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Remembering the great Chuck Curtis

By Dave Girrard


Ask basketball coaching legend Marv Harshman ’42 who the two best players he ever coached are and he’ll say Chuck Curtis and Detlef Schrempf.

Schrempf, who played for Harshman at the University of Washington, was a two-time Pac-10 All-Conference first-team selection who played 17 years in the NBA.

Curtis ’59, who died at age 67 on Oct. 31, 2004, is widely considered to be the best basketball player ever at PLU. In his four-year career, from the 1955-56 to 1958-59 seasons, he led the team in scoring average in all but his senior season – he was second to Roger Iverson that year – and was the leading rebounder all four seasons.

“Physically he was the best athlete of the group we had, and we thought we had three very good players in Iverson ’59 , (Jim) Van Beek ’60 and Curtis,” Harshman said. “He had a great feel for the game. He understood what needed to be done in just about every situation. You can’t really teach that.”

The Gladiators, as the teams were known then, won 106 games and lost just 20 from ’55 to’59 – the best four-year win-loss record in the history of PLU men’s basketball. Curtis was twice named to the all-tournament team and an NAIA All-American, and received many other accolades. He was inducted into the PLU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1991 and the NAIA Hall of Fame in 1997.

Curtis is the all-time leading scorer at PLU with 2,173 points. He scored 30 or more points in a game 11 times and scored 40 or more points in a game three times. He set the school record of 44 points in a game against Whitworth on Feb. 12, 1958. Only two other PLU players – Brad Brevet (42 points in 1997) and Tom Whalen (41 points in 1964) have come close.

Curtis also established the career records for free throws made (687) and attempted (1,013). He holds the school records for free throws attempted in a game, 24, and season, 285. He is also the top rebounder in PLU history with 1,470. He shares the school record of 16 field goals made in a game.

After PLU, Curtis was drafted by the Detroit Pistons and was the last player cut. In 1960 he had a tryout with the St. Louis (now Atlanta) Hawks. Again he was the last player cut. He eventually landed with the American Basketball League, which was formed in March 1961. He started the 1961-62 season with the New York Tapers and finished the year with the Pittsburgh Rens. He continued with the Rens the next season until the league folded abruptly on Dec. 31, 1962.

After basketball, Curtis became a car salesman, first in Connecticut and later in the Parkland/Tacoma area. “He was an outstanding basketball player and a person, and he also became a very good salesperson,” former coach Gene Lundgaard ’51 said. “It went along with his athletic ability. He knew how to sell. He worked at it hard.”

Curtis also played football – he was the Gladiators’ leading receiver in 1958 – and learned to golf while at PLU. He became one of the top amateurs in the Tacoma area. At Canterwood Golf and Country Club in Gig Harbor, he had a 3 handicap on what is considered one of the toughest courses in the area. He won both the amateur and regular club championships at Canterwood, and claimed both the senior and regular club championships at Brookdale Golf Course. His dream was to join the Senior PGA Tour.

“He was a fun guy,” Iverson said. “He lived to the hilt. He worked hard and played hard. He had a great time in life.”

 


Volleyball team has banner season

The women’s volleyball team was predicted to win the 2004 Northwest Conference title in a pre-season coaches poll, and they did just that. After winning just two of their first eight matches, the Lutes put together a 17-match win streak – which is believed to be the longest winning streak in the program’s history. The Lutes won the conference title with a 15-1 record and advanced to the NCAA Division III West Regional Tournament.

PLU won its first match at regionals, defeating Mount Ida (Mass.) in three games, but ended the season with a four-game loss to La Verne. The Lutes ended the year with a 17-7 overall record.

The conference title was the first for the Lutes since the 1999 season. Head Coach Kevin Aoki was named the conference’s Coach of the Year for the second time in his PLU coaching tenure. Julie Locke ’05 was selected as the conference Player of the Year – the first time a PLU player has received that award.

Locke and Stephanie Turner ’06, were first-team all-conference selections. Freshman setter Gina DiMaggio ’08 was named to the second team, while freshman Megan Kosel ’08 and sophomore Kati McGinn ’07 were honorable mention picks. DiMaggio was named the America Volleyball Coaches Association West Region Freshman of the Year, and she and Turner were named to the all-region team. Both were then named AVCA Honorable Mention All-Americans. Aoki was also selected as the region’s Coach of the Year.

DiMaggio and Turner are the fourth and fifth PLU players to be named to the Honorable Mention All-America Team in the past two seasons.

 


Lute lineman a winner in Aztec Bowl

Pacific Lutheran offensive lineman Kent Bailey ’05 helped an NCAA Division III all-star team defeat the Mexican National Team, 23-3, in the 2004 Aztec Bowl on Dec. 11, 2004, in Cancun, Mexico.

Bailey was one of 42 Division III seniors from around the country selected for the game by the American Football Coaches Association.

Bailey, who is from Puyallup, Wash., was a first team All-Northwest Conference selection in 2004 for the Lutes. He anchored an offensive line that helped PLU average 437 yards in total offense per game this season.

Bailey is the fourth Lute chosen to play in the game in the past five years. The others were Chad Johnson ’00, Trevor Roberts ’01 and Kyle Brown ’02.

The Aztec Bowl is the traditional season-ending game for Mexico’s college football season. The game has been played 34 times since 1947 with the last eight contests featuring the United States-Mexico match-up. The United States has won seven of the eight meetings.

 

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© Scene 2005  •  Pacific Lutheran University  •  Spring 2005

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