Traverse City Attorney and MSU Alumnus Relives Glory Days of 1957 Final Four Basketball

Pat Wilson, attorney at Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge, remembers first ever final four in Spartan history

Patrick J. Wilson Professional Image     
     Traverse City, Mich., April 2, 2009 - Pat Wilson, an attorney in the Traverse City office of Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge and 1957 Spartan starting point guard, is gearing up to watch Michigan State University's men's basketball team perform in the NCAA Final Four game against Connecticut at Michigan's Ford Field on Saturday, April 4, 2009.

     In 1953, Wilson was a walk-on to the basketball team, with no idea the team would go on to be the first MSU team to make the Final Four. "We had our stars on the team, but I contributed as a point guard by distributing the ball and keeping the offense (and defense) moving; a facilitator, without significant impact on scoring," says Wilson in his typical humble manner. "We had other ‘walk-ons', George Ferguson, who became our '57 captain, a rough and tumble forward, and ‘Jumping Johnny Green', the only African American, who also had raw talent, and the ability to jump out of the gym."

     In the 56-57 season North Carolina came in to the Final Four undefeated. Kansas was favored to win it all with star center, Wilt Chamberlain. The University of San Francisco had much promise and many stars who later played in the NBA. MSU was the rag tail and surprise entry.

     "We played North Carolina even for the entire game, and two overtime periods, before losing in the third overtime, giving away chances to win in regulation by missed free throws, a narrow call disallowing a half court shot that went in at the end of the first overtime, and losing the ball (my contribution) against a double team in the third. In any event, we lost and the next night, North Carolina went on to beat Kansas, again in a third overtime; quite a memorable Final Four tournament," says Wilson.

     Some of the teammates from ‘57, and those who won the Big Ten in '59 - deemed "The Fab Fifties" - continue to see each other at an annual golf event, usually in Palm Springs, California, where they watch the games, coach from the couch, and cheer on MSU. All have had success of one kind or another: physicians, lawyers, successful business men, and teachers. "A few are no longer with us, requiring of course, annual toasts to their memory. Much fun, great memories," says Wilson.
With all of these great memories, where will Wilson cheer on the Spartans on Saturday?

     "I will be at the game at Ford Field on Saturday, with son John, and grandson Jack. This is a celebration weekend and if you've never been to a Final Four event, you've got to go!" says Wilson. "If we are fortunate enough to get by UConn on Saturday, and North Carolina wins, some of those old stories will be replayed, and it would be interesting to see if the archives remember the game as I do."

About Pat Wilson:

     Patrick J. Wilson has more than 40 years of experience serving clients in the areas of business, real estate, probate and estate planning, and non-profit law.

     While a student at Michigan State University, Pat was president of his senior class and played four years of varsity football (Rose Bowl - 1956) and basketball (Final Four - 1957). After graduation, he spent three years in the United States Army as a pilot, serving in Korea, and later, as an instructor pilot.

     After graduating from law school, Pat relocated to Traverse City to work for a local law firm (1963-1998). Most recently, he was a partner with his daughter, Shelley, in the firm, Wilson & Kester (1998-2004).

     Pat and his wife, Sharalee, have five children and thirteen grandchildren. He enjoys playing golf in his spare time.

     Smith Haughey Rice & Roegge has been helping our clients overcome challenges and take advantage of opportunities since 1941. With offices in Ann Arbor, Grand Rapids, and Traverse City, and more than 85 attorneys and counselors, we offer some of the most comprehensive legal experience available in the areas of Business and Property Law, Health Law, Construction Law, and Litigation. For more information about the firm, call 616.774.8000 or visit


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