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Memory lane: The night Mickey Dillard took care of Florida

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Florida State inducted a new class of athletics Hall of Famers this weekend. And as always it’s a good trip down memory lane as the group reflects on their careers and what FSU means to them.

One story that stood out was told by Doug Mannheimer, an FSU graduate and lawyer who has organized the school’s “Sod Talk” speeches before home games. Mannheimer recalled an FSU basketball win over Florida that went down to the wire.

“In 1981, they’re going to go play Florida in the O’Connell Center,” Mannheimer said. “So there are seven of us for Florida State in the O’Connell Center. There are 13,000 for Florida. We’re right behind the bench. Now in the second half, we’re down by two. … So Mickey drives, he’s quick as a cat. He drives. We think he’s brutally hacked. The Gator fans think that he charged. The ref calls foul on the Gators, basket is good. The place goes bonkers.

“There are garbage cans being thrown out on the court. The ref goes over, he calls tech on the bench against Florida. (Gators coach) Norm Sloan goes nuts. (FSU coach) Joe (Williams) brought the team close to avoid the garbage, right? Norm Sloan decides he’s gonna try to stop the garbage thrown on the court. So Norm goes and grabs the mic. He says, ‘Gator fans. You don’t need to throw that. I’ll take care of this.’

“Mickey is three feet from us. Mickey leans over, he says, ‘Yeah, Norm, Mickey is going to take care of this.’ Basket was good, he gets one shot, tech on the bench, two times. That’s four free throws. Mickey Dillard, at Florida against 13,000 people, gets 1, 2, 3, 4, 5 free throws … We beat them 82-71. I have never seen a seven-point play, but Mickey did it.”

Dillard scored 22 points that night, making 12 of 15 free throws, and had nine rebounds.

In an era before the 3-point shot, Dillard was a versatile player who could shoot jumpers or drive to the basket. He averaged 15.1 points per game at FSU – his 1,734 points is fourth all-time at the school – and finished with 267 assists and 165 steals.

He later played a few years in the NBA with the Cleveland Cavaliers and Dallas Mavericks.

When asked about his favorite FSU memories, he recalled an injury during his junior season when teammates came to visit him at the hospital and gave him a game ball from a win over Auburn. Many of those same teammates have been lifelong friends. Eugene Harris described Dillard as a “quiet assassin,” and a player who was “going to score or someone was going to foul him.”

He also recalled with pride walking across the stage to earn his degree.

“What I gained was an education,” Dillard said. “My proudest moment was walking across the stage, my mom seeing me get that degree. … That education that Florida State provided, keep in mind this is before Google, so you had to go to Strozier Library to do all your work, it provided me with the foundation to work in currently information and technology where I’ve been for the last 25 years. That strong academia has provided me with a foundation for my lifetime, as well as my family and to me that’s the greatest thing that I got from being here at Florida State.” 

FSU also inducted now-retired baseball coach Mike Martin Sr., quarterback Rick Stockstill, baseball player Dick Nichols, golfer Caroline Westrup and long-distance runner Susan Kuijken.

You can listen to a podcast with Martin here.

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