Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When did you play and for what school?
Denise Long Rife: I played in high school from around 1965 to 1969 and played for Union-Whitten High School and now they're are consolidated with Union-Whitten-Beaman-Conrad-Liscomb. I don't know if it's in that order. It might be Beaman-Union-Whitten-Conrad-Liscomb I don't know. So-
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me a brief history of yourself.
Denise Long Rife: Well I grew like I said in a little town called Whitten, Iowa. It's about three by four blocks long and it just, it used to be the town park there where I used to shoot baskets and then after we won the state tournament and I got drafted by the NBA a San Francisco Warriors they did name it the Denise Long Park, but I grew up there in that little town and actually my first love was playing baseball.
That was, I mean I woke up in the summers I'd wake up every morning wanting to play baseball with the high school boys and junior high boys anybody - we'd just all get together and have a team. There weren't very many girls in that community maybe two, two or three and so , I just there was other to play with so I played baseball.
Denise Long Rife: And then I and then my next love when to horses and I had a horse for a couple years named Black Shadow and I rode him all the time and then my, my basketball coach that coached my older sister saw me riding a horse and saw me get bucked off one time and he persuaded me to sell my horse and before I got into my freshman year of high school.
He made me sell my horse for basketball and so I did, and I just started practicing about four hours a day and because I wanted to get to the state tournament I'd watch on TV about all the team that when they would win and how happy they were and rejoicing they were. I envied them and tried to pursue that goal to win the state tournament.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me about when you first played basketball. When did basketball or when you first started playing.
Denise Long Rife: Well I think it was because , it was a combination of watching my sister play basketball and wanting to, she was kind of a role model for me, and seeing her team get beat out three years in a row in the district finals by Wellsburg and that was really heartbreaking to me and I wanted to kind of take up where she left off and make sure that the community got a little bit of revenge for all those defeats so to speak.
But I think it was in junior high actually in sixth grade when I, the sixth grade girls played against the junior high girls which were the seventh and eighth grade girls and we won, and that's kind of when I and I kinda formed a special relationship with the coach and I think that's what kind of got me interested in girls basketball.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How much did you practice? How much of a priority?
Denise Long Rife: Oh I really made it a priority. Like I said I think one of the reasons was because I really did want to be the best girls basketball player that there ever was that you could find. I just had that goal and also I wanted to please my coach.
He told me to practice a half hour a day and I thought oh that's just not enough. So, I practiced about four hours a day and I remember I detasseled corn. Get up early in the morning like five o'clock in the morning, go detassel corn until two or three, and then I'd go down to the park and I'd still shoot baskets on the days that I detasseled corn, I'd still shoot baskets two and a half hours or so.
And I even remember I was bored on one winter day. It was eleven degrees below zero and I went down to the park and the ball was frozen. It was like what they call medicine balls that the heavy balls that you'd practice to strengthen your arms and you'd throw it up and worried about when the ball bounced it would just crack, because it was so frozen.
But I did do that and sportscaster from Eldora Herald Index saw me, and he wrote about it in his paper. He thought that was a little bit odd but also dedicated that someone would practice basketball at eleven degrees below zero. But I did do that.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Why did you become a forward? What did you like about that position?
Denise Long Rife: I never was interested in defense. I just loved that feedback of the ball going through the hoop. It was just a challenge to try to never miss. It was that immediate feedback that you got from scoring, and also I think one of the key things that made me successful was not just the coach but if I was going to credit anybody it would probably be the boys of that community that I played basketball with. Steve Folton, Dennis Moron, Brenny Walt, all those classmates of mine that I played, Denny Folton, all those guys that they helped make me good, because anytime you play get somebody that's better than you maybe, it brings out your best.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What about the six player game that you enjoyed?
Denise Long Rife: Well I liked the higher scoring. I don't know. Dribbling up the court just getting the ball up the court in a way was more a little bit more of a waste of time. When you could be scoring baskets, that type of thing.
I also thought that it for those girls that really weren't as good at ball handling, it made them look a little better. You have to be a good ball handler to play five on five. A lot more people to play that might not be viable in the sport.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What kind of shots and what kind of basketball did your team play? What kind of game did you play?
