Leland Stein III

Into Mich. Sports Hall of Fame goes Rice

In Detroit/Area Sports, Final Four, Mich. Sports Hall of Fame, NBA on November 9, 2021 at 8:55 pm
Glenn Rice leads UM to NCAA title vs. Seton Hall.

(This article was first published in 2007 in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s Commemorative Magazine.)

By Leland Stein III

Almost every culture around the world cooks rice, but this particular 40-year-old (Glen) Rice has been the one doing the cooking.

He has served up Michigan high schools, Big Ten opponents and NBA superstars.

The former Flint Northwestern High School and University Michigan basketball prodigy said he is elated to have been selected to the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s Class of 2007.

“I was surprised and elated when I found out,” Rice told me. “It’s an honor, one that I never dreamed about growing up.”

He said his Flint high school coach, Grover Kirkland, was a big influence on how he viewed athletic competition.

“(Northwestern) is where I took my basketball skills to another level,” Rice explained. “Kirkland helped me grow not only as a basketball player, but as a person. He made sure we humbled ourselves and gave all our blessing to God. Having that humble spirit really helped me as I moved up to U-M and on to the NBA.”

The 6-foot-8 small forward/shooting guard is acknowledged as one of the best shooters in basketball. He could get hot with ease and would go a shooting spree that left all basketball fans in collective approval shaking their heads or clapping in appreciative applause.

Rice had one such game in 1995 when the Miami Heat contested an Orlando Magic team that featured NBA All-Stars Shaquille O’Neal and Penny Hardaway.

Rice the scoring chef, cooked up a career-high 56 points. He hit 20 of 27 shots from the floor, including 7-of-8 from the three-point line.

Glenn Rice wins NBA All-Star Game MVP

“Wow!” Rice exclaimed. “For the entire game I shot .784 percent. You could say I was feeling it. It was one of those days that I can’t even explain.”

Added Heat coach Alvin Gentry: “I haven’t seen anything like what Glen did that night. He was shooting like it was something out of the old ‘Unsolved Mysteries’ TV show.”

Although Rice did not match that point total while at the University of Michigan, he did produce at a level that made him one of the greatest scorers in NCAA Tournament history.

For four seasons (1985-1989) Rice smoked the Big Ten and NCAA. He became U-M’s all-time leading scorer with 2,442 points. He led Michigan to the 1989 NCAA title, while scoring a record 184 points in tournament play, a record that still stands.

Glenn averaged 30.7 points for the tournament and eclipsed Bill Bradley’s mark. Rice cooked up a 31-point, 11-rebound effort against Seton Hall in the NCAA Championship game. It was U-M’s only NCAA basketball title.

The Wolverines won the overtime game, 80-79, on a pair of Rumeal Robinson foul shots with three seconds left.

For his legendary effort Rice had his No. 41 jersey retired during a recent ceremony at Michigan’s Crisler Arena.

He left U-M as the Big 10’s all-time leading scorer tossing in 2,442 points. He averaged 25.6 points per game in his senior year. For his effort he earned the Jesse Owens Award as the Big Ten Athlete of the Year for 1989.

Rice led a Michigan team that many accused of underachieving the previous seasons.

Loy Vaught, Terry Mills, Sean Higgins. Mark Hughes and Robinson were key ingredients in U-M’s title run. All played solid roles in the Wolverines run at NCAA glory; however, Rice just elevated the team and himself to another level.

“Glen got into a grove that was incredible,” interim coach Steve Fisher said. “It was a tough battle throughout the tournament, but Glen put together a stretch that was historic.”

“I got hot at the right time,” Rice explained. “I knew it was in me; but, I guess I took it up a notch during the NCAA’s. It was my last run and I had to leave it all on the court.”

Glenn Rice, Shaquille O’Neal and Kobe Bryant celebrate LA Lakers title.

During the Big Ten regular season campaign, Michigan lost to an exceptional Illinois team twice. Many thought they were early outs in the tournament.

