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Courting Success and Realizing the American Dream
Christine Marin, PhD

This article examines the sport of basketball as a symbol of the American Dream1 in the period from 1947 to 1951 to explain how third generation Mexican Americans and their hard-driving high school basketball coach in Miami, Arizona, promoted Americanization, achieved success, and won the 1951 state basketball championship. They revitalized a hometown's pride and team spirit and united a community that had a dismal history of racism and discrimination against Hispanics. Their success reflected the dreams of their second generation parents who came to Miami in the 1920s and 1930s to improve their economic livelihood for the future of their families. These Mexican American boys came of age in the years after World War II. They attended a segregated elementary school and experienced integration at the high school. As teammates with Euro-Americans and victors on the basketball court, they established cordial friendships and facilitated better ethnic relations in their school and in their copper mining-based community. Many attended college, escaped a working class environment, and achieved upward mobility. In the end, these Mexican American boys, representative of their third generation, fulfilled their parents' American dreams of success and equality.

On its way to the state championship, Arizona's only unbeaten prep basketball team from the copper mining town of Miami shattered national high school single-game scoring records in 1951. Through their play, competitive spirit, and success, they gained the admiration of their community and improved ethnic relations in the copper town that set them apart because of their ethnicity. Basketball brought Mexican Americans and Euro-Americans together as teammates with a common purpose—to be victorious and bring recognition to the school.

National attention from the sports media and basketball aficionados came in 1928 for the Miami Vandals when basketball coach, Laurence H. Purdy, accepted an invitation from Amos Alonzo Stagg, Athletic Director at the University of Chicago, to compete in the 10th Annual National Inter-Scholastic Basketball Tournament. An all-around athlete from the University of Wisconsin, Purdy came to Miami High School in 1922 as the head coach of the boys' basketball and football teams. State divisions in Arizona were represented by regions: west, north, south, and central. In his eight-year tenure at Miami High School, from 1922 to 1929, Purdy's Vandals won the Eastern Conference championships in 1926, 1927, and 1929, and played highly-touted teams from Globe, Morenci, Florence, Superior, Safford, and Hayden. Mexican-born and Mexican American players such as Larry Franco, "Tiff" Martínez, Charles Herrera, Paulino Martínez, Regino "Salty" Rivera, Manuel Ramos, Anselmo "Sam" Muñoz, and the Puente brothers, Manuel and Keenus, figured prominently for the Miami Vandals in those years.2

During the Depression, the teams of coaches Bryant C. "Bud" Doolen and R.V. Zegers captured the Eastern Conference championships for Miami in 1930, 1935, and 1938. In 1941, the Vandals won their first state basketball championship when they defeated Peoria by the score of 44 to 40. Coached by Earl McCullar, the Vandals began their winning 1940–41 season with victories against St. Johns, Pima, Morenci, and Clifton.3 Vicente Cisterna, a sophomore forward and the tallest player on the varsity team at six-feet two inches tall, established himself as a key player in the Vandals' 23 and 2 record. The Vandals won their second state championship in 1951. That victory came from the leadership and coaching of Ernest Kivisto, the American-born son of working-class Finnish immigrant parents from Ironwood, Michigan. Before he arrived in Miami in 1947, Kivisto became an all-around athlete at Marquette University, played basketball, participated in track and field, and intramural softball. He graduated from Marquette in the summer of 1946 with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Philosophy.4


An arthritic right knee that bothered him whenever colder temperatures arrived prevented him from staying in Ironwood. Kivisto and his wife, Jane Ann, moved to Miami, Arizona, to improve his health with his new job as head coach of the high school's basketball team and junior varsity football coach.5