Denise Long Rife: Basically if I remember right, Mr. _____ the coach was very good as a defensive coach, he had a history of that and he always created good guard courts. He also created a good forward court when he had me and Cindy and Debbie Calloway.
My coach always said my best shot was a long shot. The long set shot, but then I didn't do that as much. I mean I think I've already played and the rules now I would have had a lot of three pointers, because I think that is my best shot. 30 foot shot. I played horse with people and beat them many times because of my long shot, but then I also had an under the hand basket bank shot and hook shot and just shot but the jump shot was the shot that I developed last in my repertoire or whatever you want to call it, and I don't really think I've perfected the jump shot until after I got out of high school.
And that's really the best, that's the most important shot in the game of basketball. But I really didn't develop it and perfect it until after I got out of high school. The reason being because I always thought that you had to square yourself up to the basket when reality you should have your right side, your strong side leading toward the basket, and I didn't know that in my mind. I thought you had to square yourself up to the basket and so in that respect many of my shots were off balance and that's depicted in the game against Everly, you'll see that.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What made you a strong forward besides the practicing?
Denise Long Rife: I think it's because of course I'm tall, strong, I could really catch some passes that the guards threw at me from across the court. I could almost go out into the bleachers and retrieve them. But I think the probably the most important things was because I was quick. Quickness is the most important thing in the, in the most important physical attribute in the game of basketball. Reaction time quickness. Not only was I tall, but I was quick. In fact I played against boys many times in college and I've had people tell me boy, you've got quick hands. So I think that was one of the things.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What are some of your fondest memories of playing six on six?
Denise Long Rife: Well, there are some very interesting ones. Of course all the games against Hubbard were good, because they were rated number one a couple of years and then when I was a sophomore they were rated number one and we beat them and knocked them out their chances going to the state tournament which I always felt sad about, because after the game I went into the Hubbard locker room and apologized.
I really did. I just felt bad, because maybe technically we didn't deserve to win, because we were a young team and they were a veteran team and lot of those senior people lost their chances or whatever. I think one of the things other than Hubbard games was this game against Dows and where I scored 111 points, which is my high game, and then I scored that 29 out of 21 free-throws. At the end of the game this little girl was guarding me and there was about four minutes left right before Mr. Eckman took me out of the game.
She looked up at me and she said I can't believe I'm guarding you. I said why? And she says I'm a forward. She says I've never played guard. You fouled out our whole guard court. I said oh my golly, I didn't know what to say to her, I just felt terrible, and she said I'm a second team forward. And she was guarding me, and I looked at her and I said I could just imagine how you feel and she says no you can't.
We were standing at the line when we had this conversation and I just never will forget that. Her saying that to me. She knows who she is, so hello there.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did it feel being a girl playing basketball in Iowa?
Denise Long Rife: Well, I kind of feel like it was born at the right place the right time. Where would I have been in 1800's? Maybe I would have been in an Annie Oakley. I don't think so; I'm not much of a shooter of a gun or anything, but better at shooting baskets. It just seemed like I fit in this era. Kind of like a little bit of a pioneer in the sport to some extent.
In a small town like Whitten, there's not too much else to do. It was a lifesaver as far as not being bored and always looking forward to something to do.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: They weren't playing six on six in larger schools. It was just the rural schools. Why do you think that was?
Denise Long Rife: Probably it was that way because they thought that game fitted girls at the time better than, it was more fashionable, more suitable for girls at the time to play those rules, but I've played other rules too. I've played in adventure victory basketball team. It was on a Christian team where we went over and gave testimonies and sang Christian songs at half-time.
We'd play against all the Olympic teams and Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, the Philippines, we played international rules, and my average dropped down from 69 points like in my senior high school to 35 points when I played that type of rules. I remember it's a lot harder, after you've dribbled and run up and down a court to go up for jump shots because you're tired.
It's more rugged rules, playing five on five. In six on six you have time to rest while the ball is on the other court. That makes a big difference so it's natural to just see why somebody's average might be higher playing six on six, just because you got to rest for part of the time. And it's kind of enjoyable watching Jeanette Olson play down on the other end of the court and watch her play. I mean, I was entertained.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: There was such a sportsmanship, can you kind of talk about that?
