Interview with Craig Stewart

You played all for Coach Mackey all four years, is that correct?

Freshman year I played part of the season for Joe Marrone, who was the varsity soccer coach at that point and he was coaching the freshman year. So I played half the season for Joe and then moved up to the varsity, so that was Stub for the rest of the four years.

What kind of coach was [Stub] Mackey and also what kind of person was he?

I loved Stub Mackey. He was a football coach who was asked to coach basketball because basketball was one of the sports at that point where there wasn’t necessarily great interest and there certainly wasn’t great success in the late ‘50s [and] early ‘60s. Stub was kind, he was long-suffering, he didn’t know a great deal about the game, but having said that, even if he did he didn’t have the players to really execute at the kind of level [to win]. But he was a great guy, he was fun to be with and he was a character; he was just one of those memorable human beings. Even though we didn’t have a great deal of success he was fun to be around. It was fun to be a part of his team.

What are some of the stories or anecdotes that you can tell me about your experiences with [Stub] on or off the court during your time playing for him?

Oh man. I guess first of all, the caveat: all of the good players got frustrated with Stub and the program and found their greatest joy and greatest success playing in the intramural program. I was one of those guys who ended up playing football, basketball [and] baseball. And coming from football season into basketball [season] and being a six-footer and playing a small forward, a really small forward, I got to play almost every minute of every game because there wasn’t anyone else. We were lucky to have 10-12 guys on the team. Stub liked to set goals and they were small ones. He realized that anything beyond going out and playing your hardest … if we managed to improve during the course of the season … that would probably be successful for Stub.

Stub was someone who had great life lessons. And sometimes it was confusing for those of us who were trying to figure out what we were going to do. We were basically faced with either going into the military or, if we chose not to do so on our own, the likelihood of being drafted. That was the prospect for most of us in that era.

Stub was somebody you could have a beer with after a game; he’d generally go out at night and there were a group of seniors when I was a freshman and sophomore who would go out with him frequently and commiserate after a game. Stub worked hard with all of us to figure out how we could improve and none of us could quite figure out what the solution might be. I just had such a great time playing ball [at Middlebury]. [Stub’s] message to us was, “Remember fellas, after your career playing basketball for Middlebury you’ll learn how to pull yourself up and be successful in other areas of your life. All of you will be successful in your lives if you realize what it takes to put together a winning team.” For me he was a really positive role model, so my stories about him are very positive and hopeful. He was a dad away from home; I used to spend time with his family on holidays when I couldn’t make it home to Philadelphia. It was a real privilege to play for the school. [Stub] used to joke that the only time we got a crowd was in between periods when the hockey fans would come over to get warm in the basketball arena.

I loved the fact that there were a handful of college professors who would come down and [watch] the games either because they loved the game or because one of us took a class from a particular professor and they identified with us. I think we had more professor support than we had student support.

Stub’s challenge to us was that you could be pursuing another sport, you could be spending time in your fraternity, you could be playing intramural basketball, but let’s see what we can do to improve each game.

Which teammates who you played with will you remember most?

Oh for sure Ted Mooney. Ted was a classic Vermonter. He was a pretty good basketball player, but Ted was a storyteller and [he] basically got all of us into trouble and tried to keep all of us out of trouble at the same time. There are some great stories around Ted — I’ll always remember him.

Can you share any of those stories?

They’re not printable. [Laughs]

Are there any that are printable?

Ted seemed to have a girlfriend at every school we traveled to, whether it was Plattsburgh or Williamstown or Middletown or Hartford or Burlington. Ted knew everybody and everybody loved Ted. Ted was a hard player and a hard drinker and a hard partier. We all gravitated towards Ted because he kept things in perspective and he helped us keep things in perspective. A lot of us had come from successful [basketball] programs in high school and one could have gotten easily discouraged and Ted kept us up and kept us always laughing.

Al Ross [is another guy I remember]. Al was a classmate of mine and co-captain of the football team. Al was not a great basketball player but he was the strong, silent type, didn’t get pushed around by anybody on the court, and if we could have figured out how to get him to practice a little bit more often he probably could have been a really good basketball player, but Al was one of those guys that preferred to play the game as opposed to practice. Al’s a dear friend, so he’s someone I’ll always remember.

