A quick conversation during a summer-league baseball game worked out for Seattle University and the O’Briens, who led the school to new heights in basketball and baseball and became two of the greatest athletes in the city’s history.
Seattle University had no idea what it was getting.
Al Brightman, the Seattle University men’s basketball and baseball coach, had greatly exaggerated about the 5-foot-9 twins from New Jersey who were going to help both his programs.
Johnny and Eddie O’Brien flew in late one night, stayed overnight in the airport, then took a bus to Seattle U.
“We were standing like two bumps on a log,” Johnny O’Brien said. “Then a priest (A.A. Lemieux, the president of the college) comes around the corner and sees us and says, ‘Oh my god, are you the O’Briens?’ Ten minutes later he comes back with (athletic director) Bill Fenton, who says, ‘I thought you guys were about 6-3 or 6-4.’ They darn near died when they saw us.”
It all worked out of course for Seattle University and the O’Briens, who led the school to new heights in basketball and baseball and became two of the greatest athletes in the city’s history.
Johnny O’Brien, playing center on offense despite his size, became one of the great scorers in NCAA history with a lot of help from his brother, who played point guard.
In the 1951-52 season, Johnny became the first college player to score 1,000 points in a season, and gained even more fame by leading Seattle U to a victory over the Harlem Globetrotters.
Johnny was a unanimous first-team All-American in the spring of 1953 as Seattle U reached the NCAA tournament for the first time. A few months later, the brothers were starting infielders for the Pittsburgh Pirates.
Johnny O’Brien now is 87 and just…