Denise Long Rife: Well, I thought Jeanette Olson for instance when I was playing against her in the state tournaments, she was a senior and this was in '69 and I was a junior. She's kind of like my hero, and I admired her because I'd watched her play in the state tournament two years before that and I remember sitting down on the bleachers and I was sitting and she was in back of me a little bit. We were watching another girls team and I remember her saying: well, come up and sit by me, Denise; I don't bite.
And we just formed a friendship then. And then I remember when we played against Hubbard I formed a friendship with Mary Boekie. That number one rated team. So you do you do form friendships with the other players, just like probably actresses form friendships with actresses and there's a common bond there. There will always be a common bond between Jeanette Olson and me, because we played in such a momentous game.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Take us back to that night of the 1968 state finals against Jeanette Olson- tell me about that evening.
Denise Long Rife: That game was very vivid in my mind. More than any other game that I ever played. I never ever got relaxed really until at least the second half. I was absolutely not relaxed and I didn't have any confidence the first half either. For one thing Coach Larry Johnson had really coached his guard pretty well as far as double and triple teaming me, but the thing they over looked was Cindy.
She scores 41 points that game and she just set out there in front and pumped one in after the other and I'd never in anytime I've ever played had I ever had anybody take the pressure off like she did. She was like yeast, she rose to the occasion and I don't think I scored, I think they said I didn't score during the first four and a half minutes of that game.
So I just never got over the jitters, but then when we got into the overtime when Mary Hammel fouled at the line, that's when I knew we were going to win. I was totally relaxed and I knew that I had jump against Jeanette Olson at the circle and I knew I was going to get the jump and I just knew we were going to win. I just had a surge of confidence. Finally.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What did it feel like? How do you feel playing out there? What were your emotions like?
Denise Long Rife: It was kind of surreal. I almost felt like, the loud speaker would say over the loud speaker: Long puts two in. That really never happened before, so I kind of felt like I was on some sort of a magical -- with all the people watching, it was like in a magical time or something.
Just it was unique. I can't explain it. Words can't say, I can't describe it. It was really wonderful.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What are some of the things that you remember as a player that evening?
Denise Long Rife: Well I do remember the huddle when it was going to go into overtime. I remember being in the huddle. That's probably what I remember more than anything. When we got around the huddle, Mary Hammel committed a foul that Mr. Eckman in all the years he coaches said never do that foul. Never reach in at the line when the ball is being passed to a forward, opposing team, the line and reach in and try to get the foul and because a stupid foul, especially at the end of a game when Jeanette Olson like she scored, she made both those free-throws.
Well she was just broken down and devastated and I remember I was to her right in the huddle and she was standing here and she was just crying uncontrollably and you couldn't get her to feel good, tell her not to worry. But I remember saying to her: Mary, it doesn't matter, we're going to win anyway. It doesn't matter. It just makes the game more exciting, I told her. I remember that probably more than anything.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did you feel yourself really looking and seeing how much she was scoring or did you feel that sense of competition that evening?
Denise Long Rife: Yeah, I did feel that sense of competition and I also remember when I watched her, most the time when I watched her what was in my thoughts was boy, doesn't she look beautiful. The way she shoots. The way she goes up for her jump shots. The way her skirt falls down -- she wore skirts back then, and she was just so picturesque. And so lithe and mobile.
The way she would turn her body 36 degrees and dribble the other way and then shoot a jump shot off of screen. She was just a very futuristic basketball player back then. Do you know what I mean by futuristic? She was ahead of her time in the way she shot, and things like that. So I marveled at her technique and my memory of what I thought most the time when I was watching her. Maybe that's what made me so nervous.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was the state tournament like? What was it like coming from Whitten to Big Vets Auditorium?
Denise Long Rife: Well for me I was always kind of so apprehensive about the game I didn't pay too much attention to a lot of the big city atmosphere that much. My mind was so focused on the game, and I always felt that it I wasn't real serious and didn't have some sense of foreboding or apprehension then I wouldn't perform well.
So, I felt if I let them relaxed in my mind that was my demise. So, I was always very serious and so I didn't pay too much attention about being in a motel running around the quarters or this and that kind of stuff. But I did play Beatle records in my motel room all the time. To to try to take my mind off of the anxiety.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Take me through each quarter of that game. Do you remember what your emotions were and what was going on in a game kind of a back and forth between you and Jeanette?
