Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Looking for Automatic `W'? Don't Call Marathon Oil

Newspaper article St Louis Post-Dispatch (MO)

Looking for Automatic `W'? Don't Call Marathon Oil

Article excerpt

The phone rings at Glenn Sergent's home in a Chicago suburb. He hits the pause button on his VCR. He doesn't mind the intrusion.

His son has sent him a tape of a Marathon Oil game against Kansas. There was no effort, no passion. Soon, he will call son Jeff, the coach, and tell him to release several of the players.

"Watching these guys play," Sergent mutters, "makes me want to chew nails."

The coach and founder of the AAU-sanctioned Marathon Oil team watches tapes, studies opponents and recruits the best unemployed basketball players he can find. He is 65, too old to deal with headaches and head cases - but never too old to compete against some of the best college teams.

Sergent has been a part of barnstorming tours for 45 years - as a player and coach - and it has made him one of basketball's genuine gypsies, one of its true lifers.

Now, there are three Marathon teams traveling the nation. The A team closed out its annual journey through the Big East Conference with losses at St. John's and Connecticut. Those schools had a long lull in their schedules because of exams, and they wanted a competitive game. This is why to schedule Marathon.

There has been a common thread through the thousands of Marathon Oil games: Glenn Sergent's passion to compete, to never let Marathon embarrass itself, its sponsor, its coach. He learned his lesson in the late 1940s and early '50s. Understand: He is nobody's basketball idiot.

"Remember the dumb-looking white guy Marques Haynes of the Harlem Globetrotters used to eat alive?" Sergent asks. "Used to dribble between his legs, even had the ball stuck underneath his jersey? That was me. I've been part of a sideshow."

Never again. For four years, Sergent made $50 a night with the vagabond opponents for the Globetrotters. They traveled city to city with the Globetrotters, changing uniforms and team names along the way. When they played in the East, they were the Washington Generals. In the Midwest, they were called the Chicago Rams.

"Fifty bucks a night for making a fool of yourself," Sergent said.

The rule was this: The Generals had to play the Globetrotters two legitimate and two gag quarters a night. …

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