Add in the fact head coach Bill Frieder was fired by then Michigan Athletic Director, Bo Schembechler, right before the tournament for accepting the head coaching job at Arizona State. It is safe to proclaim . . . there was turmoil all around the basketball program in Ann Arbor.

“The way we finished the season we were beaten up by Illinois,” Rice remembered. “Then Bill got fired and we were surprised they did not let him coach in the tournament. After all, he was the reason we all were there at Michigan.

“We were a little confused about what was going on and then Bo came to us and gave us a speech right before the tournament. He told us that ‘we were Michigan men and we have a winning tradition.’ He then looked at Mark (Hughes) and myself and said you two are the seniors and he expected us to lead.

“Mark and I came up with this slogan, ‘Shock the World.’ We took it to the team and we ran with it. It was a great slogan because we had a lot to prove.”

Rice carried the Wolverines through the 51st NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, and, through a NCAA Title contest that is remembered as one of the more remarkable Final Four title games.

“I remember it like it was yesterday,” Rice gleefully recalled. “As the years go by people tell me it was one of the great runs in NCAA history. It was a special thrill and a turning point in my basketball career.”

Rice said that Fisher came to him and told him he needed him to step up and be a leader.

“I knew we had something special going when we beat Illinois in the Final Four semi-finals,” Rice remembered. “They were a great team that had beaten us convincingly twice, but it was our time to shine. It went down to the wire, but we won.”

Rice’s success did not stop in college; he continued his basketball journey in the NBA achieving at a noteworthy level.

Selected by the Heat in the first round of the 1989 draft, he played 15-years in the NBA averaging 18.3 points.

Along with the Heat, Rice played with the Charlotte Hornets, New York Knicks, Los Angeles Lakers, Houston Rockets and Los Angeles Clippers, retiring after the 2003-04 season.

He eventually won an NBA championship with the 2000 Lakers as the team’s third leading scorer.

“It was a fun year in L.A.,” Rice said. “I got to play with two of the greatest players in NBA history – Shaq (Shaquille O’Neal) and Kobe (Bryant). Not to mention being coached by Phil (Jackson); it was phenomenal!”

The sharp shooting Rice was a three-time NBA All-Star who ended his career ranked 4th in NBA history with 1,559 three-point field goals made.

His other outstanding NBA achievement came when he was named MVP of the 1997 All-Star game, which was commemorating the 50th anniversary of the league. In the game, he set All-Star game records of 20 points in the third quarter and 24 points in the second half. He also won the NBA All-Star Long Distance Shootout at the 1995 All-Star game in Phoenix.

“I’ve had some great memories from my basketball career,” Rice noted, “and they all came as a result of hard work, dedication and effort.”

Leland Stein is columnist for the Michigan Chronicle. He can be heard on WGPR radio (107.5) every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight. He can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.

Ron “Thomp” Thompson: The Ultimate Impact Player

In Black history through sports, Detroit/Area Sports, Mich. Sports Hall of Fame, sports column on November 4, 2021 at 4:14 am
Ron Thompson

(This article was first published in 2011 in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s Commemorative Magazine.)

By Leland Stein III

“Sports have always been a vehicle for economically disadvantage youth to come away from their problems,” former Georgetown coach John Thompson Sr. told me in an interview. “I’m not saying it’s the only way out, but it is a vehicle, so why ignore it?”

Legendary Detroit baseball and football coach, Ron “Thomp” Thompson, who passed in October of 1994, lived John’s words for four decades as a youth leagues and high school coach and mentor.

If “Thomp” was still alive when the call came from the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame confirming his ascension into this noteworthy and remarkable collective, he would have more than likely just shrugged his giant shoulders and said in that unusual, high screeching voice that did not fit his 6-foot-2, 300 pound frame, “Who me?”

Thomp’s interrogative, “Who me?” would have been delivered with a humble and honest sincerity. After all, the former Northwestern High football star only did the things he did because there was a need.

