CLEVELAND — When Larry Nance Sr. spied six former Goodyear Wingfoots players from Northeast Ohio assembling for a photo at Quicken Loans Arena Sunday afternoon, he jokingly wondered if they were the halftime entertainment.

“If we have a halftime shooting contest, I’ll take Jamer,” Nance said of John Jamerson.

Jamerson, 75, of Stow, the NAIA tournament MVP in 1968 for Fairmont State, was elected to the Summit County Sports Hall of Fame and the Akron Softball Hall of Fame. He is the father of Dave Jamerson, the shooting guard from Ohio University who played in the NBA from 1990-94.

Goodyear is celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Wingfoots, who began playing as an industrial team in 1918 to test rubber in the soles of athletic shoes. In 1947, the Wingfoots joined the National Industrial Basketball League, which in 1961 became the National AAU Basketball League. Playing through the 1969-70 season, the Wingfoots won the National AAU Tournament in 1964 and 1968.

A reunion banquet will be held May 10 at the Hilton Garden Inn in Akron, with Hall of Fame coach Larry Brown, who played for the Wingfoots for two seasons, as the featured speaker.

During the first-quarter break, the Cavs honored former Wingfoots Jamerson, Terry Deems, Randy Berentz, Dick Barr, Charlie Slack and Percy Grenfell, whose Goodyear seasons ran from 1951-70.

“That’s the amazing thing about it, when you get old, you think everybody’s forgotten you,” said Grenfell, 88, the former athletic director at Cuyahoga Falls High School. “To be here and be recognized is a great honor and great for Goodyear, too. We appreciate that they’ve invited us.”

One joked they were getting their 15 minutes of fame. Cavs coach Larry Drew, 61, said pregame he had never heard of the Wingfoots, but he hoped to meet them.

“When the Cavs are on TV, it sure looks like me when they show the old-time clips,” said former Akron U star Berentz, 76, who lives in Green. “The last clip, I think I’m on the far right. I saw the belt buckle, it looks like me.”

Jamerson added, “It’s hard to recognize ourselves 50 years ago. My grandkids say that. They see a picture and they go ‘Dad, what are you doing up here?’ My son (Dave, a minister in Austin, Texas) had to tell them, ‘No, that’s grandpa.’”

Berentz is involved in hiring basketball officials and refs 20 games a week, high school boys and girls varsity and men’s rec league games.

“I get paid to exercise,” he said.

Grenfell drove the group to the Q in a 12-passenger van donated by his employer Don Sitts Auto Group. Grenfell said every Wednesday the company goes to an auction of used cars 94 miles away in Pennsylvania and he drives one of the purchases back.

Drew’s future

Drew took over after the firing of coach Tyronn Lue following an 0-6 start. Tuesday could be his last game in charge, with the Cavs expected to look for another coach to lead their rebuild.

Drew said he has not spoken to management about his future.

“We decided to wait until the season is completely over before we discuss that,” Drew said.

Pop on Fitch

Former Cavs coach Bill Fitch, in charge for the “Miracle of Richfield” season in 1975-76, was among those chosen for the Basketball Hall of Fame 2019 class, which will be inducted Sept. 5-7.

Fitch, 86 and living outside Houston, took five downtrodden franchises to the playoffs, starting during Fitch’s nine seasons with the Cavs, which began with the inaugural season in 1970-71. That accomplishment also included the Boston Celtics, Houston Rockets, New Jersey Nets and Los Angeles Clippers. Fitch went 944-1,106 in 25 years in the NBA.

Asked about Fitch finally being named a hall of famer, Spurs coach Gregg Popovich said, “It’s been forever. It’s way, way, way overdue. When something like that happens, everybody kind of breathes a sigh of relief because he did such a great job, not just in one place. He was a true basketball guy; it was in his blood. He was tough, but he was fair and respected wherever he went and quite successful on top of all that.”

 

Marla Ridenour can be reached at mridenour@thebeaconjournal.com. Read the Cavs blog at www.ohio.com/cavs. Follow her on Twitter at www.twitter.com/MRidenourABJ.