The middle of the 1970s were chaotic for the teachers college on the hill in Mankato, particularly in athletics. Mankato State University was dropping out of the rugged North Central Conference and had made the financial decision not to field a football team in 1976. The sport was gone for that one fall.
There was also a nickname issue: The pressure was increasing to get rid of “Indians,’’ and that occurred in 1977, when MSU became the Mavericks.
Amid these dramas, Butch Raymond was entering his third season as Mankato’s basketball coach for 1975-76, and had put together quite a roster:
Elisha McSweeney, a 6-foot-6 senior forward “and maybe the best player ever in the North Central,’’ Raymond said; Gene Glynn, a freshman point guard after being Minnesota’s first-ever Mr. Basketball; big Doug Probst, the pride of the Fulda Raiders; and on it went.
There was another newcomer with Glynn: Gilbert Williams, a strong inside player, a transfer from a junior college in Barstow, Calif., by way of New York City.
“Gil kind of went unnoticed because of Elisha and some of the talent we had, but he was very important for us — rebounding, defense and he could score,” Glynn said. “Great guy, too. Smart.
“When he was living in Houston and I was coaching in the National League, we’d get together for lunch once in a while. And when they put our team in MSU’s Hall of Fame in 2014, he brought his son with him; Gil’s got five boys, and Grant made the trip.”
The Mankato State Indians of 1975-76 tied for first place in the North Central. It was the first basketball title in that league, and the players were put into Minnesota State Mankato’s Hall of Fame as a group in 2014.
Gil Williams relocated to Charlotte, and the youngest of his sons, Grant, has grown to 6-8 and is the junior star of No. 1-rated Tennessee. He’s a serious contender to be voted as the national player of year, particularly after 43 points vs. Vanderbilt last Wednesday.
“Grant really competes, doesn’t he?’’ Glynn said. “Just like his dad.’’
More on 1975-76 Mankato champs:
• McSweeney, a transfer from Miami Dade Community College, was Bahamian and came to Minnesota wanting to play for Bill Musselman. The Gophers didn’t have a scholarship and Musselman tipped off Raymond on McSweeney’s talent.
• Glynn, let go by the Twins as third-base coach, has taken a job as a roving infield and baserunning instructor for the Miami Marlins.
• Gil Williams was a bodyguard in the music industry for a time, including for Prince and Michael Jackson.
Read Reusse’s blog at startribune.com/patrick.