What a life! Alan Sallee is our choice for Donor of the Month. Everyone loves basketball at Villanova, but some of us really appreciate the era when the Sweet 16 was a really big deal! Welcome to the Big 5 in its heyday, when St. Joseph’s, Penn, Villanova, Temple and LaSalle regularly drew sellouts for doubleheaders two or three times a week at the Palestra, the barn on 33rd street. From 1961-1973 when the Cats showed up at the Palestra for a big game, the entire team, including Kraft and trainer Jake Nevin, would wear Villanova blue berets! This was before the NCAA tournament became March Madness, and only 16 teams made the dance every year, so each game had more importance than they do today. And each game seemingly meant more to St. Joseph’s Jack Ramsay, Penn’s Jack McCloskey, Temple’s Harry Litwack, LaSalle’s Dudey Moore or newbie Kraft at Villanova. John (Jack) Kraft was blessed by Alexander Severance who coached the Wildcats for 25 seasons (1936–1961), compiling a 413-201 (.673) record. Severance’s last team, in 1961, went 11-13, but he left some talent for Kraft — Honey Bear Leftwich, Hubie White, Jim McMonigle, Joe O’Brien — who turned in a 21-7 record, including two wins in the 1962 NCAA tournament. And two freshman recruited by Severance would elevate the Cats even higher — Wally Jones from Overbrook and Jim Washington from West Catholic, who led the Cats to the NCAA in 1964 and two NITs. Kraft extended his recruiting to South Jersey when he snared Bishop Eustace ace shooting guard Billy Melchionni for the 1963-64 squad which went 24-4. “Cy,” short for “Cyclops,” as Melchionni was known because of his shooting eye, went on to score more than 1,600 career points. ( Melchionni was a key reserve on what is, statistically speaking, the greatest 76ers team ever, the NBA Champions led by Wilt Chamberlain, Luke Jackson, Luke Jackson, Hal Greer, Wali Jones and Chet Walker in 1967.) But in 1964, when Coach Kraft was asked about why his team was playing so well, it wasn’t Billy Melchionni that he spoke about. Instead he named an obscure player, Coach Jack Kraft answered: “A big reason why Villanova's basketball team is ranked No. 1 in the east and among the top 10 in the nation is a Louisvillian named Al Sallee” (short for Alan). Kraft said statistics fail to begin to reflect Sallee’s worth to the Pennsylvania outfit. " Big Al," said Kraft, "has been a terrific maturing and steadying influence on our young sophomores. He's simply great on defense, rarely makes a mistake.” The No. 7 man on a powerful Villanova club who had that point in the season won 12 of 13 starts, is what is known in basketball as a "sleeper." He was cut from St. Xavier High School's squad as a junior, so he didn't go out for the team his senior year. At Bellarmine College where he attended for 1 ½ years, he wasn't exactly a star, either, although he did reasonably well as a substitute for a season and a half before entering the U.S. Marine Corps. For fours years while enlisted in the Marine Corps, Al played on the team.” Source: The Courier Journal (Louisville, Kentucky January 21, 1964)
So how did Alan Sallee get to Villanova? Alan reminisced with me about his college days at Villanova. “Every morning, I say, Thank you for everything. Now, Let’s start all over again”! He said the Augustinian priests , Father. Appicii, Father. Riley, Father. Gallagher, Father. O’Rourke were terrific. He marveled at how life had worked out for him. It’s what you call being at the right place at the right time. When Alan decided to play basketball at Quantico, the training base for the U.S. Marines, he didn’t know he would be playing with fellow teammate, Dave Severence, the son of Al Severence, who had just retired as the Villanova Basketball Coach (1936-1961). After seeing Sallee play, Coach Severence recruited him on the spot. Sallee, who had an offer for a full scholarship from Notre Dame (His Mother told him he must go to a Catholic College) turned down Notre Dame because he thought Hubie White was great! His class of ‘64 made to the NCAA tournament, reaching the Elite 8 in their first attempt and the Sweet 16 their senior season in which they lost to duke University who went on to compete with UCLA for the National Title. UCLA under John Wooden won their first National Championship that year. In both of those seasons, the team cracked the AP Poll Top 5 during the year. The one year they didn’t reach the NCAA, they went to the Final Four of the NIT tournament. Back to Sallee: When he arrived at Villanova he had $47 dollars in his pocket and a place to eat and sleep. Although his Father sent him $25 a month, and he was 6’ 8’’ basketball player who wasn’t a bad looking guy, he still knew he needed a job if he had any chance of dating the young ladies. He went to work for Ken Starr’s Nursery for the next three years. Every Saturday he dug up trees and replanted them for Starr’s customers. It was back- breaking work, but he needed the money to take out one lovely nurse in particular, Kathleen Schiffhauer. It worked! The two of them were married 90 days after graduation, have just celebrated 52 years of marriage, and they raised 7 children! The oldest is 51 and the youngest is 10 years old. What happened after Villanova? Alan interviewed with a friend for a sales position and was told “ I’m really impressed, we’ll get back to you in a couple of weeks.” Alan responded that he didn’t have a couple of weeks. He was getting married in 90 days. The pressure worked and he was offered an opportunity with Reynolds Metals in Detroit, Michigan, the second-largest aluminum company in the United States, and the third-largest in the world. The Reynolds Metals Company was founded in 1919 as the U.S. Foil Company in Louisville, Kentucky by Richard S. Reynolds, Sr., nephew of tobacco king R. J. Reynolds. Initially, the new company supplied lead and tin foil wrappers to cigarette and candy companies., but by the 1960’s the company was introducing aluminum for use in manufacturing cars and building products. He stayed seven years with Reynolds, and then jumped to Phelps Dodge, one of the largest copper mining concerns in the world. In 1963 the company formed the Phelps Dodge Aluminum Products Corporation, producing industrial aluminum to complement the copper line. During his tenure with Phelps Dodge, Alan rose to the position of National Sales Manager. With the Clean Air Act of 1970, environmental concerns came to the forefront. The most critical problem Phelps Dodge faced was at Douglas, Arizona, where its smelter regularly processed 7 percent of the nation's annual copper production. In 1983 Swiss Aluminum Ltd. Bought out Phelps Dodge Aluminum and Sallee, who started out as the region Sales Manager moved up the chain, again, to become the Divisional Vice President and General Manager. By 1988, he decided to start his own aluminum rolling mill. He also founded Volunteer Aluminum, a distributor of many types of alumni products. His third company, he and his partners started was Mid South Aluminum. Mid South Aluminum specializes in the sales and distribution of coil and accessories to the gutter and downspout industry. In 2008 the company expanded into wide coil. Today, Mid South Aluminum is a distributors of aluminum coil for home building, sign and lighting manufacturing, outdoor sheds and patio enclosures. Recently, acquired by Kripke Enterprises, Alan and his son continue to work for the new company.
Share on Facebook
Share on Twitter
A Tribute to Bob Capone
January 2, 2015
The Blue White Scholarship Foundation Named "2017 Top-Rated Nonprofit" by GreatNonprofits