Sure he loved coaching, but that wasn’t the only motivation for men in his era – especially at the youth level. Absolutely there was no money in coaching young men; however, in a perversely and defiantly segregated America, men like Thomp understood that they could use athletics as a vehicle to cajole, instruct, discipline and uplift young men, and, nobody in Detroit’s long history did it any better.

Detroit Mayor Coleman Young honors DePorres Coach Ron Thompson after yet another state title.

“Mr. Thompson’s life did not start at DePorres,” Tigers’ great Willie Horton reminded me in our interview. “It was at the Projects where he put his arms around us. He put all our balls and bats in a pile and said, ‘You have to love each other first and that’s the start of teamwork.’ He did more than just put a ball and bat in our hands. When I see that statue of myself in Comerica Park, I often think of Thompson and my humble roots.”

Said Oak Park coach Greg Carter, who played baseball and football (at Mackenzie) and coached under Thomp, before he took over DePorres following Thomp’s passing: “He gave us a vehicle to do something positive. He spent his whole life working for the youth of Detroit. He didn’t care too much for adults unless they could donate uniforms or something.”

Without a doubt Thompson’s inclusion in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s 55th induction class is a direct result of his efforts as head football coach at Detroit St. Martin DePorres. At the time of his passing, he was second all-time in the state of Michigan having won eight state titles (1978, ‘81, ‘82, ‘83, ‘84, ‘88, ‘90, ‘92).

But for all his football success at DePorres High, in the Detroit sporting community his legend was solidified because of his tireless work coaching youth football and baseball for the only African-American team (Westside Cubs) allowed in the Detroit Junior Leagues.

His legend was etched in concrete in the early 1960’s when he won a national title with a youth baseball team that had Horton, Alex Johnson, Benny Carbo, Teddy Sizemore and Rufus Hayes.

In that same decade before his high school coaching days he mentored others like Ron Johnson (U-M, Giants), Mel Owens (U-M, L.A. Rams), Ted Simmons (Cardinals), Frank Tanana (Angels), Glenn Doughty (U-M, Colts), John Mayberry (Royals), Ron “Pee Wee” Johnson (EMU, Steelers), just to name a few.

Ron Thompson

Because segregation was entrenched in Detroit’s youth leagues, the Westside Cubs were cutting too many kids. So, Thompson, Leland Stein Jr., Jocko Hughes and Sam Washington Sr. founded the Saint Cecilia Beacons expecting to join the Detroit Junior Football League, but the league held to its policy of one African-American team.

Undeterred, Thompson and friends entered the Catholic Youth Organization (CYO). Leaving his beloved Cubs clearly denotes that Thompson’s focus for the youth was always more than just about athletics. Seeing a chance to get more kids off the streets and involved was the reason the now legendary Saint Cecilia was founded.

Before Thompson started his DePorres legend he settled over at Mackenzie High, where he led the Stags to the 1971 and 1975 Detroit Public School League baseball title game and helped coach the football team to two divisional titles.

“Ron sure had a way with the kids,” said former Mackenzie coach Elbert Richmond, who won a Michigan State Basketball title in 1979. “He was a great football coach, but at Mackenzie he took our baseball program to another level. We went to the city finals twice (1971) and won once (1975).”

Said Woodbridge Community Center founder Mike Wilson, who played baseball at Mackenzie for Thomp: “He was probably the most profound individual that spoke into my life about maximizing myself as an athlete and person.”

Noted current Henry Ford CC baseball coach Steve Brown, who was on Thompson’s first state title team (1978) at DePorres and later became the school’s Athletic Director (‘88 thru ’94) and baseball coach: “We are a product of what we learned from Thomp; he set the tone and many of us followed. I come from a single parent home, so he became like a father to me.”

