Phil Pash’s simply sports: The stuff of which legends are made

Today’s topic is legendary basketball coaches … Dolph Stanley, Bill Knapton, Steve Goers, Frank Hood and Bob Suter.

Beloit College men’s basketball team will make TV broadcast history Thursday, Feb. 3, when its game at Midwest Conference rival Grinnell College will be telecast on ESPN2.

The contest between coach Cecil Youngblood’s Buccaneers and the Pioneers will be one of the first NCAA Division III contests, other than a championship game, to be telecast to a nationwide audience. Tip-off is scheduled for 8 p.m.

It’s fitting Beloit gets to share in something like this because the school has a basketball tradition spanning 96 years. Heading into this season, the Bucs had posted a 1,088-721 won-loss record. In their history, they have played NCAA powerhouses such as Arizona, DePaul, Florida State, Minnesota, Northwestern, Notre Dame, Seton Hall and Wisconsin.

Part of that history includes the late Dolph Stanley, who coached the Bucs, and players like Ron Bontemps, ’51, captain of the 1952 Gold Medal Olympic team; Johnny Orr, ’49, who later coached at the University of Michigan (national runner-up in 1976 NCAA tournament) and Iowa State; and Rockford’s John Erickson, ’49, former head coach at the University of Wisconsin.

Stanley, who later coached at Rockford Auburn, Rockford Boylan and Keith School of Rockford, gained national prominence by coaching Beloit to a 238-57 basketball record that included a record-setting Chicago Stadium victory over DePaul in 1951. Stanley became coach and athletic director at Beloit in 1945 and remained there for 12 years.

Some of the most memorable games came during the 1950-51 season when the Bucs crushed Cornell (Iowa) 141-53 to establish a Beloit College Field House scoring record and whipped Ray Meyer’s DePaul team 94-60 to break the Chicago Stadium scoring record.

The Bucs were so dominant, that in May 1951, after their sixth consecutive Midwest Conference title, Beloit was ousted from the league by a 6-3 vote of its members. No specific charges were leveled, other than the allegation that the college had not conformed to the spirit and principles of the conference.

But there was little doubt that Stanley’s high-scoring, fast-breaking basketball team that had thrilled spectators was the intended target. Although the action was a blow to the school, it was at least a tribute to Stanley’s prowess as a winning coach.

Over the years, Stanley took five different teams to the Illinois high school basketball championships—a record—appearing in nine quarterfinals. Those teams were Equality, Mt. Pulaski, Taylorville, Auburn and Boylan. In 1944, Stanley led Taylorville High School to a 45-0 record, his only state championship team and the first undefeated titlist in Illinois history. He finished with a 705-313 Illinois prep record at six different schools, Keith being the sixth.

Stanley was succeeded as Beloit head coach by Bill Knapton, who also made a giant contribution to Buc basketball history. At the time of his retirement in 1997, Knapton had the third-most wins (557) among active NCAA Division III coaches and fifth all-time.

He had 31 winning seasons, including one streak of 20 in a row, and his 344 Midwest Conference victories and 10 championships were the best of any coach in the league’s 81-year history.

In 1981, the Bucs posted a 24-2 record and were ranked the nation’s No. 1 Division III team for five weeks, with Knapton earning NCAA Midwest regional and conference Coach of the Year honors. He later served two years as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Captain of the basketball and baseball teams at UW-La Crosse, he is a member of its Athletic Hall of Fame. Before coming to Beloit, Knapton coached two years at Stevens Point (Wis.) High School, where his ’54 team won the state championship, and he spent three years as an assistant to Al McGuire at Marquette University.

Scott Leber of WTVO-TV-17 dug up a good story with his report that Rockford Boylan has two Hall of Fame coaches on its bench this season.

Longtime Boylan coach Steve Goers is being assisted by Frank Hood, former Rockford Christian Life and Chicago Taft coach. Goers ranks in the top 10 in all-time Illinois prep wins with more than 720. Hood, according to the IHSA Web site, has won 549 games as a head coach. That’s more than 1,270 wins between them.