Basketball was important to Miami. Mexican American boys became introduced to the game at young ages, usually by YMCA youth leagues that pitted Mexican American teams from the Mexican Y against the YMCA's Euro-American teams. In 1910, the Miami Copper Company formed an alliance with the YMCA to provide recreational and social activities for its Euro-American employees. The company built a new three-story YMCA building close to the center of the town in 1915. Four years later, YMCA leaders established a Mexican 'Y' specifically for Mexican-born and Mexican American laborers at a small, one-room wood-frame building owned by Miami Copper. The Mexican ''Y' remained segregated until 1947, twenty-eight years after it opened in 1919.6 The use of the word 'Mexican' to differentiate between the two Y's became common in the local newspaper, the Arizona Silver Belt. A hint of racism can be seen in the headlines used by the newspaper in its announcements of games between the two leagues: 'Mexican League Contests Held' and 'Mexican Court League Starts'.7 Alejandro Trujillo, director of the Mexican 'Y' from 1925 to 1935, organized basketball games and boxing matches for the organization.8 Mexican American youths from the segregated Bullion Plaza Elementary School competed against Euro-American students from the George Washington Elementary school or the Inspiration Addition School.9 By the time they reached seventh or eighth grades, the better players competed against the high school's junior varsity team. Tony Gutiérrez, born in Miami in 1930, recalled his Bullion Plaza Elementary School experience in 1945 at the age of fourteen:

Ray Cordes was Miami's JV basketball coach. He invited our
Bullion Plaza Ramblers to play his JV team and we beat them.
Mexican kids like me didn't have uniforms or basketball
shoes, and we had to borrow each other's clothes and shoes
to play basketball. We were better than the gringos.10 We
proved it.11


As a Bullion Plaza Rambler, Gutiérrez tasted victory and he liked winning basketball games. His self-confidence, and perhaps that of Mexican American youths like him at the Bullion Plaza Elementary School, reflected the toughness of their mining town. Their fathers' mining culture, full of dangers and deaths due to mine accidents, taught them to endure hardships and not be afraid to compete with Euro-Americans. After all, their G.I. generation-fathers' support of the International Union of Mine, Mill and Smelter Workers, Local 586, in the early 1940s provided them with examples of leadership and how to deal with competition.

That same competitive spirit was embodied by Tony Regalado, Gutiérrez's classmate at the Bullion Plaza Elementary School. He and his parents, Estevan and Luz Regalado, lived in a simple wood-frame house in 'Mexican Canyon' near the Inspiration Consolidated Copper Company.12 At school, the Gutiérrez and Regalado boys became good friends, as Gutiérrez stated:

We both liked basketball and liked competition and felt at
ease with it. We were tough kids that grew up tough. At
Bullion Plaza, the older guys put up a fight just to see what
would happen. Times were tough too. Everyone was poor.
Besides, Mexicanos had to be tough to be able to put up with
what the gringos did to them.13

Gutiérrez's toughness, however, did not prepare him for the sting of verbal insults and non-acceptance by Euro-Americans when he arrived at the integrated Miami High School in his freshman year in 1946:

I had never gone to school with Anglo kids. It wasn't a very
easy thing to do. They dressed better than I did and they
acted like the school was just for them. There wasn't outright
discrimination there but they made us Mexican kids feel like
outsiders because they thought we weren't better than them.14

Despite Gutiérrez's uneasiness among Euro-Americans his freshman year, he soon discovered that his love of basketball helped him overcome any negative experiences. Basketball made him feel like a winner among his white peers. And he liked that: "We were better than them as athletes and that's when they started to like us. They wanted to win. And they needed us Mexicanos to win", he said.15 Believing Mexican Americans possessed athletic skills gave Gutierrez a sense of pride and accomplishment and may have soothed the stings of racism he experienced in his freshman year.

Gutiérrez's penchant for winning endeared him to his new basketball coach in 1947, Ernest Kivisto. When his responsibilities as the junior varsity football coach ended in late November, Kivisto placed a call for boys to report for tryouts for the varsity basketball team. Tony Gutiérrez and Benny Salcines stepped forward. The two Hispanics, along with five other Euro-Americans, remained from the original 1946-47 squad of fourteen who played under former basketball coach Ben Cole. Only seven boys had varsity experience and Kivisto knew he had to rely on the junior varsity leaguers from the 1946-47 teams to make up the squad he needed.16

The junior varsity team played for Coach Ray Cordes and came away with an exceptional season, winning sixteen and losing only one game.17 Tony Regalado, Manuel Delgadillo, and Paul Mireles stood out from that junior varsity group.18 Kivisto added them to his varsity team. Up and coming players like Lupe Acevedo, Joe Gutiérrez, Tony's brother, and Albert Sierra made up the rest of Kivisto's 1947-48 twelve-member varsity squad, eight of whom were Mexican Americans.19 Kivisto tested the agility and the determination of his new team and the boys endured his grueling practices daily. They learned his fast-break style of play, the one he learned at Marquette under noted coach Bill Chandler—fast break on offense and the full court press on defense. The fast break, an exciting method of play, may explain the enthusiasm the players had for the game. Manuel Delgadillo believed that Ernest Kivisto may well have been the first basketball coach in Arizona to initiate the the fast break in high school play in 1947.

