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[Pacific Lutheran Scene]

Leadership and Service

A century of hoops history at PLU

by Nick Dawson

November 16, 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.

According to 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"

The Early Years
The 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.

Polly Langlow '28
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.

The advent 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 team.

Harshman and Lundgaard
The 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.

"Harsh" 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 Lundgaard.

The "Big Three"
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.

Team of the Century
Here's 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 dawsonen@plu.edu.

PLU 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.

Bruce Haroldson 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.

Pacific Lutheran University Scene
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