Buch (pronounced Buck) was a member of the University of California's first Pacific Coast Conference championship team in 1957. He captained the 1959 Golden Bears team that won the National Championship. After his collegiate career, he established EMPCO Industries, a successful tire business, in California.
In September 2002, Buch was inducted into the University of California Athletic Hall of Fame. Al was also named to the National Association of Basketball Coaches' Silver Anniversary All-America Team, an honor based on basketball and lifetime achievements.
Buch, who died in March 2005 while living outside of London, was much admired by his teammates. University of California-Riverside athletic director Stan Morrison, a sophomore on the 1959 Cal team, said of Buch, "In friendships, sometimes one person gives more to the friendship than the other. He gave me so much." Another teammate, Darrall Imhoff, an All-America on the 1959 team, said Buch, "made things happen...He was a quiet guy, but when he spoke, we listened. He kept everybody focused."
Birth and Death Dates:
b. unknown - d. March 2005
Born in Brooklyn, Buch enrolled at the University of California after his family moved to the state. In 1957, when Buch was a sophomore, he helped lead the California Golden Bears to a 20-4 record, a No. 6 UPI ranking (No. 13 AP), and the school's first Pacific Coast Conference title (14-2 in conference); they received an automatic bid to the NCAA tournament. In the West Regional Semifinal, Buch scored 12 points and grabbed 3 rebounds as Cal defeated BYU 86-59. In the West Regional Final, Buch and the Bears faced rival San Francisco; and although the Dons no longer had K.C. Jones or Bill Russell, they were still a formidable team. Tension between the two schools existed as Cal had backed out of a game with San Francisco in January.
The excitement was at its peak in the tournament, and the Dons jumped out to a 27-22 halftime lead. But the Bears came out strong as well, as All-America forward Larry Friend helped Cal take a one-point lead early in the second half. The lead then changed hands nine times and neither team led by more than a point until the final minute. With Cal down 48-46, Buch drove the lane for the tying basket, but was called for traveling; he was held to 2 points and 1 rebound in the game. With 6 seconds left, the Dons led by two and then intercepted a long pass as time expired; there was a foul on the play and SF converted the free throws to make the final score, 50-46.
The following season, Buch averaged 9.5 points per game during the regular season. Cal repeated as PCC champion after winning a playoff, and returned to the NCAA tournament with a record of 18-8. Buch averaged 7.5 points per game in the tournament and the Golden Bears again reached the West Regional Final before losing to Seattle, 66-62, in overtime.
In 1959, Buch was team captain, and was named All-America honorable mention, and All-PCC second team. He was the third leading scorer on the Golden Bears with a 9.2 average, and also grabbed 2.8 rebounds per game. Cal led the nation in team defense (51.0 points per game), and had a record of 20-4 (14-2 in the Pacific Coast Conference), but were a relatively unknown team as they entered the NCAA tournament. The AP had not ranked them in the top ten (they were No. 11, although ranked No. 9 by UPI). In the tournament, they defeated Utah, 71-53, in the West Regional Final (Buch led all Cal scorers with 15 points) and St. Mary's, 66-46, in the West Final (Al was held to 4 points) to advance to the school's first Final Four appearance!
In the Final Four, Cal was deemed a mystery guest. Louisville (led by All-America Don Goldstein) was the hometown team, Cincinnati had all-world Oscar Robertson, and West Virginia was led by Jerry West. Many fans anticipated a showdown between Robertson and West in the final, but Buch and the Golden Bears dashed their hopes. In the semifinal game, Buch gave an outstanding performance, racking up 18 points and 6 rebounds, and Cal defeated Cincinnati, 64-58. In the other semifinal, West Virginia defeated Louisville to set up the championship game.
Cal, a team that relied on its defense to win games, forced Jerry West to shoot from the outside and led, 57-44, midway through the second half. West Virginia made a furious comeback, but Cal center Darrell Imhoff scored with 15 seconds remaining; and the anonymous Golden Bears, led by their Jewish captain won the game, 71-70, and were national champions! Buch scored only 2 points (both on free throws), grabbed 3 rebounds, and had 2 assists during the game.
Brooklyn, New York
Buch played guard at the University of California from 1956-1959.