Kivisto taught his team the floor routines he learned at Marquette. He reinforced the fundamentals of basketball, with passing and pivoting exercises, and shooting drills in their practices. Players took shots at the hoops from every angle and distance on the court. For conditioning exercises, he made the boys run laps around the gym and run sprints up and down the court. "We would run forwards, then sideways and then backwards with our arms extended in a guarding position," Elias Delgadillo emphasized.20 Kivisto taught them the importance of teamwork in competitive sports and that sports belonged to everyone. The team's resolve and determination to be good at the game became evident early in the practices. It caught Coach Kivisto off guard, as Tony Gutiérrez recalled:

When I first met Coach Kivisto, I noticed that he had a slight
limp and a funny little accent that I never heard before. He
was all basketball. He thought that we didn't know anything
about basketball, that we were from this little town and knew
nothing. I remember when his wife came with him to one of
our early practices. He thought he could dribble the ball and
wanted to show us a few things. But he found out differently.
He called out to his wife, "Hey, honey! I can't dribble the ball
past these guys! They won't let me get by! Isn't that some
thing?" From that point on, he knew we were serious about
the game.21

In preparation for his first season, Kivisto convinced school administrators to approve the purchase of two complete sets of new uniforms for his players in the school's colors, green and white. New warm-up jackets completed their attire.22 Tony Gutierrez remembers the surprising contrast between the old and the new uniforms:

Before Coach Kivisto came along, we wore those ivy-league
shirts that players long before us were wearing. They were
loose, all worn out and used again and again. But Kivisto
fought for his team and insisted on new uniforms, new
outfits, new shoes for his boys. The uniforms were white,
like satin, silky-like, with long white or green warm-up pants.
Our white jackets had a long square collar in the back that lay
flat across the back of our shoulders. We were the first high
school basketball team in the state to play in white tennis
shoes, high tops. Every team at that time wore black low cut
tennis shoes. We dazzled them. For some of us Mexican
boys, it was the first time we had brand new shoes that we
could call our own, and not some hand-me-downs from the
gringos.23

A new sense of ownership made Gutiérrez feel important. It gave Mexican American boys like him opportunities to become equal with the Euro-Americans, at least on the court, since their parents may have been unable to afford to buy them new shoes. Gutiérrez took pride in the way the team looked in their new uniforms and white high top tennis shoes. "I tried to keep my high-tops clean", he said. "It was important for us to represent our school and our team by looking good."24

According to Gutiérrez, Coach Kivisto set a new trend in the style and color of the tennis shoes Arizona's high school players began to wear in the late 1940s and early 1950s. Jesús F. Romero, student manager of the basketball team in the 1950-51 season, said that Kivisto used his Marquette University contacts to strike an arrangement with the Converse shoe company to provide Miami High School's basketball team with their white high top tennis shoes. He also said that Kivisto let the players keep their shoes at the end of the season, a practice he kept in the years he coached the Vandals.25

Kivisto's first season in 1947–48 progressed, and his fast-break style of play and his team's persistence drove them to victory after victory. The Vandals averaged 61.5 points per game in 14 games.26 Kivisto claimed this average as a national inter-scholastic record, and Arch Ward, sports editor for the Chicago Tribune, backed that claim and cited the average of 49 points per game held by the Champaign, Illinois, high school team as the existing record in 1947.27 This 61.5 point average gave Kivisto's team the High School National scoring average record. No quintet in Arizona had ever received that honor before.28

Kivisto relied on the 'two Tony's', as the sports writer for the local newspaper called Tony Gutiérrez and Tony Regalado, for most of their scoring punch in the team's 1947–48 seasons of play.29 Both played the forward positions and their excellent plays on offense became reasons why the Vandals dominated the boards and made high scores against opponents.

