Five Gauchos in the last decade have played at that top level of professional basketball. No other Big West Conference school has come close to that.
The 6-foot-3 point guard averaged 17.5 points in the first four games of the Eastern Conference Championship series against Boston before missing Game 5 with a sprained left ankle.
That proved to be the most unfortunate twist of fate for Miami in the best-of-seven matchup.
Vincent’s playmaking and perimeter defense were especially missed during Thursday’s 110-97, Game 5 defeat in Boston.
He returned to score 15 points in Miami on Saturday during an epic 104-103 loss to the Celtics.
The series will return to Boston on Monday for a decisive Game 7, with the winner advancing to face Denver in the NBA Finals.
But some vintage Gauchos also enjoyed some marquee moments in the league:
John Tschogl, Class of ’72
John Tschogl, an athletic 6-foot-6 small forward, was UCSB’s first three-time All-Big West Conference First-Team selection. He was also the first Gaucho to play in the NBA.
He appeared in 113 games over the course of three seasons in the league (1972-1975), mostly with the Atlanta Hawks.
“It was one of my better ones, I think,” he insisted. “It had a nice rhythm to it. Fans feasted on the free pretzels and bagels.
“The Omni concessionaires, on the other hand, were not happy with me.”
Don Ford, Class of ’75
“I think he’s the best rookie prospect I’ve seen in a Laker training camp since Jerry West,” Hearn gushed.
“I have been in constant contact with (head coach) Bill Sharman and he is as excited about Don as I am.”
Ford, whom Hearn soon nicknamed “The Blond Bomber,” averaged 9.6 points and 4.4 rebounds during his rookie season of 1975-1976.
He wound up scoring 3,016 points during his seven seasons in the NBA, although he found his real niche in other areas.
West, who took over for Sharman as the Lakers’ coach, once identified Ford as the team’s best defender.
“I always know and can depend on what Donnie is going to do on defense,” he once said.
Ford did admit to fantasizing about becoming the team’s star.
“That’s human nature, and I’m as human as anyone,” he said. “But at the same time, I’m very happy with the situation I find myself in.
“I’m very content with my role.”
Ford was reaching the end of his contract with the Lakers, with his playing time reduced to 11 minutes per game, when he quietly asked to be traded.
When asked if he regretted leaving a team that won four NBA rings during the 1980s, Ford replied with his typically frank insight:
“Without Worthy, how many would the Lakers have gotten?”
Richard Anderson, Class of ’82
He averaged a double-double of 16.0 points and 11.0 rebounds during his senior year at UCSB, convincing the San Diego Clippers to select him in the second round of the 1982 NBA Draft.
He, like Ford, played in the NBA for seven years, with stints on five different teams.
The 6-foot-10 and 240-pound forward had his best season with Denver in 1984-1985 when he averaged 8½ points, 5.2 rebounds and 2½ assists.
Anderson might’ve even finagled some weight-loss commercials out of his situation had the enterprising Williams been the Nuggets’ GM.
He credited better nutrition for slimming down his body and bulking up his statistics after he logged a double-double of 20 points and 10 rebounds in a win over Dallas.
“When you sit on the bench as much as we do with Kiki (Vandeweghe) and Alex (English) playing a lot of minutes, you have a tendency to eat what you shouldn’t too much, and you can’t exercise it off as much,” he explained.
“But I just went to doctors who put me on the right foods.”
He followed that up near the end of the season with a 23-point, 10-rebound game against his old team, the Clippers.
Anderson, who was known as “Dino” by his UCSB teammates for his supposed resemblance to the pet dinosaur of Flintstones’ cartoon fame, was signed as a free agent by Vincent’s future team during the summer of 1991.
NBA extinction soon followed, however, when the Heat waived him just before the start of the season.
Conner Henry, Class of ’86
He had just arrived on a 10-day contract after getting waived by the Houston Rockets.
“It was a magical night,” Henry said. “I had no idea something like that might happen, although we were playing the Milwaukee Bucks and I had a feeling that I’d get into the game.
“I got open and the first one went in. That relaxed me, and I was able to flow with the game the rest of the way. I kept moving and kept getting looks, and the shots kept going in.”
The arena soon echoed with the cheer of “Ten More Days! Ten More Days!”