Denise Long Rife: Well I just remember the first quarter the Everly guards were forcing me to the baseline and far out on the baseline I didn't seem to be able to penetrate in close to the basket to receive any passes to make any shots. And so since I was being double teamed and then a third guard would fall back it seemed like Debbie the third forward would throw Cindy were throwing the ball back and forth.
And Cindy [Long, her cousin and team-mate – ed.] was just like shooting free-throws maybe a foot outside the free-throw line or whatever, but she just kept shooting and making them. So for the whole first quarter it was Cindy shooting set shots up kind of pretty much undefended for the most part. And then toward the end of the first quarter and then the second quarter I did get some jump shots off, but they were always off balance and they were and they banked. I never banked my shots, but all my shots in the first half against the Everly game, they were bank shots.
My jump shots were bank shots and I never did that, and every time I made them I kept thinking why are they going in. I just don't understand that. Well Everly was kind of their guards were forcing me, like I said, far out on the baseline like at 45 degree angle and I'm glad they went in. And then I remember retiring at half-time and I remember we were ahead, but when we came back, they took some points away from us, because they added up the score and they found out that we weren't as ahead as they thought we were.
And so that was kind of demoralizing. I don't remember too much about the third quarter, but I remember the fourth quarter quite a bit, where the guards kind of finally went up and started guarding Cindy a little bit more and then and I remember the frenzy on the Linda Nostrum’s face when she just absolutely didn't know what to do.
Didn't know whether to go out and try to defend Cindy and her set shot or stay back and keep the double team going on me, and the moment she went up towards Cindy and the ball came to me, then I would score and then we mixed them up like the fourth quarter. I know Cindy went and she played underneath the basket and I traded places with her and that got them off guard.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did your coach say anything to you that night that made you --
Denise Long Rife: I don't recall him ever telling us to have Cindy go underneath the basket. I could ask him; maybe he did. I just can't remember whether he did or not. It's possible that he did, but the fact that we did do that I think it was because I made some really key passes into her and she scored toward the end of the game, and I think that's really what helped the victory too is putting Cindy and me outside. Kind of mixed it up a little bit.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: So how did it feel when you won after that overtime and it ended and what were your feelings?
Denise Long Rife: I was just totally elated. It was like defeat that I didn't know if it could ever be repeated, and it didn't get repeated, because we didn't win the next year, but that year was really a great year because we had Carol Honnish; she was a second team all-state guard and maybe she was first team all-state.
I can't remember, but she moved to our community from Gilbert, Iowa and I think that was one of the main reasons we were able to win the state. I don't think we could have won the state tournament without her being part of the community and becoming a part of our basketball team. If she hadn't have done that we wouldn't have won the state tournament against Everly. And it was a fairly close score.
Once it ended and the buzzer went off. It was 101 to 101, I think that's what it was. Yeah, because it was 101 to 99 and then Jeanette Olson made both those free-throws, and then it ended up 113 to 107. So, I forget who called it the mad cat struggle. I remember that -- the mad cat struggle. He said that Jeanette Olson won the battle, but Denise Long won the war. It was a magical match up.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did Jeanette Olson ever say anything to you or about you about that game?
Denise Long Rife: I can't remember what she ever said about me, but I do remember after we won the game, when they were calling out the state tournament team and all that and the captains, and she was called, she was called out first and I was called out after her, and I ran out and hugged her in the middle of the floor. I think that kind of surprised her, but yeah I just thought to me in my mind, her team won too.
I mean, she won, too, in my mind. Because they gave such a valiant effort, and it was such wonderful game and kind of every way, everybody kind of came away winners in a way. A lot of people would feel that way.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Drafted by the Golden Gate Warriors of the NBA. What was your response being the only girl ever drafted by the NBA?
Denise Long Rife: That was in high school when they first told me about that my senior year. It was the San Francisco Warriors then not the Golden State San Francisco Warriors and I went down, I was going to get some construction paper out of the office to make a bulletin board.