The Vandals captured the Eastern Division Conference championship in mid-February in their encounter with the Duncan Wildkats, with the winning score of 57–49. They prepared for the state finals at the University of Arizona in Tucson but lost in the semi-finals.30

The two Tonys accumulated 667 points between them in 1947–48 and emerged as the Eastern Division's heroes in Kivisto's first season with the Vandals. His team scored 1,485 points in the 1947–48 seasons for an average of 59.4 points in 25 games played. No team in Arizona accomplished such a feat. Miami wound up fifth in the nation in total points scored in one season, a state record of all time.31

Kivisto's first season as the new coach of the successful Miami High School Vandals merely hinted at the promise of another good year in 1948-49 and his continued pursuit of the state championship. Teamwork became the hallmark of the Miami Vandals and it proved to be their key to success. Tony Gutiérrez linked teamwork to Kivisto's success, and suggested that teamwork on the court parlayed itself off the court in smoothing over ethnic tensions between Mexicanos and the Euro-Americans in the community:


Yeah, he talked a lot about teamwork. We learned to put
away our prejudices about each other and work together for
the sake of the team and the school and maybe the town too.
On the court, we were equals, and the courts became our
battlefield and we had to count on each other to make plays.
Coach Kivisto didn't like prejudice. I kind of got the impres
sion that he knew what the Mexicans had experienced in our
town.32

Gutiérrez may have been correct in his assessment of the coach. After all, Kivisto came from a similar mining town background and from a town with Finnish immigrants like his father, a miner. Kivisto understood mining town life. Kivisto may have felt an affinity with the Mexican American boys on his team and may have admired them for their tenacity and fire for enduring cultural and ethnic prejudice in their town. Kivisto's distaste for racism became evident when the team traveled to Morenci to play their opponent on their home court on January 2, 1948.

When we went to Morenci, we went to a restaurant that
wouldn't let us in. There was a sign on the window that said,
'No Mexicans Allowed'. Kivisto got mad. And he said he was
going to do something about it. He went inside and talked to
the waitress. He came out and said that she'd get fired if she
served us. When Coach asked for the owner, she told him
that he was at work, at the mine. That was the first time I
witnessed anything about the coach like that. We didn't eat
there. He said that we were a team and that if we couldn't eat
together, then no one would eat.33

This example did not go unnoticed among his Mexican American players, as Gutiérrez explained:

We talked about it and he became a hero in our eyes. There
were other gringos who felt the same way that he did. We
wanted to win games for him. So did the gringos on the team.
That experience brought the school and maybe the town
together because soon everybody knew what the coach had
done. It became the talk of the town.34

Kivisto's fast-break style of play and aggressive action on the courts brought the team and the town into the spotlight in continuing seasons. The Vandals won the Eastern Conference title but lost in semi-final play for the state championship. Kivisto's favorite forward, Tony Gutiérrez, in his last season of play, set a three-year varsity record of 818 points in 1949, the most points scored by a player in Miami High School's basketball history.35 After graduation, he accepted an athletic scholarship from the Eastern Arizona Junior College in Thatcher, approximately sixty-five miles east of Miami. His friend, Tony Regalado, joined the Navy at the end of his sophomore year in 1948 to help meet family responsibilities.36