Thomp proudly sported his disheveled look, because he never spent a penny on himself. Everything he had he put it in uniforms and equipment. I guess his intrinsic blessing was that he shaped many All-Conference and All-American careers in high school, college and professional leagues, as well as thousands of community leaders, business people and educators.

“Alex and I tried to buy Mr. Thompson a batting cage after we turned professional,” recalled Horton, “but he would not let us do it. He did not want us to think he did all he did for us for money, because he did it from the heart.”

Concurred Brown: “Thomp’s commitment to the kids of Detroit and coaching was unbelievable. He knew that was his way to reach young people. He was a great judge of talent, but he could not be bought. He never did anything just for the money.”

Said former DePorres principal Sunbeam Hughes: “It was not about money for him. Every penny he got he would give it to the kids and buy equipment. He really believed there was good in all children.”

Michigan Chronicle columnist Leland Stein can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com and Twitter @LelandSteinIII

Sam Washington and St Cecilia Gym

In Black history through sports, Detroit/Area Sports, Mich. Sports Hall of Fame, sports column on October 29, 2021 at 11:06 pm

(This article was first published in 2008 in the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame’s Commemorative Magazine.)

By Leland Stein III

It’s with humble pride that I get to scribe for the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame (MSHOF) commemorative magazine about my youth football and basketball coach, Samuel Lee Washington, following his long-anticipated induction into the Michigan Sports Hall of Fame.

Washington’s long exclusion from the MSHOF, is a direct result of how he lived his life. Many of the endeavors he engaged himself in only helped others. When one engages his or her entire life to civic and social needs of a community – it’s not as visually tangible as a coach winning five state titles or a player winning four Super Bowls, but Washington’s impact throughout the Metro Area is unmatched by any.

Spencer Haywood, Sam Washington Sr. and John Brisker.

Although he was nationally known, his fame was not the type one would pick up a newspaper or a magazine and read about him every week. He achieved what I call “Underground Urban Legendary” status, because there was not one potential athlete in Detroit — or even urban communities throughout the U.S. — that did not know about Washington and St. Cecilia on Livernois and Stearns.

Two of Ceciliaville Athletic Center’s mantras are: “Get Exposure . . . or Get Exposed” and “Ceciliaville — Where Champions are Made not Born.”

Both statements not only talk to the obvious sports references, but to the character, discipline and effort one puts forth in his or her life, in school and in one’s everyday interaction with humanity.

Washington a Detroiter through-and-through graduated from Western High School in 1954 where he played football, basketball and baseball. He earned All-City and All-State in football and went to Ohio State, but left to play in the America Football League with the New York Titans.

He also played in the Canadian Football League for a short period and was general manager and coach of the “Detroit Spirits” of the Continental Basketball Association.

Ceciliaville or “The Little Big House” is known in basketball lore as one of the best basketball recreational centers in the country, but the original vision started with youth football.

From the smoldering ashes of the turbulent ‘60’s where many of the disenfranchised expressed their hopelessness and disdain for segregation by rioting, Washington saw an opportunity to gather up as many youth as he could.

Washington, along with my dad, Leland Stein Jr., the great Ron Thompson and noteworthy Allen “Jocko” Hughes, left their beloved Westside Cubs to start the St. Cecilia Beacons youth football team.

In 1967 African-American youth could only play on the Cubs; it was the only black team in the Detroit Junior Football League. No matter where a Black youth lived, he or she had to ease on down to Boston and Broadstreet to play organized football or baseball or cheer.

Washington, Stein, Thompson and Hughes collectively decided that it was unacceptable that so many Black youth had to be turned away from the Cubs because of segregation.

Recalled Hughes, speaking for Washington, Stein and Thompson, whom have all made their transition: “I remember it like it was yesterday. We got together and said we have to provide some other opportunities for these kids. Sam came from the ‘hood’, so all the stuff that was going on (unequal opportunities) he understood it. So, he knew he could impact many through sports by providing more opportunities for black youth to get off the streets and into positive competition.”

