What if Texas Western had lost?
What if, in 1966, the Miners' five black starters stepped on the court to face Kentucky's five white starters in the NCAA men's basketball championship and ultimately lost the game?
"I think the changes would have came, but maybe a little slower," said Harry Flournoy, a senior captain on that team. "I think what we did open some eyes, but change was coming."
Flournoy, a Gary native and 1962 Emerson graduate, was a cog on the history-making roster. Today he is a retired coach, teacher, and business executive. He is a member of the Naismith College Basketball Hall of Fame. He is a character in Walt Disney Pictures' film, "Glory Road."
Back then he was a college senior who'd moved 1,500 miles to play for Don Haskins.
Flournoy and fellow Gary native and Froebel graduate Orsten Artis, now a retired Gary police officer, were starters on the 1966 Texas Western team. The Miners beat an Adolph Rupp-coached, all-white Kentucky team and made history by becoming the first team to win a NCAA Division I national championship with five African American starters.
Flournoy said the 1963 Loyola team laid the groundwork for the Miners. The Ramblers beat Cincinnati for the 1963 title with four black starters, while Cincinnati had three. He said the Midwest Regional against Mississippi State in East Lansing, Mich., that year was the monumental game.
"Mississippi State had to sneak out of the state to play Loyola," Flournoy said. "In Mississippi, it was law that blacks and white could not play each other. I give the Mississippi State coach and players a lot of credit because look at what could have happened to them.
"A year later, USC with Sam Cunningham went to Alabama and destroyed them."
He only played six minutes in the championship game before twisting his knee, but following the victory he was on the cover of Sports Illustrated rebounding a ball over Pat Riley.
He does have a Gary memory of that March 19, 1966 night in College Park, Md.
"I remember former mayor George Chacharis was at the game, and he came up and shook my hand and Orsten's hand," Flournoy said. "It was cool that someone from Gary, the former mayor, was at the game."
The book and movie "Glory Road" were based on the 1966 Texas Western team. Mehcad Brooks played Flournoy in the movie.
While the movie was based on the team and obstacles they faced, Flournoy said some of it was changed for Hollywood.
"My mom (Amy) never came into the classroom, but she did make a trip to El Paso," Flournoy said. "Coach Haskins said we would hit the books and when I didn't, he called my mom. I hit the books after that."
Flournoy said he is often asked to speak publicly about his experience at Texas Western, now UTEP.
"I talk about the greatness in people and about working hard to overcome obstacles in life," Flournoy said. "You can take those obstacles and turn them into opportunities. I don't motivate people — they have to want to be motivated — but I can tell them how to overcome something and be successful."
He also talks to parents about not letting kids bow to peer pressure.
"I tell them straight out that if kids do bad things, it is because they want to do bad things," Flournoy said. "Parents want to be looked on by their children as buddies. Well, I didn't look at my mom and dad as my buddies — they were my parents and they disciplined me, (and) my brothers and sisters."