Bob Lindsay is a nice basketball player. Not a great one, not a guy who score a zillion points a night. A nice player. He's this season's shooting guard at George Washington, the successor to Pat Tallent and John Holloran. What he is mostly is a fighter. Proof follows.
With 10 seconds to play, it's tied, 72-all, GW and Navy. GW has the ball, working for the last shot, and about 2,000 midshipmen are screaming. Then, suddenly a bad pass and the ball is loose. A Navy man has it. The screaming becomes an explosion, a celebration. Eardrums surrender. But, wait. A hand lets the ball loose. A scramble. Now the Navy man doesn't have the ball alone. Bob Lindsay has latched onto it, too. A jump ball.
It was a little play a fighter made and it may have won the game. Instead of having possession and chance for one shot to win, Navy had to settle for a jump ball. Before either team could get a shot off the jump, time ran out. And, in the overtime period two nights ago, George Washington won, 82-80. Lindsay's two free throws with 43 seconds left were the difference, and Bob Faris, the GW athletic director, said, "Lindsay sure was gutty on those free throws."
"He's gutty all the time," said Bob Tallent, the GW coach. "He's rough and tough."
What we need here is a piece of film. How inadequate these typewriter keys can be when it comes time to say how Bob Lindsay plays basketball. He plays it as if the world is going to end at halftime and heaven will take in only those guys with the most floor burns. He never stops running. At 6-foot-4 and 190 pounds, he somehow looks skinny, but he is a slasher, a rawboned fighter, all elbows and knees and shoulders. He's always coming at you, either with the ball or to get the ball and, while it's foolish, perhaps even blasphemous, to put their names in the same sentence, Bob Lindsay plays the way John Havlicek did.
George Washington is a nice team. Not a great team, but nice enough to win 12 to 17 games so far against a decent shedule. It has a good front line of Mike Zagardo, a 6-10 sophomore center, Tom Glenn, a 6-8 sophomore forward, and Les Anderson, a 6-5 senior forward. All can score inside and all rebound well. With Lindsay at guard is 6-foot junior Tommy Tate, the team's best ball handler. The sixth man is Mike Samson, a dependable 6-5 forward.
"For us to be very, very good, we all have to play well at the same time," Lindsay said. "We don't have that one superstud who can win a big game all by himself. But we can be a very, very good team if we're all on."
Early this season, GW was less than very, very good because Bob Lindsay was very, very confused. A transfer from Florida, he sat out last season while practicing with GW. Tallent put him in the shooting guard's spot when practice began last October. Soon enough, Lindsay had played his way down to the second team.
"For everything I tried to do right, two things happened bad," Lindsay said. Although he'd been a good outside shooter in high school in Louisville, two unproductive seasons at Florida and the year off robbed him of confidence.
"Plus, I didn't want to come in, a new guy, and start jacking the ball up every time I touched it," he said.
Without an outside shooter, however, GW can never be a very, very good team. Tallent himself was an extraordinary long-distance shooter in the late '60s. And his offense, fashioned in part from what he learned playing for Adolph Rupp at Kentucky, works best with a guard who can throw it up. Anyone who ever saw a Rupp team knows about "the No. 6 play," designed to spring a shooter free at the side of the free-throw circle. Bob Tallent, Louis Dampler, Ralph Beard, Kevin Grevey - they all scored a bundle off the ol' No. 6.
"But I wasn't taking the shoots," Lindsay said. "I hadn't been shooting well. I'd try, try, try, but it was like ropes all around you. So I went overboard the other way, not shooting but layups and power stuff."
No more. No longer can opponents lay off Lindsay and shut down GW's inside game. Now they must play GM honestly because Lindsay, who made it back into the starting lineup for the fourth game of the season, is a true outside threat. he scored 25 points in a 101-90 victory over Maryland. In a 91-77 conquest of a good Rutgers team, he had 24. "And I must have made seven straight off the No. 6," he said.
Lindsay is averaging 13.5 points a game. His 26 against Navy, built on seven-of-nine shooting, was his career high. He's shooting 54.4 percent. "Hard to believe he couldn't play at Florida, isn't it?" Tallent said with a contented smile.
At Florida, Lindsay said, the coach did no coaching "except to blow his whistle for wind spirits." They told Lindsay he was too small for forward, too slow for guard."They didn't know what to do with me, so they didn't do anything." His high school coach, Richard Schmidt, now an assistant coach at Virginia, already had sent two players - Samson and Tate - to GW, so he advised Lindsay to join them.
"I went crazy, I was so happy," Lindsay said. He now wears a Florida letter jacket "to remind me of what I went through to get here." He's a fighter, Lindsay is, and you wonder why.He's the son of an architect. He grew up in affluence. No escape from the ghetto here, no flight from hunman a piece of barbed wire?
"Because Coach Schmidt made us this way," Lindsay said. "He instilled in us this desire to be the very best we could be." These rich kids packed sack lunches and played in a high school gym on 100-degree days for eight hours. In Schmidt's seven years at Ballard High, 19 players signed major college scholarships. Two of his players, Jeff Lamp and Lee Raker, are freshmen at Virginia and have made that team one of the nation'g best.
Coach Tallent is like Coach Schmidt in his intensity and his desire to win," Lindsay said. "At Florida, I dreaded games. Coach Tallent is fiery and I love to play here."