EUGENE, Ore. — Darrall Imhoff lost only six games during his final two seasons on the Cal basketball team, but it's been 50 years and he cannot remember the only game he played at Oregon's McArthur Court.
"Not a bit," he said, when asked what he recalled of Cal's 59-57 setback to the Ducks on Jan. 3, 1959.
Imhoff will be back at Mac Court today — an honorary team captain for the Cal-Oregon game to help the Ducks celebrate the final season at their 83-year-old basketball home.
"Isn't that something?" said Imhoff, a Eugene resident for the past 15 years. "I guess I'm almost an honorary Duck."
But Imhoff's heart always will be with Cal, the team he led to the 1959 NCAA title and most recent conference crown a year later. Imhoff cannot wait for his alma mater to finally win another Pac-10 title.
"Are you kidding me? It's been 50 years ... it's about time they get something going," he said. "It's really great to see it. I just hope they win."
In a phone interview, Imhoff, 71, warned that Thursday's game at Oregon State would be difficult, and he was right. The Bears (17-9, 9-5) lost 80-64 and must dispatch the last-place Ducks (12-13, 4-9) to keep their grip on first place.
Imhoff, a former All-America center and 12-year NBA player, had seen the Bears in person just once before this weekend, but he tunes in regularly to catch them on TV.
"I've been watching like crazy, screaming at the set," he said. "When
Imhoff's teams, coached by the late Hall of Famer Pete Newell, won with suffocating defense. They went 25-4 and captured the NCAA title during Imhoff's junior season, then were 28-2 the next season, losing in the national championship game.
Imhoff and Newell also were part of the 1960 U.S. Olympic team that won the gold medal in Rome and was nominated this week for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
This Cal team doesn't play the game at that level, but Imhoff likes coach Mike Montgomery's club.
"I think they're really good. I'm impressed," he said. "(Jerome) Randle's had some great games. ...
"Theo (Robertson) has been playing really well and consistent, and (Patrick) Christopher ... I couldn't believe what he did against Oregon," Imhoff said, referring to Christopher's 21-point first half in Cal's 89-57 rout of the Ducks last month.
Imhoff especially appreciates sophomore guard Jorge Gutierrez, the Bears' defensive specialist.
"To me, he's the difference," Imhoff said. "He's a hard-nosed, in-your-face kind of guy."
Above all, Imhoff likes the way the Bears play under Montgomery.
"Compared to what was going on when Ben (Braun) was there, they've got an offense, and they're going to the basket," he said. "With Ben, it was ring around the rosy, going around and around and around."
Imhoff still hears regularly from his old team members, although in recent years he has lost a few, including former assistant coach Rupe Ricksen, who died in October.
"We're all rooting for them to do their very best," Imhoff said.