloyd Free just to name a few. The coaches were legendary and they included Jack Jensen, Jerry Steele, Sam Moir, Jim Gudger, Eddie Holbrook, Bobby Hussey, Clarence “Big House” Gaines, Danny Roberts and probably the craziest of all Elon’s Bill Miller.

I have a great friend and former assistant basketball coach of mine named Dr. Scott Colclough who is a retired Middle Tennessee State Professor. He shared with me many years ago a story on Campbell College’s Danny Roberts coaching against Bill Miller at Elon College during the heyday of the NAIA in North Carolina.

Danny Roberts Campbell
Scott Colclough

Back in the 1960’s and 1970’s small college basketball was nothing like you see today. The gyms were small and the crowds large. The officiating was questionable and home cooking was often the order of the day when you played on the road.  The talent was fabulous schools and many NAIA members have transitioned to become NCAA Division members today. That list in North Carolina includes Elon, Western Carolina, Gardner-Webb, High Point, UNC Asheville, UNC Wilmington, Appalachian State, and Campbell.

Scott’s story begins this way Campbell played a basketball game at Elon in the early 1970’s.  Elon’s basketball coach name was Bill Miller and he was legendary in the state for being eccentric to say the least. Coach Miller was a great teacher of the game. His teams played hard and were very well coached. His antics on the sidelines were epic and the word on the street was that officials were intimated by Bill. He coached at Elon from 1959-1979.

This particular game was validating to Danny Roberts that officials at Elon were biased. The game involved a series of block/charge calls that all went against the Camels of Campbell. Danny became more exasperated with each call.

You have to know some things about Danny to appreciate this story fully. He coached at a strict Baptist school where dancing, drinking, and profanity were frowned on. Danny was mild mannered and a southern gentleman. Bill Miller on the other hand was hard charging coach, a man who would take a drink or two or three, and cursed like nobody’s business.

After the 6th block/charge call of the night Danny jumps up and goes to the scorer’s table and states no way that was a block against Campbell but a charge against Elon. The referee heads to scorer’s table and tells Danny to get back to his bench. As Danny walks away he mumbles under his breath that call was terrible. The official shouts out what did you say? Without hesitation Bill Miller jumps off his bench gets right in front of the official and says he just called you a “Son of a Bitch”. The ref blows his whistle and assesses Danny Roberts with a technical foul for something Bill Miller said he said. Danny was incredulous and Bill Miller walked back to his bench smiling.

Life on the road in the NAIA was always interesting.

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