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95 Air-Tecs 6. Chuck Taylor was sitting on a narrow bench in the cavernous, tile-lined eldhouse at Wright Field, Ohio in early December 1944, watching his “boys” go through an early evening workout and jawing with a local newspaper reporter. John Mahnken, who not long before was the 6-foot-8 starting center on the Georgetown University Hoyas,“dripped sweat” as Taylor continued sitting on the bench in his birch-colored sweat pants and shirt and egged on Mahnken and the other young basketball stars. “Lt. Charles (Chuck) Taylor cast a quick glance at Mahnken,” the reporter wrote,“and the rest of the basketball players who were rounding out the rst scheduled practice of the Air-Tecs, the quintet which will represent the Air Technical Service Command this year against professional, collegiate, 06Chuck.indd 11/18/05, 3:01 PM 95 96 and service teams.‘They’re getting tired,’ he grinned.A minute later he called his team together.‘That’s enough for today.You can shoot baskets for a while if you want, but we’ll meet here tomorrow same time. Okay? See you tomorrow night.’ “The coach of the newly-organized Air-Tecs paused as some of the players left for showers, others practiced foul shots. ‘This’ll get them all into condition. Most of the boys are in pretty good shape anyway, but all this running will x them up.’”1 Taylor had been in this mid-Ohio city before, when he made a “special appearance” on the Dayton Kellys semi-pro basketball team, and probably numerous other times on sales calls or to host clinics. Now he was stationed in Dayton, at what was arguably the largest air force base in the world, a vast proving ground for global aerial warfare. But Chuck was not in Dayton to make war. He had literally been “loaned” by the Navy, according to one newspaper account, to whip up a new Army Air Force service team into such a competitive state that it would take away the glory from the Great Lakes Naval Training Station Bluejackets, then the most popular and widely acclaimed service team (as distinct from military academy) in the country. Chuck’s arrival in town was signaled by every Dayton newspaper of the day, which called him a “pioneer” of the sport and more.2 What a team it was, bold and prominent in its “AAF blue and yellow” colors. Technical Sergeant Johnny Schick was on it. Schick starred on the Ohio State University team that went all the way to what is now identied as the rst NCAA nals in Evanston, Illinois in 1939. (The Buckeyes lost in the championship game to Oregon 46-33.3 ) John Mahnken, the Georgetown center, was to play pro ball after the war, including for the Rochester Royals and Boston Celtics. Ed Sadowski was a former Seton Hall University 06Chuck.indd 11/18/05, 3:01 PM 96 97 Air-Tecs cager and Detroit Eagles pro star who also later played for the Celtics; at twenty-nine he was the old man on the team. Dwight “Dike” Eddleman, a University of Illinois recruit who dropped out of college at age seventeen to enlist in the Army, joined the Air-Tecs a little later in the season and also was destined to play pro ball later in his career. Bruce Hale became an Air-Tec in mid-February 1945 after Chuck saw him play with a different service team against the Air-Tecs in Miami. Hale went on to coach in the American Basketball Association (1967–68 Oakland Oaks), but is best remembered as a longtime University of Miami basketball coach. Also playing for the Air-Tecs were George Light, Al Negratti (later with the Rochester Royals), Ralph McNeil, and Roy Witry, the same Roy Witry whom Chuck had personally admonished during a visit to Anderson High School in Indiana for not wearing his Converse Chuck Taylor All Stars. Chuck had done it again. He had assembled a high-caliber team, a competitive team of the rst order. It must have been the most fun he had experienced since touring as player-manager with the Converse All-Stars during the 1926–27 season. But this team was so much better. Plus, he nally would get to show off his basketball knowledge and expertise before a national audience as the Air-Tecs were to play more than fty games and travel throughout the country that season. Surviving coaches...


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