At the end of the 1949–50 seasons, the Vandals' record was 24 wins and only two losses, while averaging 84.7 points per game. In March 1950, they won their third successive Eastern Conference championship. The local newspaper called attention to the Vandal's Eastern Conference championship that put the copper town on the map and bragged about the team's accomplishments.37 Kivisto and his team prepared themselves for the competition ahead as they hoped to win the Class B state crown. Miami's chances of winning looked promising. In the end, the 1950 Class B State championship went to Coolidge, their first in the history of Coolidge High School, when they defeated Nogales by only three points, 47–44.38 Kivisto entered his last season as head coach of the Vandals in 1950–51, a season led by the seniors Lupe Acevedo, Rudy Moreno, Hector Mario Jacott, Alfred Lobato, Elias Delgadillo, and Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo.
The portraits that emerge of Lupe Acevedo, Elias Delgadillo, Hector Mario Jacott, Alfred Lobato, Rudy Moreno, and Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo bear similarities. Their families had immigrated to Miami from New Mexico, Texas, Sonora, Mexico, and Morenci, Arizona in the mid-1920s and early 1930s. Their fathers labored in the local copper mines. The youths came from working class and impoverished backgrounds; they attended the segregated Bullion Plaza Elementary School; all were reared under difficult economic circumstances. Single parents reared three of them: Lupe Acevedo, Rudy Moreno, and Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo. Loretta Apodaca Acevedo died in 1944 from tuberculosis when Lupe was twelve years of age.39 Francisco Moreno and Refugio Trujillo died of silicosis in 1944 and in 1948 when their sons, Rudy and 'Fito', reached the ages of twelve and sixteen respectively.40 Despite their harsh beginnings, these young Mexican Americans possessed a talent for basketball and it changed their lives. Their coach, Ernest Kivisto, recognized that talent and helped them become champions and their town reveled in their glory and supported their efforts. Their victories on the basketball court enabled them to benefit from the rewards of winning—education and success. Their championship season of 1950–51 is indeed worthy of a thorough review. The season opener in Vandal territory began on December 9 and pitted Miami against the St. Johns Redskins, the team that kept Kivisto from an undefeated season' in 1949-50 by only one point, 40-39. Kivisto's first team players, Lupe Acevedo, Hector Mario Jacott, Rudy Moreno, and Eli Lazovich already possessed three years of experience in executing the fast-break on offense and utilizing the full court press on defense. Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo came in from the reserve squad and proved to be an invaluable addition to Kivisto's first team. He recovered 24 rebounds from the backboard and scored twenty points.41 Miami outmatched St. Johns and defeated them by the score of 78 to 41.

That the Vandals possessed some advantages over their opponents in that championship season became clearer as the season progressed. For example, five of Kivisto's ten-member team averaged heights that ranged from six-feet to six-feet four inches tall. Accurate shooting by Eli Lazovich, 'Fito' Trujillo, and Lupe Acevedo and good board control by Hector Mario Jacott and Rudy Moreno, along with the squad's smooth and efficient passing, enabled the Vandals to become victorious in all seven games played throughout the month of December, 1950. In their match against Safford in early January, won by Miami by the score of 94 to 50, 'Fito' Trujillo scored forty-five points and established a new Arizona high school scoring record for one game. The Vandals also topped the scoring overall with 172 points in the Eastern Conference, setting a new state scoring record in the region.42 When Trujillo fouled out of the game, the crowd spontaneously rose to their feet and gave him one of the loudest ovations ever to echo from the Miami's gym rafters.43
Trujillo's 45-point individual state scoring record set in the Safford game did not last very long. A week later, Eli Lazovich broke Trujillo's record by scoring 50 points against Clifton. Yet two weeks later, Lupe Acevedo surpassed the records of Trujillo and Lazovich by scoring 56 points against Duncan. It was simply remarkable! In one month's time, the state individual scoring record became tested and broken three times, and held by three players for the same team—the Miami Vandals.44

The 'scourge of Arizona courts', as one sports writer described the Vandals, continued on their road to the state championship.45 High scores against opponents characterized Miami's relentless drive for that prize. They scored over 100 points against five competitors in their 1950-51 seasons. The high scores delighted Miami fans. Opposing teams however, criticized Kivisto and his squad for showing little mercy on its weaker opponents.46

When the Vandals' 122-58 score against Clifton proved humiliating for the Trojans and their fans, Coach Gene Taylor chided Ernie Kivisto for purposely running up Miami's score to satisfy his own ego, to establish his school's records, and to enhance his reputation. The controversy over Miami's high scores became weekly fodder for Arizona's sports writers from Phoenix, Clifton, Globe, and Miami, who debated the matter in the press. The writer for the Copper Era, representing the eastern regions of Clifton, Morenci, and Duncan suggested that all 'Eastern Conference schools should boycott Miami and forfeit each game to throw a wrench in Miami's scoring average'.47 The ire of Clifton's sports fans reached a fever pitch when Coach Kivisto received anonymous letters containing death threats against Miami's scoring aces Lupe Acevedo and 'Fito' Trujillo.48 Clyde A. Eckman, editor of Globe's Arizona Record, defended Coach Kivisto and his players for their competitiveness and athleticism for playing hard and clean basketball—the kind that attracted attention from college basketball recruiters and coaches:

Most members of the rampaging Vandal squad come from
families definitely not in the upper income brackets. It's
hardly a secret that colleges offer basketball scholarships to
outstanding material. And if a scintillating prep record can
mean a college education to a few kids who otherwise might
not have been so fortunate, what's wrong with that?49

