Earlier this week I had the chance to talk with Brad Bounds on the phone. Right now I’m writing and researching an article on Pat Riley for a magazine, and I had contacted Kentucky’s Alumni Directory, where they had forwarded my information to Bounds and several other teammates of Riley. Most of my questions for Bounds were directed at his relationship with Riley while they were in college, and he was very forthcoming in his answers. After the interview was up, I asked Bounds, who played the Wildcats from 1964-1967, if I could pick his brain. Here are some of the more interesting tidbits he had to tell me:
Bounds described Riley as “one tough embre.” A very outgoing and competitive person, he said that those traits have served him well in his successes in the NBA. Riley also played wide receiver on Kentucky’s football team, and was drafted by the Cowboys, and was a High School All-American in diving. Bounds, who at 68 boasts an 8-handicap, once played golf with Michael Douglas, and Riley’s name came up. “Pretty cool,” he said.
Bounds is a retired schoolteacher who lives in Frankfurt, IL. He told me that when LeBron James was a free agent three summers ago, all of his friends who were Bulls fans were giddy over the chance of having James play for them, but Bounds tried to quell their excitement. He said he told them to watch out for Pat Riley, who he said gets what he wants. Needless to say, James did not end up in Chicago.
During his time at Kentucky, Bounds played for head coach Adolph Rupp. Bounds said that, “When you first went there you hated it. He really demanded perfection.” Bounds told me that after road games in which Kentucky lost, Rupp would take his team and go straight to practice. Bounds said that, over time, he did enjoy playing for Rupp.
Bounds also told me about some of the rules that Rupp maintained for his players. Freshmen were not allowed to play on varsity. Rupp wanted freshmen and sophomores to be in the dorms their first two years. “We had all kinds of rules,” Bounds said. “For instance, we couldn’t get married.”
Bounds said that as far as Rupp goes, he has definitely influenced Pat Riley. “Rupp’s personality rubbed off on Pat,” he said. Bounds finished by saying that (Riley), “he’s the best competitor I ever played against.”
Before the interview started, Bounds and I shared in some small talk, and I mentioned to him that I went to Indiana University. Bounds, who grew up in Bluffton, IN, told me that he almost went to Indiana. In fact, Bounds had signed a letter of intent to play for head coach Branch McCracken.
So how did he end up at Kentucky?
Simply put, Adolf Rupp stole him from McCracken. As Bounds told me, the two coaches shared no love for one another. According to Bounds, after he had signed his letter to go to Indiana, Rupp visited him and his parents at their home in Bluffton, and convinced his parents that Kentucky was a better fit for their son. Bounds and his parents agreed, and Bounds ended up at Kentucky. Throughout his three years on varsity, Bounds started only three games. So Adolf Rupp made a personal visit to try to steal a recruit from McCracken who, it seems, didn’t really fit into his plans. Yet another bit of ammunition in the long history between the two schools.
The 1966 NCAA National Championship
The ’66 title game featured Kentucky against Texas Western. Texas Western was the first NCAA team to start five black players, and even though Texas Western had only one loss coming into the game, Bounds said that he and his teammates overlooked them. He said that they had beaten Duke in the Final 4 semi-final game, in which they played one of the best games of their season. Bounds said that Kentucky’s starting point guard, Louie Dampier, who was All-SEC and an All-American that year, got the ball stolen from him three times in a row by Texas Western’s point guard, Bobby Joe Hill. “That’s when we knew we couldn’t take these guys lightly,” Bounds said.