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Blast from the Past: USC defeats Louisiana Tech in the 1983 NCAA Championship Game

Back in 1983, the NCAA tournament only consisted of 36 teams - March Madness wasn't quite as mad yet.  After a couple of weeks of attrition the field of 36 was whittled down to two survivors - the Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters and the University of Southern California Trojan Women. 

The National Championship game would take place at the Norfolk Scope Arena - an architectural marvel that is still standing and serves as the home of the American Hockey League's Norfolk Admirals.

USC Trojan Women (30-2)

Head Coach:  Linda Sharp


F Cheryl Miller (Fr)
F Paula McGee (Jr)
C Pam McGee (Jr.)
G Rhonda Windham (Fr)
G Cynthia Cooper (So)

Louisiana Tech Lady Techsters (31-1)

Head Coaches: Sonja Hogg and Leon Barmore  (Gary Blair is also an assistant coach)


F Lori Scott (Sr)
F Debra Rodman (Jr)
C Janice Lawrence (Jr)
G Jennifer White (Sr)
G Kim Mulkey (Jr)

Announcers:  Frank Glieber, Ann Meyers

The USC team finished #2 at the end of the season, and they would face #1 Louisiana Tech which had won 99 of its last 101 games - but one of those losses was to USC that same year when the two teams split 1-1 in the regular season, with Louisiana Tech avenging an early 64-58 home loss with a 58-56 win at neutral site Orange Coast College. The Lady Techsters - so named by Sonja Hogg because she thought the school's Bulldog mascot was too masculine - were sort of the UConn of their era and were looking for their third straight championship. (She wouldn't let players wear knee or elbow pads because they didn't look good.)  As for USC, they had won their last 17 games coming into the National Championship game.

This match looks much more like a current women's basketball game than the Immaculata-Maryland game video from 1974.  There are many anachronistic elements, however, most noticeably that there is no alternating possession arrow - every contested possession ends in a jump ball.  The most interesting things might be Kim Mulkey's floppy pigtails and Cynthia Cooper's afro, as well as the collar-and-short sleeves uniforms of the Lady Techsters.  (The day-glo gold of USC is also noteworthy.)

First half (video above)

At one point, the Lady Techsters led 35-22 late in the first half.  (Cheryl Miller taking a charge at the 29:00 minute mark is a highlight.)   Going into halftime, the Lady Techsters led 37-26.  Louisiana Tech was shooting 55 percent in the first half compared to just 42 percent for USC and the Lady Techsters had two players in double figures - Janice Lawrence with 17 and Jennifer White with 10.  Cheryl Miller was leading USC with 14 points, but it looked like the Lady Techsters were on their way to their third straight championship.

Second half

There are a lot of interesting highlights in the second half.  A partial list:

(00:40) - note the very primitive shot chart - "Magnets, how do they work?"
(02:20) - at 5-4, Mulkey doesn't so much guard as much as prance.  My wife called her "a big bundle of want-to".
(04:45) - Rodman shows some frustration.
(05:50) - a USC player runs up to the scorer's table.
(07:30) - note that shot clocks are in the corner of the court and not affixed to the backboard
(08:15) - when did Mulkey ever cut her pigtails?
(11:00) - Miller struggles with a muscle twinge
(17:55) - why does Miller wear two wristbands?  Because her younger brother Reggie wore them.
(18:50) - it looks like only the lower bowl of the Scope is filled.

In the second half, the Lady Techsters held a 50-43 lead before things started to go the other way - and the two players most responsible for that were Cynthia Cooper and Cheryl Miller.  Cooper picked up a couple of baskets in a row to close the gap to 50-49, but Louisiana Tech reeled off six straight points.

Miller's athleticism, however, was just too much to overcome.  At one point, Frank Glieber says that Miller was (in 1983) the best player in the world - much to the dismay of Anne Meyers, who was sitting right next to him!  She had a great vertical leap, was a great shot-blocker and had great speed - this is the only game I've seen Miller play but when you watch her even a neophyte like me can see how great she is. 

About six minutes in, Miller broke a tie to put USC up 61-59.  However, USC couldn't break the game open.  Janice Lawrence - who had 17 points for the Lady Techsters in the first half - was held to just three points and fouled out with 1:46 left in the game.  Cooper hit one of two free throws on the foul to put USC up 69-65.  Jennifer White answered with a long two with 1:32 left to close Louisiana Tech to 69-67.  (45:30 in the second video.)

