To the Editors of the CRIMSON:
I am writing in reply to the CRIMSON article of March 25 regarding Harvard basketball. I sharply disagree with Mr. Cotton's basis for attacking the coaching of Mr. Wilson. After working closely with Mr. Wilson through the entire season, I am confident of Mr. Wilson's competency as a coach as well as his dedication to make basketball a satisfying experience.
Mr. Cotton raises three main criticisms of Mr. Wilson's coaching: (1) that he fails to lead the team, (2) that he hesitates to give individual attention, and (3) that he is unable to communicate with the team.
First, Mr. Cotton contends that Mr. Wilson fails to lead his team in respect to the formulation of starting lineups, substitutions, and a style of play. By the end of December a starting lineup was permanently established despite a pair of injuries and the loss of a key starter. With the exception of Bob Inman's return the lineup remained unchanged through the course of the season. Similarly two particular substitutes, Merle McClung and Al Bornheimer, were regularly rotated with the starters to give them a brief rest and furnish offensive spark.
Mr. Wilson installed the California offense rather than the shuffle or other patterns primarily because our scoring strength lay in the forward positions. Several options were added to the offense during the season in order to capitalize on certain offensive moves. The flexibility of the offense made free lancing more feasible and enabled Leo Scully, Dennis Lynch, and Merle McClung to use their drives more effectively. The measure of teamwork and short-passing success which the team achieved was directly due to Mr. Wilson's insistence upon a deliberate, control style of play. Defensively the team played a 1-2-2 collapsing zone but often adapted the zone according to the particular opposing personnel. This illustrates that the team's style of play reflected a sound and imaginative strategy which was closely adapted to its offensive and defensive potential.
The criticism was then raised that the coaching demonstrated a lack of individual attention. Throughout the past three years Mr. Wilson has reserved the first half hour of each workout for individual practice and instruction. He gave personal criticisms and suggestions at this time and often worked with one or two ballplayers in a small group. In the development of the California offense he continually suggested individual scoring opportunities which could be exploited within the pattern. The significant improvement in individual and team play through the year must be attributed in part to this personal instruction.
Thirdly, the article challenged Mr. Wilson's communication with the team. The relationship between Mr. Wilson and the team was one of friendship and respect. I believe that his closeness to the team was reflected in its spirit. The team's high morale was apparent in their determined play right down to the last game against Yale. In several meetings during the year his comments gave the team renewed confidence. Mr. Wilson always answered individual questions whether in team conferences or private discussions.
The argument was also advanced that Mr. Wilson possesses a defeatist attitude. In support of this Mr. Cotton cited a statement appearing in the Boston Herald in which Mr. Wilson was quoted as saying that Penn and Princeton, would win the rest of their games. The CRIMSON writer questioned me regarding this statement before he wrote his article. At that time I told him that Coach Wilson had been misquoted and that he had told the team that he had been misquoted shortly after the statement appeared. Despite this correction Mr. Cotton used the article as grounds for indicting Mr. Wilson with a defeatist attitude.
I believe that Mr. Wilson is a capable coach who will produce winning basketball teams with the active assistance of Harvard alumni and fans. Eugene R. Augustine '63, Captain '62-'63.
MR. COTTON REPLIES: I feel the article, as written, was an accurate representation of the situation. The conversation to which Mr. Augustine refers did take place but I do not recall Mr. Augustine's making the claim that Mr. Wilson had been misquoted. I would, however, like to correct one point in my article. The 1959-60 season (12-11) under Mike Donahue was Mr. Wilson's third winning season.