It was just a handshake between team captains.
Yet at the moment that Mississippi State's Joe Dan Gold clasped hands with Loyola's Jerry Harkness before their 1963 NCAA Tournament game, the explosion of light that occurred resembled a laser show.
These were the bulb lights from photographers' cameras. The picture they captured that day in Lansing, Mich., became an iconic moment in the history of American sports.
It was March 15, 1963.
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Gold, a white player representing a state university from a racially segregated Old South, was linking hands with Harkness, a black player representing a Catholic school from Chicago.
The team from Mississippi State had been forced to turn down NCAA tourney bids in 1959, '61 and '62 because the state of Mississippi had an unwritten policy not to allow sports teams from its schools to compete with teams that had black players.
In 1963, it had literally sneaked around the segregationists to get out of Starkville to at last play in the NCAAs.
"I can't claim we were really big on the social significance of the moment," Gold said last week. "We wanted to go play basketball. We were tired of winning the SEC and not getting to play in the tournament.
"With all the drama we went through to get to the game, I'm not sure I really understood the significance until I shook hands with Jerry Harkness and I saw all those flashbulbs."
Today, Joe Dan Gold, 65, is superintendent of the Morgan County Public Schools in Eastern Kentucky. I'm going to guess that he is the only person currently running a Kentucky school system who has a coaching victory over Adolph Rupp in Memorial Coliseum.
On Feb. 11, 1967, a very youthful Gold coached his alma mater, Mississippi State, past Rupp and UK 77-72 in overtime in Lexington.
"That was a huge thrill for me as a Kentucky boy," Gold said.
Gold grew up on a farm in Marshall County in far western Kentucky. In 1958, Gold's junior year, the Benton High School team for which he played made it to the Sweet Sixteen.
Marshall County was a hoops hotbed at the time. In 1959, Benton's archrival, North Marshall, not only made the state tournament, it won it all. That team's star, Pat Doyle, was named Mr. Basketball.
"They did beat us five times that year and win the state championship, but I'm not totally convinced they were better than us," Gold said drolly. "But I'm stubborn."
Doyle signed a scholarship with Rupp and Kentucky. Gold, a 6-foot-5 forward, got some letters from UK, but a scholarship offer never came.
He cast his lot with the coach, Babe McCarthy, who was then establishing himself as Rupp's Southeastern Conference nemesis at Mississippi State.
McCarthy was exactly the kind of coach who got under Rupp's skin. He had a flamboyant personality off the floor. On the court, he had a penchant for slow-down basketball.
From 1959-63, McCarthy and MSU won or shared the SEC title four times. For all the winning McCarthy and Mississippi State were doing, it wasn't translating into NCAA Tournament games because of the policy of racial segregation in the Deep South.
This was an era when only the conference champion participated in the NCAAs. Yet, from 1956-62, the team that won the SEC in basketball did not represent the league in the NCAA tourney five times.
The big beneficiary turned out to be UK. Rupp and Co. may not have had black players, but they had no issue playing against them. So four times during this period, Kentucky got to play in the NCAA Tournament because the team that finished ahead of it in the SEC would not go.
In Gold's sophomore year at MSU, State won the SEC outright but turned down the NCAAs. In his junior year, MSU and UK tied for the SEC title, but State had the tiebreaker for having won the head-to-head matchup with the Cats. Mississippi State again turned down the NCAA.
"When I went to college, I was just happy to have a scholarship and happy to be playing in the SEC," Gold said. "I never really plugged in that, at Mississippi State, you didn't go to the NCAA. That's just how it was. We'd been taught to accept authority. And that's what the procedures were at the time."
By 1963, however, sentiment on the MSU campus in Starkville had swung heavily toward accepting an NCAA bid. The president of Mississippi State University then, Dean W. Colvard, also had a Kentucky tie. He was a graduate of Berea College. Those with a knowledge of Kentucky history know Berea had long been the most progressive of the commonwealth's colleges on issues involving race.
On March 2, 1963, before MSU played its final game against archrival Mississippi, Colvard announced that Mississippi State intended to play in the NCAA tourney.
A backlash in Mississippi ensued.
There was a move in the state Senate to try to bar the school from using any public money to send an athletic team to possibly play against blacks.
"I was walking across campus and one of the English professors stopped me," Gold recalled. "He was a guy that I didn't even know knew that I played ball. And he said, 'Joe Dan, tell the basketball players not to worry. There is enough private money already raised to go to the tournament.'"
Still, it wasn't easy. Word spread that a state senator and a former state senator had gone to court and gotten a legal injunction that would prevent the Mississippi State basketball team from leaving the state.
"As a result of that, the president of the university, a vice president, the athletics director and Coach McCarthy all left the state a day early so no one could serve them," Gold said. "We sent our freshman team and some managers out to the airport as a decoy to see if anyone tried to stop them. When no one did, we knew it was OK and we went ourselves."
After the famous handshake, they played basketball. Loyola -- which started four black players -- won 61-51.
The Ramblers, led by Harkness and Les Hunter, went on to win the 1963 NCAA title, upsetting Cincinnati in Freedom Hall in the finals.
Mississippi State players returned to Starkville and, Gold said, no recriminations.
"There at school, they had a reception for us," Gold said. "The university was a very distinct entity from the rest of the state. For the most part, people at the university thought it was a very positive thing."
Since 1963, Gold has had two distinct careers. After coaching five years at MSU, he also coached at Mercer College and Paducah Community College.
After leaving college coaching, he came home to Kentucky and worked in secondary education.
Still, that one moment from his senior year in college has reached through the years.
In 2006, the Mississippi State-Loyola game was named one of the 25 defining moments in NCAA history.
This season is the 45th anniversary of his handshake with Harkness. Gold said a production company recently brought him to Indianapolis to interview him for a documentary on the game.
While there, he spoke to Harkness about the moment in history the two share.
"It was funny," Gold said. "We talked and he remembered the same thing I did, all those flashbulbs going off.
"The other thing he told me, the Loyola players felt a lot of pressure in that game because the black community in Chicago had told them, 'Don't you lose to that team from Mississippi.'
"With all that was around that game, it was their first NCAA Tournament and ours, too. I think the players on both sides just wanted to play basketball."