From Chapter 21: Togo Time
Togo Railey glanced at the clock, triggering the reaction from the hometown crowd he knew to expect: To-Go. To-Go. At the other end of the bench, Coach Haskins seemed not to hear. With less than three minutes to play against New Mexico State, in their third straight cakewalk after the finals break, the Miners were ahead by a comfortable twenty points. It was definitely Togo Time. He looked at the clock again, then up at the stands. The chant grew louder: To-Go. To-Go. Still no reaction from Haskins. Now, in a slow-motion movement, “I reached down and unzipped one pant leg,” said Togo. “By the time I did my striptease and got out of my warm-ups, I knew I was going to get to play a little bit.” With the crowd now going wild, Haskins smiled. He was my human victory cigar, Haskins would say, a reference to Boston Celtic coach Red Auerbach, who lit a cigar when a Celtic victory was ensured. When Togo got the nod, the Miner faithful went wild. With fourteen games left in the championship season, it would be Togo’s final appearance.
Albert T. “Togo” Railey was a military brat whose dad was stationed at El Paso’s Fort Bliss. Togo attended Austin High School, where he was a good-enough basketball player to be part of a platoon tasked with guarding Nolan Richardson when Austin squared off against Bowie High School. “We shut you down, big guy,” Togo tells Richardson whenever they’ve met over the years. Well, almost. Richardson averaged twenty-eight points a game that season. Against Austin (and Togo) he scored a mere twenty-seven.
Togo earned a spot, and a good deal of playing time, as a walk-on freshman in Haskins’s second season at Texas Western and continued as a nonscholarship player his sophomore year. After Togo sat out the next year Haskins asked him to rejoin the team for what turned out to be the championship season. “With a scholarship?” Togo asked. “We’ll take care of you,” said Haskins.
With another year of eligibility Togo Railey stayed on scholarship the following season and actually became a starter. For one game. “Togo,” said Haskins as the team was about to take the floor for a home game against Mississippi State, “you’re starting.”
“Everybody was shocked,” said Togo. “Mostly me.” It took the hometown crowd more than a minute to realize what was happening, but when they did a very nervous player was greeted with a chorus of “To-Go, To-Go, To-Go.” After playing the point for some four minutes, he was back in his accustomed place at the end of the bench. But ever after, when asked about his playing career, Togo Railey gives a straight-faced answer: I started. “I did. For that one game. I was so proud.”
Years later Railey asked a serious question. “Coach, I want to know why you kept me around all those years.” “Oh, Togo,” Haskins responded. “I was trying to make an All-American out of you.”