Michigan Sports Hall of Fame 2007 Class

I remember my Dad telling me he did not want to leave the Cubs, but Sam Sr. was “so convincing” in his vision that he felt compelled to help implement another African-American football team.

Added Sam Jr.: “There was so much talent around that the Westside Cubs could not house them all. Dad knew that through sports, many would get off the streets and explore their gifts in a structured environment.”

Once Sam Sr. was able get the football program in the CYO (Catholic Youth Organization) League, he recognized that the Brewster Center’s legendary basketball leagues were phasing out, so he organized a basketball program that included youth, high school, college and professional leagues or games.

“Even trying to start a high school summer basketball program (around 1969) was an effort,” recalled Sam Jr. “Dad had to go to court to to get the league sanctioned by the State. High school organized basketball did not exist, and, players could become ineligible if they participated.”

Birth from a football vision, Sam ended up overseeing one of the greatest urban basketball movements in the country at the little gymnasium on Livernois. The sweaty and unassuming gymnasium became a safe haven for Detroit’s youth and eventually a place to measure oneself again the best basketball players the country had to offer.

I remember Sam Jr. and I, among others, getting kicked off the two-basket gym floor as Campy Russell, Dave Bing, Jimmy Walker, Cazzie Russell, Terry Furlow, Ralph Simpson, Mike Robinson, George Gervin, Terry Duerod, Terry Tyler or Spencer Haywood took over.

“Everywhere I go someone has a St. Cecilia story or stories about how my dad helped them get in college or mentored them,” Sam Jr. explained. “It got to the point he could just call a coach and they would give a person a scholarship based on his word.

“He not only helped the players, but he helped referees and coaches, too.”

This past summer I moseyed on down to the gym that has appropriately been named the Sam Washington Gymnasium. On display were Jermaine Jackson, Brandon Jenkins, Chris Webber, Arthur Johnson, Vashon Lenard, Jalon Rose, Lindsey Hunter, Mo Taylor, Tractor Traylor, Derek Dial, Don Reid, Ira Newbie, Derrick Coleman or Doug Smith, just to name a few.

Sam Jr. and Sr.

Twenty years after Washington’s death, his vision is still alive. The high schools, college players and pros are still tearing the roof off the “Little Big House.”

“This building has endured,” said Sam Jr., “because the vision our dads had of giving young people a place to express themselves through, first football, and now basketball is real. They used sports to develop men and character.”

Added long-time high school coach Dot Wilson: “This place has endured because it has kept its standards. People from all over the state and country come here for the competition, but they always have the utmost respect for the building, because it’s molded in brotherhood.”

It’s been over 40-years since Sam Sr. started Ceciliaville and the love for the little gym is still strong among those who have hone their skills, learned personal discipline and sportsmanship there.

“I’ll always have love for St. Cecilia,” Webber said. “I have so many fond memories of this building. As a young player coming up I could not wait until I got a chance to play at Ceciliaville.”

Concurred Rose, who has donated a new electronic scoreboard: “Playing here you know you are keeping Sam’s history alive. All the guys that have come before me I looked up to. Now we can keep it going for all the young players coming up. Plus, it’s an opportunity for many who can never get to The Palace (in Auburn Hills), but here they can see the pros play. It keeps us connected to the community that made us what we are today.”

Sam Sr. believed in the essential goodness of people. He believed the very average football or basketball player’s dream was as valuable as the can’t-miss-superstar.

That’s why an Annual Ceciliaville Golf Fundraiser is held each summer to keep the dream alive.

 “The golf tournament is presented to keep my Dad’s memory, St. Cecilia basketball and the school alive,” Sam Jr. explained. “Basically the proceeds go to the upkeep of the Sam Washington Gymnasium, but the name recognition helps the entire parish.”

Leland Stein is columnist for the Michigan Chronicle. He can be heard on WGPR radio (107.5) every Sunday from 11 p.m. to midnight. He can be reached at lelstein3@aol.com.