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century of hoops history at PLU
the start of the 2001-02 PLU men's basketball season, marked the
beginning of the second century of Pacific Lutheran University basketball.
The school played its first basketball game in November of 1901,
according to evidence uncovered by Dr. Philip Nordquist '56-PLU
history professor, the university's historian and great basketball
player in his own right (with 1,139 career points, he ranks No.
16 on the all-time PLU scoring list). Nordquist presented his findings
at the annual Heritage Lecture as part of the Homecoming 2001 celebration.
Nordquist, Pacific Lutheran University had a national scoring leader,
and it was neither of the Pacific Lutheran court legends, Chuck
Curtis '59 or Tom Whalen '66. You would have learned about a member
of the Sioux Indian tribe dubbed "The Court Magician"
for his savvy with a basketball. And you would have learned about
the 10 greatest years of PLU basketball. Following are some of the
highlights from PLU's first century of hoops:
The 1927 PLC "Dianas"
players could not have known, but when Pacific Lutheran Academy
played the Tacoma YMCA in the school's first basketball game,
it would start a sport that would continue more than a century
later. PLA lost that game to the Tacoma 'Y', 33-10, with the promise
in the student newspaper, The Hurricane, that "it will be
a different story" when the teams played in Parkland. The
result was the same, however, PLA losing, 27-18.
The team's first victory came some months later in March, a 15-12
triumph over a team from the University of Washington. A week
later, PLA defeated the Tacoma YMCA, 16-9. The win was heralded
with a six-verse poem in The Hurricane.
The 1906 team
won the regional championship, beating all comers, including the
University of Washington. Clarence Webster, a Native American from
Kapowsin, was the star of that team. Other basketball standouts
in those early years included Tony Brottem and Theander Harstad,
who would go on to play major league baseball.
Interest in basketball at Pacific Lutheran in the 1920s was primarily
for the women's team, not the men's. Polly Langlow, a scoring
machine from Long Beach, Calif., was mostly responsible for the
interest in the Pacific Lutheran College "Maidens."
The 1925 PLC women's team outscored its opponents, 240-137, with
Langlow accounting for more than half the points. In a 47-4 win
over American Lake, for instance, she poured in 33 points.
In 1926, the PLC "Dianas" compiled a 10-3 record that
year, and Langlow scored 270 of the team's 431 points. A campaign
was staged to inform the country about Langlow, and to declare
her as the national scoring leader.
of the College Female Athletic Association, which believed that
women would be damaged by too much exercise, put intercollegiate
athletics for women pretty much on hold until the '60s.
Coach Marv Harshman and the starters from the 1957 PLC
1955-64 teams, says Nordquist, accomplished a "level of achievement
not reached since." During that 10-year period, Pacific Lutheran
won nine of 10 conference championships and seven times made the
trip to Kansas City for the NAIA national tournament. Three of
those teams were coached by Marv Harshman '41, who ranks second
only to the legendary Cliff Olson in winning percentage among
Pacific Lutheran men's basketball coaches.
is himself a legend, having a 236-116 record in 13 seasons at
the helm. Harshman, who would later go on to coach at Washington
State and Washington and win more than 600 games as a college
coach, is a member of the College Basketball Hall of Fame.
Harshman's 1956-57 team rolled into the national semifinals with
only one loss in 30 games. They were within nine seconds of moving
into the title game when Tennessee State's Dick Barnett, who would
go on to a long NBA career, hit a long jumper to give his team
a 71-70 victory. Harshman's next Pacific Lutheran team, his last,
lost 92-91 to Georgetown (Kentucky) in the second round at nationals.
The next year,
Harsh was replaced by Gene Lundgaard '51. During a spectacular four-year
playing career from 1947-51, he scored 1,456 points, a number that
still ranks No. 8 on the all-time Pacific Lutheran scoring list.
In his first year as coach, Lundgaard took the team all the way
to the NAIA title game, where they lost a 97-87 decision to Tennessee
A&I. When he retired in 1975 after 17 years of coaching, Lundgaard
had accumulated 270 victories and a .617 winning percentage. The
first Pacific Lutheran team to earn a trip to nationals, incidentally,
was the 1951 team coached by Harshman. The team's star player was
The stars of Harshman's final three teams and Lundgaard's first
squad were Chuck Curtis '59, Roger Iverson '59 and Jim Van Beek
'60. This trio starred together from 1955-59, leading the Lutherans
to a 106-20 record and national prominence. Curtis established scoring
and rebounding records that remain today. Curtis scored 2,173 points
and hauled down 1,470 rebounds in 110 games, and in 1997 was inducted
into the NAIA Hall of Fame. Iverson, a guard, is second in career
scoring with 1,820 points and in 1971 was selected to the NAIA All-Time
National Tournament Team. A year later, he was inducted into the
NAIA Hall of Fame. Van Beek, a forward, finished his career with
1,207 points, at the time joining his two teammates as three of
only five Pacific Lutheran players to score more than 1,000 career
points. Twice he earned national all-tournament team honors.
of the Century
your chance to pick the Pacific Lutheran men's basketball
Team of the Century. Pick your top 10 players at Pacific
Lutheran from 1901 until 2001 and mail the list to: Nick
Dawson, Sports Information Director, Pacific Lutheran University,
Tacoma, WA 98447 or e-mail firstname.lastname@example.org.
starts its second century of men's basketball with a cumulative
917-669 record. Among the remarkable achievements of the first
century were 25 consecutive winning seasons from 1948-72 and six
consecutive Evergreen Conference championships from 1955-60.
began this, his last season, with a 236-236 overall record. Those
236 wins match him, exactly, with Marv Harshman for No. 2 on the
Pacific Lutheran career coaching victories list.