Glory Road/Khadeem Lattin

Watching his grandson brings David Lattin back. Khadeem Lattin is busy making his own memories now, starting for an Oklahoma Sooners squad that has reached the Sweet 16 in this year's NCAA tournament.

It's a special moment for the whole family, 50 years after David "Big Daddy" Lattin won his own NCAA championship. But that was no ordinary title game: David, playing for Texas Western, was a starter on the first college basketball team to feature an all-black starting lineup.

And that championship, played against a favored, all-white Kentucky team led by a coach who did little to mask his racism, is now regarded as perhaps the most important college basketball game ever played.

Khadeem Lattin

You might be familiar with the story, which was re-created in the 2006 film "Glory Road." Watching Khadeem take part in his own tournament run, David can't help but feel nostalgic about that experience, and the path it helped pave for his grandson.

"Things have changed dramatically since then," David says. "For example, if Khadeem was in high school back in 1966, he might not have been invited to go to Oklahoma. Probably not.

"Things have changed dramatically. I'm excited about it. We did something to help make change."

***

David Lattin is 72. But Oklahoma's shot at reaching the Final Four has him feeling 50 years younger.

"I know exactly what he's going through. I'm as excited as he is," David says of Khadeem. "It's almost like I'm playing myself. Watching his teammates get better and better, and just hoping they can go far."

At the same time, David is reluctant to look too far ahead -- even to the prospect of reaching this year's Final Four in Houston, where David lives and where Khadeem graduated high school. Such a homecoming would be a dream for them both, but David wants Khadeem and his Sooners teammates to focus on the next game, and to take the journey one step at a time -- just like the 1966 Texas Western team did.

Don Haskins

"We were just youngsters trying to win," he says. And winning was something the Texas Western Miners did well. In the 1965-66 season, they stormed out to a perfect 23-0 start before losing their final game of the regular season. In the NCAA Tournament, they survived two overtime games in the second and third rounds, the latter against No. 4 Kansas.

They reached the championship game with a battle-tested 27-1 record. But despite their overall record and a No. 3 national ranking, Texas Western was seen as a heavy underdog to No. 1 Kentucky. As players were introduced in the nationally televised game, the broadcaster noted that, "The Washington Post has pretty well conceded that Texas Western cannot stand up to Kentucky."

The lineup introductions were interesting for another critical reason: Texas Western's starting line was different than the official roster sheet handed out to media. Miners coach Don Haskins made a last-minute decision to compose his starters of all African-American players.

"The starting lineup we were given was not the one that was used tonight," said the broadcast.

From the tip, Kentucky looked like the slick, polished team everyone knew they were. But Texas Western quickly proved its place on the court, starting with David Lattin's thunderous dunk to put the Miners on the board:

That dunk, for what's it worth, was over a young Pat Riley. The Miners kept cool and played an aggressive game, and in front of a mostly white crowd, they pulled off the upset, 72-65.

Some had speculated that Haskins' move to play an all-African American lineup was a pointed statement -- possibly one directed at Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp, who all his life resisted recruiting black players and is well-known for his contempt toward them. Haskins never admitted such a motivation.

"I really didn't think about starting five black guys," Haskins said. "I just wanted to put my five best guys on the court. ... I just wanted to win that game."

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Years later, in his book, Glory Road, written with Dan Wetzel, Haskins insisted that he didn't intend to become a historical figure: "I certainly did not expect to be some racial pioneer or change the world."

David, who played five seasons in the NBA and ABA, felt the same way, at least in the immediate aftermath of the win. Texas Western had won, but the world seemed unchanged: Facilities staff didn't offer ladders to let them cut down the nets after their win, and they weren't invited to "The Ed Sullivan Show" as was customary for champions in past years.

Texas Western's victory was a landmark moment for college sports. It is widely regarded as tipping off the integration of minority student-athletes into college sports. That 1966 team was elected to the National Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007.

But wasn't until a Sports Illustrated story the following fall, David says, that the team started to realize the historical significance of what they had done.

In the locker room, though, there was a sense that they'd toppled Goliath -- even if they weren't sure what that meant.

"Bobby Joe [Hill] had mentioned something after the game," David says. "'There's never been a game like it before, and there never will be again.'"

***

Right now, David Lattin is trying to give his grandson some space. He'll exchange texts with him every now and then, but he knows Khadeem has his hands full with school, basketball and advice from his mom.

Khadeem's mom, Monica Lamb-Powell, who divorced his dad Cliff Lattin in 1996, was a great basketball player in her own right, starring at USC before playing two seasons in the WNBA. She's got her own pointers to pass on to her son.

David Lattin

"She's texting him 24 hours a day," David says, laughing.

Still, he's quick to offer his feedback and constructive criticism to Khadeem, a 6-9 sophomore forward, whether it's on the court or off the court. Last year, when a racist video featuring members of Oklahoma's SAE fraternity tore the campus in half, David texted his grandson, then a freshman, to make sure he handled the situation right.

"My advice to him was to try and stay away from it," David says. "He's there to go to school, go to class, play basketball. Sometimes when you get sidetracked, you lose your concentration on why you're really there."

David has plenty of basketball advice to offer, too. He'll share his thoughts on Khadeem's recent performance, and even offer advice and guidance to pass on to other players on the team.

"I tell him all the time, I wish I had a grandpa who was in the Hall of Fame, to give me pointers," David says. "It's just difficult for him to know how well he has it."

Khadeem has teased his mother and grandfather that he wants to eclipse their accomplishments on the basketball court. In both measures, he has a long way to go. But David says that some parts of Khadeem's game are already better than his ever were. His shot-blocking, for example.

"Rebounding has to come up a little bit, though," David says. "And the points. I'd like to see him lead the nation in rebounding, blocked shots and finish in first 15 in scoring. If he did that, he'd be the man, much better than me."

Oklahoma faces a tough road to the Final Four. The No. 2 seed faces third-seed Texas A&M on Thursday before a showdown with the winner of Oregon-Duke.

But if the Sooners can win those two games, Khadeem will get to come home to Houston -- and play on the championship stage where his grandpa helped make history.

"I've had people tell me, 'It's amazing that your grandson is in the position where he could be in the Final Four,'" David says. "I don't want to think past these guys playing tomorrow. But that would be something special."

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