Dick Neal

Nathan Blessing (rghs96) interviewed Dick Neal on March 14th 1993

Nathan: As a fan what did it mean to you to see the 1965 team in action.

Dick: Well I really don't have words to express how I felt. I felt like I was one of the players, I sweated when they sweated, and I hurt when they hurt. I took it serious, I take basketball very serious then and more so now, because I understand a little bit better. It meant a lot to me.

Nathan: What did you think about them beating Auburn in the tournaments after loosing to them twice during the regular season?

Dick: I think it is hard for a good team to beat another good team three straight times in a season.

Nathan: At the beginning of the season did you think that this team had a chance to go as far as they did at the end of the season.

Dick: The potential was there and I think maybe if they had a coach that pushed them like yours does today, yes I think they could have.

Nathan: So were you surprised?

Dick: Right, because you have to have a motivator, someone to drive you, and you have to have the desire. That is not to say that the other coach was not a good coach but there is a difference in coaches. There is the kind that gets you ready, and there is the coach that drives you. Players themselves have to have that drive also.

Nathan: What did you think of Mr Kegley?

Dick: He won a title, you can't deny him that and he is the only one to do it.

Nathan: If you had been coach would you have done anything different?

Dick: Yes, I would have started a different player. I would have started Benny DeAtly over Harold Tayler because he sparked us in the tournaments when we were down he got in there and got the guys all fired up.

Nathan: Who do you think their strongest opponents were that season?

Dick: Auburn had to be one of the strong ones, the team we beat in the finals was good, and the team we beat in Roanoke was good. They had the first real big man I had ever seen in single A basketball. He was 6 foot 9. Rocky Gap had more fans than any team there I will always remember that. We introduced everybody as reverend that night. It was a gym built like Floyd only you came in where the bleachers were divided which is badly arranged and it is still the same. When everybody came in we would say how are you doing Reverend so and so. I remember one in particular was Jack Dunn was down there and Don Gathright was the superintendent down at the correctional center, he was a good friend of mine . We would yell at him," Alright cabbage you got the head." That was one of the funny things that went one then. You know there were no fast food joints at that time so we had to eat at the little restaurants and drive ins.

Nathan: What do you think separated this team from the teams that they played against?

Dick: Desire. See we had some good teams prior to this one. But we had never been put into a position to win it all like this one was. We would either get upset, or we would just get into a mismatch. The team we played for the title, Washington and Lee was a very good team. We didn't beat any cheapos.

Nathan: What do you think winning the championship did for the rest of the community, not just the faithful few like yourself?

Dick: Well I think basketball being the only sport really helped the community to grow closer together. You know there was only a ten year period between the opening of the school and the championship. I think people got to know each other better. People that hardly ever talked to each other were now cheering for a common cause.

Nathan: Would you put this team ahead of the other good teams at the school?

Dick: No. I don't mean that because of the caliber of person but because of the better competition, not that the players were better. I would have to put Sutphin's group in there. The record speaks for itself, they had several twenty win seasons. You have to play pretty good to win twenty games. Again, the competition, the schools have gotten bigger, the players have gotten stronger, the techniques of teaching players has improved. If that team had all the training that they do today they would have been as good or better.

Henry: I think if we had played to the rules of the game now we would be able to beat them. I'll tell you why, except for when Suthpin was there they didn't have anyone that could shot as well as we could. Because today with the three point shooters we could have had ,if we had the line. That game when we beat Blue Ridge, Charlie hit nine out of ten jump shots from twenty feet or more.

Dick: I saw him at a game in Spanishburg, the year we won the tournament, and he never missed a shot.

Henry: And they weren't easy shots either.

Dick: He never missed a shot. But what I'm saying is that the ability was there, but the modern techniques were not there.

Nathan: Do you think Mr. Puckett was the best point guard ever at the Gap?

Dick: I believe that Stan Puckett is the best point guard to play there to this day.

Henry: I'll tell you the best point guard that is ever going to play at the gap, and he is down there right now, is Eric Faulkner.

Dick: He has a good possibility. Stan Puckett had size, he had speed, he could jump, he could shot, he could pass, and he had desire.

Nathan: I've never heard his name before.

Dick: He was Charlie's brother he could truly slam the ball on the move, he didn't have to strain. He could dunk left handed, right handed, both hands. And he was strong, he was physical, and he could play, and it Jeff Lambert could have shot a little bit better there would be nobody in a hundred years that could have touched him. He was a magician you could bounce the ball twice and I guarantee the third time you bounced it he would have it. Ask Charlie about him, he had the best pair of hands, but couldn't shot a lick.

Henry: I loved that 81 team.

Dick: If they had a little height they could have gone all the way. I just don't think they could rebound with the other teams.

Henry: They only had two guys on that team that could shot, Hankins and Morehead.

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