Before 30 for 30 film’s debut tonight, ESPN’s Gettys relives his Phi Slama Jama days
The latest 30 for 30 documentary “Phi Slama Jama” premieres tonight (8 ET, ESPN) and revisits a captivating era at the University of Houston.
Coach Guy V. Lewis’ Cougars basketball team electrified the college game with three straight NCAA Final Four appearances (1982-84) and helped transform the sport with its fastbreak offense and high-flying dunks. Though the Cougars never won a national title, those early 1980s teams are considered among the best ever.
A pivotal member of that team was point guard Reid Gettys, who set several Houston assists records playing with the likes of Clyde “The Glide” Drexler, Hakeem “The Dream” Olajuwon and Benny Anders, among others. Lewis, Drexler and Olajuwon are members of the Naismith Basketball Hall Of Fame.
Now a college basketball analyst for ESPN, Gettys appears in the documentary directed by five-time Emmy winner Chris Rives. In advance of tonight’s premiere, Gettys tells Front Row what it was like being a member of Phi Slama Jama.
When you’re working games for ESPN, how often do you run into people who remember you from Phi Slama Jama?
Hard to fathom that almost 33 years after the fact, I have very few days that someone does not bring up those teams. It’s amazing to have been a part of a group that had such an impact on college basketball. As I travel around the country, inevitably the questions I get are not about Clyde or Hakeem … but everyone asks about Benny!
Do you have a favorite memory from the Phi Slama Jama era?
My best memories are not from any of the three Final Four games. In fact, they do not come from any games.
Some of my best memories come from practices, which were epic and always ultra-competitive. One practice my sophomore season, I had just rotated out for a drink of water and was sitting next to Dave Rose, the current BYU coach. Somebody drove baseline and tried a floater over Hakeem. The Dream went straight up and pinned the ball about six inches above the white square.
He pulled the ball down with one hand and rifled an outlet to Clyde who was streaking down the sideline. Clyde caught the ball in mid-stride and took off outside the paint, tucked up into a ball so that he wouldn’t hit his head on the rim, and then he cranked a two-handed jam back over his head.
The gym was dead quiet and between sips of water, Dave looks at me and says, “Do you have any idea who we are playing with?” My answer, “Yep!”
How many dunks did you have as a Houston Cougar?
It’s hard to keep track of all of them. . . OK, maybe not so much. . . I had one!
Do you have a favorite 30 for 30?
I am a huge fan of the 30 for 30 films! I really enjoyed “Pony Excess,” [about SMU football] but undoubtedly, the favorite in our house has been the one done on Marcus Dupree [“The Best That Never Was”]. My wife is from Philadelphia, Miss., and was good friends with Marcus [who hails from that town]. We thought the film was extraordinarily well-done.