Interview with Eugene Oliver

How did you come to Middlebury? What drew you to the school?

A private scholarship.

How did you come to choose to play basketball at Middlebury?

I was a walk on.

What was your experience like playing for Gerry Alaimo?
I had never played anything other than street ball. So that was my first brush with organized basketball. There were just a few black ballplayers at that time.

What was the difference in coaching style between Gerry Alaimo and then somebody likeee Gary Walters?

You went from a very hot-tempered coach [in Alaimo] to Walters who was a little quieter than Gerry was.

What are some of your most outstanding memories with Gerry Alaimo or Gary Walters?

I remember some of the times we as a team had to hold Gerry back. [Laughs] One time he threw a chair onto the floor he was so mad. He was very into the sport and into the game; he provided a temper for us.

When I joined the junior varsity, the team had been 1-22 for two seasons. So the varsity endured [two] 1-22 seasons. Which was very frustrating.

Our junior season we busted out. It was good for us. Most of the freshmen who were on the junior varsity team played on the varsity and we became the nucleus of the change.

If you can recall back what was the biggest difference between the teams that went 1-22 and the team that went 10-14? Was it a cultural thing or was it the actual talent of the players on the floor?

It was the talent of the players on the floor. One of the things we all knew, instead of playing 40 minutes, we could all go 60 minutes per man. That’s how hard we trained in practice.

How about off the court? Did you form a relationship with Gerry off the court?

Yeah we used to go to Gerry’s house off campus to see games on the TV, just to shoot the breeze — we stuck together as a team.

What will you remember most about the relationship that you had with your teammates off the court?

The relationship was a good one. All of us were student-athletes. When we got off the basketball court the focus had to be on studies and what we were doing. The team stuck together and had our meals together.

Are there any specific anecdotes about times with your teammates that you can share?

We played Norwich and we were on the bus and it was 26 degrees below zero. We were all bundled up in our coats, the heater was going full blast on the bus and we were still freezing. That was the coldest I’ve ever been in my life!

And how about specific games or plays that stand out in your mind?

One of the games I specifically remember was beating St. Michaels. My junior year we beat many teams that we had never beaten before or had a very poor record against. We came out from the doldrums of the old 1-22 seasons. We were now a basketball team that they had to reckon with. We were not a doormat anymore.

I’ve spoken with Karl Lindholm, Rick Minton, etc. When you hear those names and the names of your other teammates, what’s the first thing that comes to mind?

Tough crew — very tough crew. What talent we had at the time was used on the court. All of that talent was meshed as a team.

Rick Minton told me that those teams suffered quite a few unfortunate injuries…

We lost Ray Rivera one year; he busted up his leg. We had some bad injuries.

One of the things that Jim Keyes told me was that the transition between Gerry Alaimo and Gary Walters wasn’t always necessarily smooth.

[Laughs] No.

Can you elaborate on that and what it was like to play for two contrasting coaches?

It was a contrast in strategy on how to play the game: Gerry was more of a smash-mouth coach — always on the boards. The contrast was big because now [under Gary Walters] we played more of a mental game as well, trying to utilize more of our talent and getting easier shots than we had before.

Did you form a relationship with Gary Walters in his one season here?

It was the relationship that I had with any coach. I could talk to him. I was always coachable, so I had no issues with Gary. Gerry had been ambitious with the team, but Gary was also bent on where the team should be going.

Gerry was also big on the hook shot. He wanted all of our big man to develop the hooks hot. Because that was the most unstoppable shot for the big man.

How did you feel playing basketball at Middlebury prepared you for life after Middlebury?

Playing organized ball, relying on your teammates was an important lesson. It made me more organized — as a student-athlete we had to manage what time we could give to the team, how much time we could give to our studies and the time we could give to ourselves.

Leave a Reply