Both men are in the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and a phone conversation last year brought them together, reported Leber.

“I called him up and said we had an opening,” remembers Goers. “Steve wanted me to help, so I said I’d be glad to,” recalls Hood.

Hood was available because he had gone into retirement after a falling-out at Christian Life two years ago, Leber reported.

“It was a situation where I knew he was in town retired. I knew it was time for him to get back coaching,” says Goers. “Plus I was really looking for someone in the state of Illinois that was older than me to be on my staff.”

Goers and Hood can enjoy a laugh. They’ve known each other for years since they’ve both served on various basketball boards and committees together.

“I enjoy Steve. We’re able to jaw back and forth and get along. We respect each other,” says Hood. “We have differences, but this is Steve’s (program). I’m here to help. I try to use my experience to bolster what we can do. I look for the potential we have, and I suggest things to him.”

“He’s brought a different type of view,” adds Goers. “I’m the tougher guy. Frank is more the grandfather figure. He is very good with the players.”

Bob Suter, 67, resigned Jan. 17 as Janesville Craig baseball coach after 37 years in that position at Janesville High and Craig.

But Suter, who retired in 2001 from a 39-year teaching career in the Janesville School District, said he has no plans of stepping down as boys’ head basketball coach at Craig, a position he has held for 19 seasons.

“I’ll keep that as long as they’ll have me or long as I’m still having fun,’’ said Suter, whose team won nine of its first 12 games. “I’ve been so immersed in that sport, I haven’t given the future of that any thought at all,’’ he told the Janesville Gazette.

Suter compiled a 468-215 baseball record, highlighted by 1983, 1984 and 1998 Division 1 state championships and second-place finishes in 1999 and 2001. He was inducted into the Wisconsin Baseball Coaches Association Hall of Fame in 1995, was named state Coach of the Year in 1984 and 1998, and the Midwest Sectional Coach of the Year in 2002.

Suter, a Janesville native and 1961 UW-La Crosse graduate, has been a head coach in at least one sport every year since 1965.

In 18 years (1968-85) as Craig’s head football coach, Suter had an 87-73-1 record and won four Big Eight championships, including a 9-0 season in 1974.

His almost two decades since succeeding Stan DuFrane as boys’ basketball coach have been a non-stop success story that has produced a 328-106 record, seven Big Eight championships and seven trips to the state tournament.

“This year, as we start getting letters about baseball and other things that go along with it, the passion and desire haven’t been there the way they were in the past,’’ Suter said. “And the kids deserve better than that.

“They always say you know when it’s time to go,’’ he said. “And this must be the time.”

And then there is Lou Henson, a basketball coaching legend at two major schools: Illinois and New Mexico. At age 73 and in failing health, the coach known for his “Lou Do’’ hairstyle retired Jan. 22—21 wins shy of becoming only the fifth coach in Division I history to win 800 games.

“I have always been a very demanding coach,” said the New Mexico State mentor. “I expect my players to give 100 percent or they come out of the game. I can expect no less of myself. So because I am physically unable to give my all, I am taking myself out of the game.’’

Henson leaves with a career record of 779-413, the sixth-winningest in Division I history. Among active coaches, only Bob Knight has more victories.


enson coached at New Mexico State, his alma mater, from 1966 to 1975, then spent 21 years at Illinois, before retiring in 1996. That lasted only a year, with Henson returning to New Mexico State just before the 1997-98 season.

In a 41-year career, Henson became the winningest coach at Illinois and New Mexico State. He led both schools to the Final Four—the Aggies in 1970 and the Illini in 1989.

He was diagnosed with non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma, a form of cancer, two years ago. The cancer is in remission, and he was able to coach last season, but in September, he was hospitalized with viral encephalitis, a disease that left his right leg paralyzed.

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