On the inbound play by USC, Mulkey drew the charge against USC's Rhonda Windham, who fouled out on the call.  The Techsters had the ball again but lost it on a block. Cooper drove to the baseline but missed it, giving Louisiana Tech a second chance - and they missed again, with the ball back in Cooper's hands and 35 seconds left on the clock.  If USC could just hang on, they'd win it.  A timeout was called by Sharp with 30 seconds left. 

USC's first national championship would depend on a game of keep-away.  With the ball moving back and forth between USC players, Kim Mulkey managed to break up Kathy Doyle's dribble and flipped the ball to Debra Rodman.  Rodman passed the ball to Mulkey who drove to the basket.  Setting up between Mulkey and the basket was Cynthia Cooper who was moving into position...."Mulkey for the tie...!"

No!  Mulkey was called for an offensive charge.  Mulkey had come out of high school after her school won four state championships.  With Louisiana Tech's previous championships, Mulkey had not lost the last game of the season in six years.  But this time, Mulkey - and the Lady Techsters - would return to Ruston empty-handed.  The USC Trojan Women were NCAA champions!  Cheryl Miller finished with 27 points and nine rebounds and was named tournament MVP.

(* * *)

So what happened to all of these coaches and players?

Linda Sharp later served as head coach of Southwest Texas State University, the WNBA's Los Angeles Sparks and Concordia University.  She resigned at Concordia in 2008.  Sharp was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2001.

Cheryl Miller
is currently a reporter and analyst for NBA games.  She was a head coach at USC and for the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury and was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1995 and the inaugural Women's Basketball Hall of Fame class of 1999.

Paula McGee is now the Reverend Paula McGee and works as a life coach.  At one time, she was the fiancee of Darryl Strawberry but they broke up before the marriage.

Pam McGee is better known as JaVale McGee's mother in some circles, the first WNBA player ever to have a child to play for the NBA.

Rhonda Windham is the vice president of USC's Black Alumni Association's Board of Directors.  She was the former general manager of the Los Angeles Sparks of the WNBA.

Cynthia Cooper-Dyke was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009 and the Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010 - the first WNBA player to be inducted to the latter -  after winning championships at every level.  She won four WNBA titles as a member of the Houston Comets.  She is currently the head coach at UNC-Wilmington.

Sonja Hogg was head coach both at Louisiana Tech and Baylor, coming out of retirement to coach at Baylor.  She remained at Louisiana Tech until 1985, turning control of the Lady Techsters over to her co-head coach Leon Barmore.  Hogg was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2009.

Leon Barmore would remain with Louisiana Tech, becoming head coach from 1985 to 2002.  In 2008, he took a position as an assistant coach at Baylor under his former player Kim Mulkey.  He was named a member of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame and the Basketball Hall of Fame in the same year, 2003.

Gary Blair remained with Louisiana Tech until the end of the 1984-85 season.  He would become head coach at Stephen F. Austin, at Arkansas and finally at Texas A&M.

Lori Scott McIntyre currently works as a paralegal in Atlanta and is the mother of three boys, ages 14, 18 and 22.

Debra Rodman might be better known as Dennis Rodman's older sister, acting at one time as her brother's business advisor. She was also known as a great rebounder and a free spirit like her brother.  She is the mother of Jasmine Johnson, a junior center playing for Western Kentucky.

Janice Lawrence Braxton played in Europe and America, including the Cleveland Rockers in the WNBA.  She was an assistant coach for Cleveland in 2003.  In 2006 she was elected to the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame.

Jennifer White graduated in 1985 with a master's degree in physical education and then was an assistant to Leon Barmore until 1990.  She then became an assistant coach of Jody Conradt at Texas.  She is now the head coach at St. Edward's University, a Division II school.

Kim Mulkey also became an assistant to Leon Barmore at Louisiana Tech in 1985.  She became an associate head coach in 1996 and took over as head coach at Baylor in 2000.  She is the only woman to have won an NCAA Division I title both as a player (1982) and as a head coach (2005).  She was inducted into the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000 and her daughter (Makenzie Robertson) also plays there.

Frank Glieber
would remain a sportscaster, primarily in the Dallas area.  He was the original voice of the Dallas Cowboys and was confident enough to accept broadcasting assignments for sports he knew nothing about.  Known as the Round Mound of Sound - he continually fought his weight - he collapsed and died while jogging on May 1 1985 at age 51.

Anne Meyers Drysdale continued working as an announcer and sports analyst after her successful college career.  She married famous baseball pitcher Don Drysale  in 1986 but was widowed in 1993.  She was inducted into to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1993 and into the inaugural class of the Women's Basketball Hall of Fame in 1999.  She is currently the president and general manager of the WNBA's Phoenix Mercury