Eckman's comments hit Miami's high scoring controversy directly on its head, and the issue in the press drew to a close. The Vandals and Coach Kivisto displayed their usual brand of teamwork and broke the all-time national high school single-game scoring record against the Morenci Wildcats by the score of 130 to 43. Miami clinched its fourth consecutive Eastern Conference championship by defeating the Pima Rough Riders by the score of 57 to 42 and ran away with the distinction of being Arizona's only undefeated team in the 1950–51 seasons.50 Ahead were the semi-finals and the State championship games were at the University of Arizona's Bear Down Gym in Tucson. The Vandals and Kivisto remained confident and breezed through the first and second rounds of play, defeating Holbrook, 96 to 70, and Scottsdale, 104 to 51. They outscored Clifton in the semi-finals by the score of 72 to 58.51 To win the State championship, the Vandals had to defeat Carver High School, a segregated African American school in Phoenix. It is unexpected, yet extraordinary, that all-minority players on two basketball teams, all of whom attended segregated schools, the Bullion Plaza Elementary School and Carver High School, competed against each other in a state basketball championship. At least 2,500 spectators filled Bear Down Gym to watch the action when the two teams met. Miami proved it had everything, including height, ability, and fight and topped the Monarchs at the end of the game. Miami won the Class B State Basketball Championship by the score of 58 to 50.52 Afterward, Kivisto said that he "will never have another bunch of boys like the Miami Vandals. They are the 'dream team', the team every coach hopes and plans for, but never quite gets."53

Kivisto's exuberance over the Vandals' victory equaled that of their home town crowd. Pride in the Vandals extended beyond the copper town when national and local sources touted their success. For example, a newspaper in Helsinki, Finland, praised the accomplishments of Ernest Kivisto, 'a coach of Finnish extraction'.54 A writer suggested that Kivisto's ancestry accounted for his success and linked his cultural heritage to basketball, a leading sport in Finland.55 In his article, 'Champs of the Hardwood', Tom Harmon, former Heisman Trophy winner and football hero at the University of Michigan, and sports editor for Spark magazine, said that he did not 'know of any high school in history that could seriously challenge Miami's performance because Miami's record remained by far the best'.56 And a Tucson sports writer called the Vandals 'the best team in Arizona's history'.57

More accolades for Kivisto and the team came from the Vandals' home town fans, town merchants, and school. The Knights of Columbus (K of C) from Our Lady of the Blessed Sacrament Catholic Church held a banquet at its Amaranth Hall on March 30 and honored Kivisto and his team.58 Edwin "Scotty" McDonald, the basketball coach at Loyola University in Los Angeles, served as the main speaker at the event that evening. The presence of the Dean of Men from Loyola, Reverend John Dodu, added to the importance of the event. He offered Liberal Arts scholarships to 'Fito' Trujillo, Lupe Acevedo, Rudy Moreno, Hector Mario Jacott, and Elias Delgadillo.59 None of the five players accepted the scholarships, however, citing the long distance from Miami, lack of resources, and lack of financial support from their families as reasons for their decisions not to attend Loyola.60

The team and their families became honored guests at a testimonial dinner on April 18. Sponsored by the Miami Chamber of Commerce, the event became billed as 'Vandal Night'.61 The Chamber sold over 200 tickets to the dinner and coach Kivisto and his team received the tribute of an admiring community.62 University of Arizona's head basketball coach, Fred Enke, and J.F. 'Pop' McKale, athletic director, expressed their admiration for the coach and his team, but offered only one athletic scholarship. Eli Lazovich accepted their offer and played basketball at the University of Arizona after his graduation from Miami High School in 1951.63 After the post-state championship dinners and celebrations ended, Ernest Kivisto announced his decision to leave Miami High School to accept a head coaching position at East Moline High School in Moline, Illinois. Kivisto's record of 95 wins against 8 losses in his four years at Miami High School made his record the best in the state of Arizona in the years 1947 to 1951. The Vandals earned the honors of winning four consecutive conference championships.64