I’ll never forget the chants from the fans,” Henry said. “It was incredible.
“By the end of the game I was breathing extremely hard because I was somewhat out of shape.”
Henry later affirmed his cult-hero status at Boston Garden by driving into a wedge of Julius “Dr. J.” Erving and “Sir” Charles Barkley and dunking on the Basketball Hall of Fame tandem during a game against the Philadelphia 76ers.
He played in the NBA for three seasons, getting his final release from the Sacramento Kings despite making 48.4% of his threes during a 15-game stint.
Henry remained in the game, however, for the next three decades. He won Most Valuable Player honors in the Continental Basketball Association in 1990 while playing for the Rapid City Thrillers in South Dakota.
He was also the MVP of the CBA’s All-Star Game that season, as well as in 1992 when he played for the Yakima Sun Kings.
He then toured the world for the next 10 years, playing overseas in Italy, France, Spain and Greece.
Henry followed that up the next two decades with eight coaching stints. They included one last round in the NBA as an assistant with the Orlando Magic in 2015-2016.
Brian Shaw, Class of ’88
His two decades in coaching included two seasons at the helm in Denver (2013-2015) when the Nuggets were a much more dysfunctional crew.
He made his mark at UCSB as a 6-foot-6 point guard, becoming the only player to ever lead the Big West Conference in both assists (6.1 average) and rebounds (8.7).
Shaw put the Gauchos on the college basketball map by leading them to a 22-8 record and their first NCAA Division I Tournament appearance in 1988.
He became the program’s best promoter, even coaxing TV motor-mouth Dick Vitale to spend one of his off days at their game at Long Beach State
He also became the first and only Gaucho ever chosen in the first round of the NBA Draft. The Celtics, who were picking just one spot ahead of the Lakers, foiled the plans of their NBA rivals by taking him with the 24th overall selection.
Shaw played for six teams before finally making it to the Lake Show in the final four of his 14 NBA seasons.
He will be forever revered by the Lakers for rescuing them from elimination during their NBA title run of 1999-2000. He made three clutch three-pointers down the stretch to rally them from a 15-point deficit against Portland in Game 7 of the Western Conference final.
Although known more as a playmaker than a shooter, Shaw became the first NBA player to make 10 threes in a game when he torched Milwaukee on April 8, 1993. He had made just 26 three-pointers in his previous 58 games.
“A couple of times I was reluctant,” he said of his bombing run that night. “I felt I was shooting the ball too much.”
His best year statistically came when averaged 13.8 points and 7.6 assists for Boston in 1990-1991. He had played in Italy for Il Messaggero Roma the previous year while holding out in a contract dispute with the Celtics.
That Roman holiday set up his fateful introduction to an 11-year-old basketball prodigy by the name of Kobe Bryant. The younter Bryant’s father, Joe “Jellybean” Bryant, was also playing in Italy at the time.
Shaw’s first impression of his future Laker teammate was that of “a pest.”
“He was kind of like a ball boy and he was challenging everybody all the time, wanting to play against you,” he said during an interview in 2008.
Bryant once claimed that Shaw still owed him a pizza for having lost a game of one-on-one. Shaw insisted that it was actually just a shooting game of H-O-R-S-E.
He added jokingly that he let Bryant win to shore up his confidence.
“If I had beaten him, he would have been crushed and wouldn’t be where he is now,” he said with a laugh.
Ironically enough, they were reunited after Bryant broke his wrist before the start of the 1999-2000 season. The Lakers signed Shaw as a temporary replacement, but they wound up winning three NBA championship rings together.
Shaw served as the calming influence on a team which constantly roiled with the quarreling egos of Kobe and Shaquille O’Neal.
“I think knowing his family over the years has helped in my relationship with him,” he said of Bryant. “In a lot of ways, I’ve been able to reach him when a lot of others in the organization couldn’t.”
Shaw’s long relationship with O’Neal began as teammates in Orlando. They became known as “The Shaw-Shaq Redemption” when they teamed up to lead the Magic to the NBA Finals in 1995.
Houston swept Orlando in that series, but they started the New Millennium with an even more successful Shaw-Shaq Revival at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
The sentiment had been the same at UCSB’s Thunderdome more than three decades earlier.