Neil Rudel's column last Sunday on the Penn State basketball coach search brought back memories of my time in central Pennsylvania, growing up in Tyrone.
I remember well when John Bach was Penn State's coach that he showed no interest in Johnny Moore from Altoona or Nick Leasure from Tyrone. I was helping Nick with his basketball recruiting, and he was a great kid.
I got the old Pennsylvania Mirror newspaper to do an article on Nick and the fact that he was being looked at by Maryland and Lefty Driesell. Terry Nau went with the story, and Bach came out and said he didn't recruit from newspaper reports and actually cast doubts about the Maryland thing.
What they didn't know was that I had arranged for Joe Harrington, an assistant at Maryland, to see Nick play at Mount Union, and following the game, I drove up to State College and stopped at the Mirror and gave Nau the information.
A funny thing happened a few nights later.
Bach showed up at Tyrone High School and even visited Nick in the locker room.
Nick made first team all-state that year, and both he and Moore played in the Dapper Dan Classic preliminary game, and they both played well.
Penn State still showed no interest, but Digger Phelps came to visit Nick in his hotel room and wanted him to visit Notre Dame.
Of course, Johnny's story in the NBA is well documented.
A few nights after Bach did show up in Tyrone, we had Nick courtside at Cole Field House in Maryland, and I paid a photographer for pictures of him and his parents.
That afternoon, we sat in Lefty's living room and listened to their recruiting pitch. Shortly after that, we got a nice note from John Wooden, who said that he really liked what he saw in Nick, but that their recruiting class was full at the time.
Not bad that Lefty, Digger and Coach Wooden were interested in a kid from Tyrone, but Penn State a few miles away wasn't.
One final thought for me: I remember that John Swogger asked me if my wife and I were going home to Tyrone after the Dapper Dan game. When we said we were, he asked if we would give Johnny a ride back to Altoona as he was to take his college boards the next day.
He curled up in our back seat to sleep, but he did tell us that he was making a trip to Texas the following week. I asked if he really had any interest there, and he said "not really," but he had never been to Texas.
A few weeks later, he signed with Texas, thanks to Abe Lemons, and began a Southwest Conference career as a four-year starter. Shortly thereafter, we moved to Houston and always went to see Johnny play at Houston and Rice.
Later, he repaid our little favor of a ride to Altoona when the Spurs were in Houston to play the Rockets.
I had called him a few days before, and he left us tickets and told us to come down to courtside as soon as we could get in.
I had my son along with my boss and his son.
Johnny introduced us to all of the Spurs, including George Gervin. My son had some of my early pictures of Johnny to get autographed, and when Gervin saw them, he was hilarious in the way he made good-natured fun of Johnny, and had all of the team to come over and look at his pictures and poke fun.
My son, my boss at the time, his son and I have never forgotten that night and talk about it often.
Will Walk is a Tyrone native who currently resides in Spring, Texas. He is an occasional contributor to Voice of the Fan.