Whatever Happened to: Frank Radovich, H.S.D.

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A high school and college basketball star. An Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer. Wilt Chamberlain’s teammate in the NBA. And coach to the first African-American basketball players at Georgia Southern. Frank Radovich stepped away from the basketball court more than 40 years ago, but his memories as a player and head coach are as sharp as a Ray Allen three-pointer.

Born and raised in Hammond, Indiana, the former professor played for Indiana University, was selected by the St. Louis Hawks in the 1960 NBA Draft, and joined the Philadelphia Warriors for the 1961-62 season. He was with the team the night Chamberlain set one of sports’ greatest records by scoring 100 points in a single NBA game.

“It was a tremendous feat,” Radovich said. “We played that game in Hershey, Pennsylvania, and it was against the New York Knicks. I have to say, when it happened, we really didn’t think that much about it. But as time has passed, no one has broken that record and I doubt anyone ever will.”

How did the Indiana Hoosier who started playing basketball at age 9 and dreamed of coaching high school basketball end up at Georgia Southern? Radovich was in graduate school at Indiana University when the Placement Office informed him that legendary Coach James “J.B.” Scearce was there to hire an assistant.

SPRING15whatever-happened-to-1“I had just turned 24 years old and needed coaching experience,” he said. Upon meeting with Scearce, Radovich told him, “I’ll tell you what, I will come down there, but I will only stay for nine months.” Every summer, for five years, he would return home to Indiana, and moved to Statesboro for good when he was named head coach. “Basketball was a big deal on campus back then because we didn’t have a football team,” Radovich said. “I had a lot of fun working with the players. They listened and never gave me any back talk. They were so grateful whenever I instructed them in something, whether it was shooting or playing defense and they became successful at it.”

The former coach also remembers when the first black players—Roger Moore and Eugene Brown from Savannah and Bobby Stephens from Springfield, Georgia— joined the team. In fact, Moore was the very first African-American athlete to receive a basketball scholarship in the University System of Georgia. “When we would go on road trips and stop at restaurants to eat, I would always go in first to ask if they would serve the black kids,” Radovich noted.

After a few winning seasons, the young coach could no longer tolerate the rigors of bus travel and he gave up his basketball duties. Radovich earned his doctorate and taught health and physical education until he ended his 35-year career with Georgia Southern in 1997. Through the years, he also coached golf, and served as a department head and assistant dean in what was then the College of Health and Professional Studies, and was named academic advisor of the year in 1997.

“I didn’t have a minute of teaching experience when I came to Georgia Southern, but they told me I had to teach,” he said. “One of my most memorable moments is the first day I walked into that classroom and I was scared to death. I really thought it was a good day when I could face a class, look students in the eye and not be afraid of being in there with them. After a period of time, I just loved it. I loved being in the classroom.”

These days, Radovich is still living in Statesboro with his wife Susan, happily enjoying a retirement life of golfing, fishing, his dogs, and cat, and staying in touch with friends and former classmates.

“Looking back at my basketball career, it was great when I was young and when I got older teaching was great,” he said. “I enjoyed everything as it progressed. I have no regrets. Georgia Southern was very good to me.” – Sandra Bennett

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