The most difficult job during the run-and-gun era at Loyola Marymount may not have belonged to the opposing defenders who tried to hold Paul Westhead's Lions in check.
On some nights, that task paled in comparison to the duties of the man whose job it was to record LMU's scoring exploits.
Dale Marini, LMU's associate director of the office of undergraduate admissions, also has served as the school's official scorekeeper every season since 1970 with the exception of a five-year stint in Arizona from 1980 to 85. He diligently recorded every made basket during the final three seasons of Westhead's tenure at LMU when the Lions averaged at least 110 points each year.
Marini spoke to me last week for Thursday's story in The Untouchables series on LMU's record 186-point barrage against U.S. International on Jan. 5, 1991. His memories of the era were compelling enough that I've excerpted some of them here.
JE: Describe what it was like being a scorekeeper for a team that routinely put up 140 points a game. What were some of the challenges?
DM: The pages have an area where you mark off the points being scored, the time of the score and the player who made the points. It stopped at 110, and we'd go way past that so I'd have to improvise. I was writing in the margins, in the borders, all over the place. I was doing everything imaginable to try to keep up. I gave up putting the time down. In order to be able to watch the game, I couldn't put a slash mark on the point, the player who scored and the time because something might have been happening within those few seconds. I don't know what I would have done without the shot clock operator, Armando Paz, helping me when I missed something. I kidded him that he had the most meaningless job in the world. He didn't have to show up. Nobody would have missed him.
JE: How did you get started as LMU's scorekeeper? What appealed to you about the job?
DM: I loved all sports and basketball was the main sport here at LMU, so it was natural for me to get involved. I ended up volunteering to do the stats for the freshman basketball team in 1966. When I graduated in 1970, the person who had been doing the official book was retiring and they were looking for someone new. They asked me, and here I am still doing it.
JE: Do you have any favorite moments from your time as score keeper and especially from the Paul Westhead era?
DM: There's so many interesting ones. It was just fascinating when Westhead got his system going and got the players to really do it. One time, before the introduction of media timeouts, "I swear to god, at one of the timeouts, I thought this one ref was going to pass out right in front of me. His tongue was hanging so bad, his color was bad. Oh my, he scared the hell out of me. But there were lots of great moments. The Tarkanian games, the Oklahoma games, the NCAA tournament run. I remember we played Xavier out here, and after the game I happened to walk by the coach as he was looking at the box score. Xavier had shot 57 percent and broken all kinds of school records, and he said, 'How the hell did we get beat?'
JE: What about from the Elite Eight run after Hank Gathers' death in 1990? What stands out most to you when you look back?
DM: Probably the Michigan game. Before the game against Michigan in Long Beach, we're in the media room and I'm standing there minding my own business. Some of the Michigan sports writers were talking about how much more talented Michigan was but somebody mentioned that the Michigan players could get lazy. I said to myself, 'If they get lazy sometimes, we might actually win this game because you couldn't be lazy against us. That game was phenomenal. That's probably the game I remember more than any other because we literally felt Hank's presence at that game. Everyone who hears that might think I'm nuts, but I know I felt it and the LMU crowd certainly felt it.
JE: How quickly did you realize once Westhead got there that your job was going to be far more difficult than it had been?
DM: As soon as Westhead got his act together, it was quite evident I was really going to have to be earning my keep more. I used to be able to have only two or three pencils at my ready in case one broke. Hell, I went through them like they were going out of style. I added more pencils to my collection for backup. The other thing I always remember about those years was Tom Peabody. They didn't call him 'The Human Bruise' for nothing. We learned real fast not to have any drinks at the scorer's table because he would come careening into the table or onto the table. It was just amazing. After one or two spilled drinks, we learned.
JE: Share the story of the magazine cover hanging in your office that's signed by Hank Gathers. How did you get that?
DM: My son was on the stats crew at LMU and if anything he's a bigger sports nut than I am. He got Hank to sign the Street & Smith issue where Hank's on the cover in 1989. The part that's great is Hank signed it, 'To Dale, Thanks for all the points you give me.' That's a funny line. And I got that literally a few weeks before he died.
JE: You've been LMU's scorekeeper for most of the last four decades. What keeps you doing it year after year?
DM: I still love it. I'll be there until they tell me to leave.