I can't remember exactly why I was going down to the secretaries office, there but somebody said to me you've been drafted by the San Francisco Warriors and one of the guys that lived in the same town that I did that I played basketball against Dennis Moron, he was in, he was standing there and he was laughing profusely. He face was red, because he knew what it meant. He knew what the NBA was.
I didn't pay any attention to the NBA. I was all involved with girls basketball but I was not cognizant of the NBA. He was laughing, because the Warriors are drafting me, and then Johnny Carson wanted me on the Tonight Show. And then I was on the Today Show, and I remember saying to the superintendent, you mean, I have to play? You mean it's like drafting me into war? And he said, I said I have to play?
And that's when Dennis Moron just starting laughing and I just never will forget the look on his face and then they explained to me. No, they want you for the NBA team or whatever and then I started getting calls at home from all the major newspapers in the country and stuff. It was funny.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Tell me about that process. How did that end working itself out? What are some of your after high school experiences with basketball?
Denise Long Rife: Well, I did go out there and play for a year in the Warrior Girls Basketball League, but I guess I really didn't know what I wanted to do with my life. And so I only played back there a year and I just kind of missed Iowa.
Kind of homesick, so I came back to Iowa, and attended college at University of Northern Iowa and I had a year and a half there, and then I attended Marshalltown Community College for a year and I ended up getting my physical education degree at Simpson College.
Then I went a couple years to Faith Baptist Bible College. And that's pretty much what I did after high school, but then there was a summer in there like I said where I went and played for that Venture Victory Team that went over to the Orient. That was in the summer of '73, I went on that. And played against all their Olympic team and they were good. We lost all eight games in Korea they were so good, but the officiating wasn't totally fair but-
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: You attended a game that Lynn Lorenzen broke your longtime scoring record. what was that night like?
Denise Long Rife: I knew she was going to break it for one, because she was so close and there's no way she would, I think I forget how many points she needed to break it and there's no way she was going to go away from that game without breaking it, but I was happy for her and everything.
The thing I remember most about that game was her coach. I forget what her coach's name was, but he was telling the reporters something about how the night before he went to the bathroom and opened up the medicine cabinet and put some eye drops in his eye, and he accidentally put super glue in his eye. And then I kidded him and I remember saying to him: yeah, I overheard you at that game yelling at those refs to get the glue out of their eyes.
I remember joking around with Lynn Lorenzen's coach about that, and I was happy for her. She worked hard. She had a long history in her family of girls’ basketball; her mother played and her mother's sister.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Did you ever think it would be broken?
Denise Long Rife: Actually in way I didn't think it would. Not because it was me that made the record -- I just thought it would be hard to break, but I think one of the things that enabled her to break it was she scored.
She was more prolific during her freshman and sophomore year than I was and I think I was a little bit more prolific during my junior and senior year as far as points, but she scored more points in her career as a freshman or sophomore than I did as a freshman or sophomore, and so I think what she did as a freshman and sophomore enabled her to break the record more than any of the other years.
She was a really good player. So she deserved to break the record. She worked hard at it. I always envied her the place. I like that little barn that she climbed up and in and played in the barn. I thought that would be neat to have my own little get away like up in a barn basket and all. I thought that was kind of neat.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Where did you practice?
Denise Long Rife: At that park. That's where I always played, yeah. I think they named a park after her though too. Lynn Lorenzen Park or something.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What do you think playing basketball six on six taught you about yourself and about life?
Denise Long Rife: Oh wow. Vanity of vanities, all is vanity. That's what it taught me. It was like a black brilliant star that fades away and goes out. It was significant, very significant for this point and time and for maybe a few decades after that, but as far as eternity goes, it's not really that significant as far as eternity. You know what I'm saying?
I think the most important thing that people can focus on really is Jesus Christ and making sure they are eternally secure in their relationship with him. Because if that doesn't take place, everything else pales. I mean that's the most prying this is making sure that somebody has a relationship with Jesus Christ so they can be saved. That's more important than a basketball game.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: When you were young and playing ball, how do you think being an athlete and playing a sport really benefited you as a young girl?
Denise Long Rife: I think it improved my self worth, feeling good about myself. Doing something with the feedback of getting that basketball through the hoop made me feel good about myself. Trying to win games just so that community could feel good. Accomplishing something always is good for someone's morale and the sense of well-being.
