The other greatest team in Bay Area history
Long before the Warriors, Bill Russell’s SF Dons thrilled Bay Area fans. Today, those USF players see themselves in Steph Curry & Co.
In December of 1955, the Dons traveled to New Orleans to face Loyola University, a fellow Jesuit school, but USF’s black players were forced to stay at a nearby university because a downtown hotel wouldn’t lodge them. Elsewhere, they saw that restrooms, drinking fountains and restaurants were divided into two parties: “white” and “colored.”
The Dons, who had five black players, had faced racism before. “We used to get buckets of hate mail every week,” Russell said, according to the book, “King of the Court: Bill Russell and the Basketball Revolution.” But it was brutal in South, and several players recalled their game in New Orleans — where fans in the 5,000-seat field house with integrated seating lobbed racial slurs and more — with particular disdain.
Russell pocketed some of the pennies, nickels and dimes, and told a trainer on the bench, “Hold these for me.”
Brown, who went on to become the city of San Francisco’s first black sheriff, remembered, “They wanted to get us in a fight. They would have loved that. Then they could say, ‘This is how they are.’ But that was one of the reasons you had to back off. You hated it [but you had] to bite your lip. That’s why we still had to band together. It’s hard to imagine that would ever happen, but that’s what happened. It was really remarkable how we stuck together.” The Dons won, 61-43. “Everybody was glad to get the hell out of there,” Nelson says…