With Kivisto's departure to Illinois, Miami lost more than its high school basketball coach. At the end of the 1950-51 seasons, the Vandals also lost Kivisto's first string players. Because of that championship, athletic scholarships and higher education came their way and the young men chose to pursue them. Herbert Gregg, Head Basketball Coach for Arizona State College in Flagstaff, offered four-year athletic scholarships to Lupe Acevedo and 'Fito' Trujillo, a two-year athletic scholarship to Hector Mario Jacott, and one-year athletic scholarships to Rudy Moreno and Elias Delgadillo.65 Each of the men accepted the scholarships and played for the Lumberjacks at Arizona State College in Flagstaff, now known as Northern Arizona University. Lupe Acevedo played as a starting guard on the ASC varsity basketball team from 1951 to 1955 and graduated with a Bachelor of Arts degree in Education in 1955. He was ASC's high point man in 1954, and served in the U.S. Army from 1955 to 1957. He returned to the Pinetop, Arizona, area after military service and became a physical education teacher and basketball official in northern Arizona for over thirty years before his retirement. Acevedo was inducted into the Northern Arizona University's Sports Hall of Fame.66 Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo's name was added to the list of the Lumberjack's leading scorers during his four years on the team. He gained 'Most Valuable Player' honors in his senior year and was selected as an All-American player by the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). After his graduation from Arizona State College with a Bachelor of Science degree in Business in 1955, Trujillo served in the U.S. Army and played basketball for the 32nd Regiment and the 7th Division in Korea and in Japan. Upon his release from the military, he returned to Miami and earned a living as a bookkeeper for Globe Builders Supply Company, eventually purchasing the company in 1976.67 Hector Mario Jacott played basketball at Arizona State College in Flagstaff for two years before he was drafted into the U.S. Army. He served in the Korean War, returned to Miami and became a cabinet maker and owner of Jacott Memorials, a head stone company.68

Rudy Moreno played on the varsity squad at Arizona State College in Flagstaff from 1951 to 1953. He left school to serve in the U.S. Army. Upon his discharge in 1955, he returned to Miami and worked for the Pinto Valley Mining Company and retired in 1993.69 Elias Delgadillo played a year of basketball for the Lumberjacks at Arizona State College before he was drafted into the United States Army in 1953. Upon his release from military service, he returned to Flagstaff to attend college and received a Bachelor of Science degree in 1958. He attended Arizona State University and graduated with a Master of Arts degree in Spanish in 1963. He became a Spanish teacher in Holtville, California, and retired in 1999.70

Tony Gutierrez and his cohorts, Tony Regalado, Lupe Acevedo, Adolph 'Fito' Trujillo, Rudy Moreno, Hector Mario Jacott, and Elias Delgadillo are representatives of their third generation. They had dreams—the chance to win the basketball championship, and the chance to earn a college degree. They and their Finnish American basketball coach were not only champions, but also winners. They smoothed over ethnic difficulties through their excellent play and brought national recognition to the Arizona copper town that reveled in their victories and success. They attended college and became successful. Some worked in their copper mining town as professionals and made contributions to their community. Basketball afforded higher educational opportunities for Mexican Americans who would use athletic scholarships to escape the working class lives of their parents. High school basketball teams and players in post World War II Arizona are collectively an important overlooked chapter in local and regional history of the saga of prep sports. Scholars in disciplines such as sports history, American culture, Mexican American, and Latino/a Studies need to investigate further the history of high school basketball in this period, especially the history of Arizona champions like the mighty Miami Vandals who won their title by beating an all African American team from the segregated Carver High School in Phoenix, Arizona in 1951, and in the United States' era of school segregation. The high-scoring and victorious Vandals, predominantly a Mexican American team, became the All-American sports heroes whose victories remain embedded in Arizona's sports history—even sixty-one years later

© Christine Marin

View footnotes here.

Len GordonChristine Marin, PhD

Christine Marin served as the Archivist and Historian of the Chicano/a Research Collection and the Arizona Collection in the Department of Archives & Special Collections, Hayden Library at ASU for over 30 years. As an Adjunct Faculty Associate at ASU, she has taught courses on the history of Mexican Americans and Latinos for the Departments of History, Transborder Chicana/Chicano & Latina/Latino Studies, and Women and Gender Studies. Her journal articles, books, and book reviews reflect her knowledge & expertise in various themes in 20th century Mexican American history. Dr. Marin is among the "founders" of ASU's prestigious Transborder Chicana/Chicano and Latina/Latino Studies Department in the College of Liberal Arts and Sciences.