So, yeah it's very important. But it's still a temporal thing. You know what I mean? It's important, everybody has to do some things in this life that makes them feel important and good about themselves, but it's not the most important thing. You know what I mean?
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How do you think former six on players like yourself helped female athletes today? How do you think you helped girls today that are in sports?
Denise Long Rife: I think really to tell you the truth, the main thing that caused the attention toward girls was the high scoring. Because I remember they had an article in the Wall Street Journal -- I think this was after my junior year, but the title of the article, it was on the front page of the Wall Street Journal, In Iowa Denise Long Outscores the Boys on the Basketball Court.
And it had a big old article about that. I don't think they would have written that article if I hadn't scored 111 points or 101 points and 93 points. They wouldn't have written that article.
So, I think that the six player game allowed girls to score more. That makes girls look good and makes people turn their head pay attention to them. So, I think it's the high scoring is what captures the attention for girls basketball.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What did you think of E. Wayne Cooley as a girl or maybe what do you think, how do you think he was so influential with six on six basketball?
Denise Long Rife: Well he seemed to me like he really cared about the Iowa girl. He had a mission and his mission really was to cultivate girls in their personal lives at young age so they could do something besides just wanting to comb their hair and look nice for a boy or something.
He wanted to give them some sort of a purpose in their young years and to show that they could be competitive and whether it was, didn't have to be basketball whether it softball or track or whatever. He seemed to have their interests in mind and he was just a good promoter and public relations person for girls basketball.
I don't know about that cigar in his mouth and his demeanor. I mean everybody knows he has that persona about him. I don't know. Just that kind of says it all.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Was there a certain sports announcer that really stands out in your mind that really brought a lot of acknowledgement to girls?
Denise Long Rife: Oh I think Jim Zabel, he said that I electrified the game of girls basketball, but to me he kind of electrified the game of girls basketball with how he spoke about it and how he just listening to him over- he got excited, very excited about the games and I think he really cared just as much about girls basketball as he did the men’s games.
I think it showed in his radio speaking. I had a lot of interviews with him and I always thought he was very charming, very nice to me and I remember one thing he said one thing about girls basketball, the girls always cry after the end of the games. So he got a kick out of that. Whether you lost or won, you still cried. He couldn't quite understand that I don't think.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: You were inducted to the Hall of Fame in 1975. Take me back to that night, what was it like?
Denise (Long) Rife: That was really interesting, because my coach was there and I remember having my picture taken with him. I think the most, the thing I remember most about that night was that Bruce Jenner was there. That sounds weird, but I remember watching him win the decathalon and the Olympics and everything and I remember sitting up the bleachers, and they didn't want me to go talk to him, because it would draw too much attention. I remember him saying when I started walking over they said you can't go there it's going to bring too much of a crowd and he says no, no, I want her to come over here and he waved me over there and I got sit by him and talk to him. I think that's what I remember the most.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did people react to you over the years?
Denise (Long) Rife: Well I remember in my life but I forget the year. No, it was around 1979 or 1980 when Rob Lynn had the Cornettes? Remember the Iowa Cornettes? And I was going through a divorce at the time and I was feeling just about like Nebuchadnezzar when he was eating grass in the ditch, because he lost his kingdom.
I was feeling so low, and Rob Lynn says well you got to pick yourself up and come play for the Cornettes for little bit. It will get your mind off of it, and you get to mingle with the other girls and form new friendships and all this and that. I remember meeting Pete Meribich, because he was in that show called Dribble, I think they called it, and he was back around at that time. I remember playing at the Five Seasons in Cedar Rapids and I wasn't a main player on that team. I was kind of out of shape.
I was just there probably because of my name and that probably helped me out more than anything else. At the end, while I was sitting on the bench, the crowd started yelling “Put in Denise, put in Long,” and they started standing up and chanting it. It was about an auditorium as big as this, and they were all saying "Put in Long, put in Long," and Rob Lynn looked down the bench and said "I'm going to have to put you in or I'm going to get lynched."