Billy Dyson — Billy played his freshman year and then went to the intramural program. Billy could have been one of Middlebury’s greats. He was probably the fastest player in our league and probably the most respected. He was a great card player and had a great pool stroke, so he made his living going through Middlebury on the pool table and playing poker, but he was a hell of a basketball player and a good friend.

The other player I remember is David Holmes, class of ’64. And we competed against each other in high school. And David and I ended up in the Central Intelligence Agency together, I ended up working for him. We don’t play one-on-one anymore, but we play HORSE when we get together. He’s one of the players I’ve really stayed in touch with. He was a little guy, 5’10’’, but he was a heck of a competitor — still is.

Those are the guys that come to mind frequently. [I] still have dreams about them … I still have dreams about Middlebury basketball, oh my god. When I think about the teams today I think of the leaps and bounds that the program has taken, but have no regrets [about my time at Middlebury], it was great playing there.

How closely have you followed the team since you left?

Pretty closely. Lakeside sent a couple of players here from the boys and girls teams [to Middlebury.]

Andrew Locke and Lauren Sanchez right?

Yeah, exactly. So it has been fun following them, and I will stream [Middlebury’s games online] whenever that’s possible. Holy mackerel the quality of player today is quite remarkable.

What are some of the games, or moments or accolades that stand out in your mind from your playing days at Middlebury?

Certainly the Vermont state series was a big thing for us, playing against St. Michaels and Norwich and UVM. Those were always highlights. I think one of our few wins in the four years I played there was a great game against Norwich. We never came close against UVM, but we always played our better games against [them]. There was a game over winter break against Potsdam and some of the games against Williams and Amherst. I think for me the Vermont state games [were always the highlight], particularly against Vermont and St. Michaels. St. Michaels always had great teams [when I was there]. We played against Norwich and Vermont in football and we beat them, but different story in basketball. I was in ROTC and I ended up serving with a lot of those guys in Korea and Vietnam, so we kept a close camaraderie with those folks.

At that time you played a couple of Canadian teams every year right?

I don’t think in basketball we played any Canadian teams. I remember a lot of trips on Sunday and Monday to Montreal, but it wasn’t to play basketball [Laughs]. It was because there are those beautiful ladies up there.

How did athletics and the basketball program in particular fit within the overall student body and the overall mission of the college?

I think athletics were very much central to the [Middlebury] experience, although from an athletic point of view, football in the fall and skiing and ice hockey in the winter and lacrosse in the spring [were the most important sports]. Sports [and fraternities] were very important in the life of the school. There wasn’t the sort of social or cultural agenda that the College has these days. My perception, retrospectively was that athletics was a pretty central part of the experience.

Finally, how did you end up at Middlebury. What attracted you to the school and how did you choose to play basketball at Middlebury?

I played basketball, football and baseball in high school. I applied to Middlebury, Penn State, Williams and Dartmouth. I was accepted at Penn State, Middlebury and Dartmouth, to play football, but it was contingent on getting my SAT scores, which I retook and I actually did worse my second time around. The football coach called me at Dartmouth and told me, “Son, we’d love to have you hear, but it’s just not going to work out academically. You had to reach a certain standard and we just couldn’t waive it.” But the wife of my football coach in high school was a Middlebury graduate and she and her husband said, “If you go to Middlebury you’ll be able to play three sports. And it’s very similar to Dartmouth, it’s smaller, but very similar.” And at that point [Middlebury] was looking for guys, and it was a lot easier for guys to get in then than it is now. So I went early my freshman year, fully with the intent of playing football, basketball and baseball. So I reported to football camp in August and met a lot of guys there who were also going to play basketball, Stub was the line coach [of the team], and I was a running back and quarterback, so I got to meet Stub. And Stub said, “As soon as the season is over we’ll change that uniform.” And I said, “Yes sir.” My high school and college experience were all about sports, and frankly the academic piece was somewhat secondary. I met a girl, fell in love with her, and that helped because she was a good student and kept me focus on what needed to get done. She used to laugh about our lack of success in the basketball program, but hell I was so much in love with her it wouldn’t have made any difference. So, yeah, that’s how it all happened.

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