So, he put me in, and I think I scored one free-throw or whatever and I got fouled and scored a free throw, but that's what I remember about the crowd. You asked me about the crowd, and I kind of remember that more than anything about that. I played my last game in high school was '69, and this was '79, ten years later, and they still kind of remembered me and that touched my heart.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Do you agree with that? (about the girls goal of being the best in high school and college ball not a goal)
Denise (Long) Rife: Yeah, my goal was never to play beyond high school either. I don't know why, I just back then at least it didn't seem like there was that many options after high school and then I got, like I did I get, got drafted by the Warriors and went out there and played but you got to realize San Francisco was such a different atmosphere and everything than Iowa and it kind of a culture shock for me out there because it was in the '60's. It was when right around the time when Patty Hearst got kidnapped and SLA it was Symbionese Liberation Armies doing their thing, and you had gay marches and feminist movements. And I just felt kind of uncomfortable out there, to be really honest with you, and I kind of missed Iowa and I just wanted to go back to where I felt I belonged and felt more at home.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What was your goal as a young girl when it came to basketball?
Denise (Long) Rife: Win the state tournament. That's all I wanted to do and try to win it again the second year, which I didn't. I do remember that Wood game quite a bit though, that second year when we lost in that consolation game. That guard court that guarded me was a very good guard court. My final game scored 79 points went out, but still we lost the game, but I still scored 79 points.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What did you think when you hear six on six was going to end?
Denise (Long) Rife: I kind of thought to myself, well I wouldn't be happy as happy playing five on five, but maybe they will and I guess if they're happier playing that game, then let them do that, whatever the most of the majority of the girls want to do. But I remember thinking I don't know if I would be. Because I played under Venture Victory Team, man, that's tiring going up and down that court. It's pretty rugged. I remember thinking trying to go up on jump shots after running up and down the court and playing defense, it was just tough.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: What do you think it changes since six on six is gone like did what did the change over eliminate from the six on six game I mean like the high scoring- what is gone with five on five?
Denise (Long) Rife: I've been so involved with my career in pharmacy and stuff and I work so many hours that I haven't had really a chance to go to hardly any games in Iowa or to see how or what the public thinks of it or how the girls like it. So, I assume that if the girls are highly skilled, they can bring a lot of entertainment to the game.
I don't think anybody likes to go to a game and see just a bunch of turnovers. So, if you're constantly losing the ball and it's just going back and forth, I don't know really exactly how it’s working out. But I know that if they play it well then it's really good. I've seen on TV the college teams play it and it's very good. I don't know how high school girls- I haven't really had enough opportunity to watch them.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Do you think we've kind of lost something with the fact that six on six is gone? Are there certain elements of six on six that maybe don't exist anymore or won't-
Denise (Long) Rife: Probably the high scoring. It kind of set girls the uniqueness is for the woman athlete is kind of gone in a way. Because they just have to play, they have to be compared to men, because they play the same game the men do and they probably fall short a little bit, because there's no way they can play that game as good as men can play that game. That's my opinion, and I've played with the San Francisco Warriors out there in exhibition games and half-time contests and stuff, and I find myself shooting a lot of 35 foot-40 foot shots, not wanting to get near their elbows. You know what I mean?
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: Anything else?
Denise (Long) Rife: It seemed to me you had to pay huge price to get to the state tournament. They had to just be patient and we went through a lot years where we had to lose in the district finals, the final game before we got there and we did get there one year to win it, and we just had to really work hard to do that. The whole community, and every girl on the team. We just we really and it, and it did pay off and really if there was ever a team or community that deserved to win the state tournament that year, it was our community. I very definitely feel that was as far as the coach. He had his heart broken enough and I'm just glad that we won it that year.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How did your community support you?
Denise (Long) Rife: They just really supported us. My uncle ran the general store, and my mother was the postmaster, and they had the store front and on all the windows they had on there Denise Long and Company painted in white. And thanks to Cindy and her palms We beat Everly, and they were just as much a part of the team as the team. It was a whole community effort, believe me.
Laurel Bower Burgmaier: How were you treated when you came home?
Denise (Long) Rife: Actually, we got a big reception in Marshalltown. Marshalltown was about 30,000 people, Whitten was only 200 people, so really we had one in Union, Iowa, but our big reception was in Marshalltown and the whole town of Marshalltown came out, fire engines and everything. So, it was Marshalltown that gave us our homecoming.