Editor’s Note — John Grindrod takes an in-depth look at the 1964-65 Shawnee Indians remarkable season. in part 1 of a two-part story. Part II will appear in Monday’s paper.
In the earliest days of Shawnee boys basketball, Clarence Lappin forged a record of 57-39 over five years, good enough to, one day, prompt school officials to name a gym after him, and, 53 years ago, it was on the court named for Lappin that one of Ohio’s biggest basketball stories unfolded.
As all stories of high school sports must, the tale begins with a head coach, this one from the Toledo area, named Gary Duhaime.
Recalls Duhaime, 82, and now a retired high school English teacher and coach living in Naples, Florida, “I came to Shawnee before the 1964-65 school year after serving as co-head coach with Bob Rupert at Toledo Libbey. My offense was predicated on a controlled fast break where players had a specifically spaced area where I wanted them to be. That was the up-tempo style of ball I favored.”
Duhaime’s predecessor Jack Freitas, although considered a successful coach by most, as evidenced by his 79-53 record over seven seasons, was not retained. The embittered Freitas coached a much more controlled half-court offense, so much so, that returning senior guard Rick Snider, now an Atlanta-area retired medical clinical manager before retiring a second time after fourteen years of middle-school teaching and coaching, remembers a game the previous season when the Indians lost to Sidney 22-20 when the Yellow Jackets held the ball and Indians player were told not to come out and force the action.
“We all really wanted to run the way we did back in the eighth and ninth grade when my class was undefeated and WBL tournament champs both seasons. But, our sophomore and junior years, we were coached to play half-court at a much slower pace.”
Snider continues, “So, at the first basketball meeting when Coach Duhaime arrived during the summer and said, ‘Gentlemen, we are going to run and score points,’ that really excited all of us.”
As for another of the incoming seniors, Jeff Miller, now living in Coral Springs, Florida, after retiring from a career in the coal industry, owning and operating mines in West Virginia and Kentucky, his expectations changed during the pre-season under their new head coach.
“I think, given our 16-4 record the previous year, my teammates and I initially saw ourselves as having a chance to be one of Lima’s best teams. However, after Coach Duhaime’s arrival, he made it clear he aspired to be one of the best teams in the whole state. He was so powerfully positive, I think, he made all of us, the seniors, and the underclassmen, believe that, which elevated our level of expectation.”
Even before the opening game against Tiffin Columbian, success seemed imminent despite the fact that Shawnee would be competing in the state’s large-school division, Class AA, in a time when there were only two divisions, Class A for smaller schools and Class AA.
Recalls Snider, “I think we really began to believe we could be elite when we scrimmaged Toledo Macomber, thought to be the best Toledo city team, and beat them by twenty even without one of our starters. We also played toe-to-toe with state powers Mansfield St. Peter’s and Canton McKinley.”
As for Duhaime, he certainly recognized the potential of his team, especially his very talented and athletic senior class. In addition, his unit would be easily the tallest team in the Western Buckeye League (WBL).
The front line averaged 6’6” with 6’8” Denton Sullivan in the pivot and a pair of 6’5” wings in Miller, who Duhaime would accord the epithet “Mr. Inside,” and Adrian Zuber, better known as “Zip,” the lone junior in the senior-dominated starting lineup.
The back court would feature two terrific ball handlers in Snider, Duhaime’s “Mr. Outside,” and the very athletic Ron Core, as well as a bench so strong that Snider recalls, “While it’s rarely mentioned, I’ve always felt a major factor in our team’s success that year was every night in practice we went against the second-best team in the WBL.”
That bench heading into the Tiffin opener included the likes of Bruce Burden, who had to wait his turn to start until the next year when, as a senior, he would average 20-plus points a game and be named second-team All-State; Pup Cleaves, a solid three-sport athlete; Greg Monroe, who provided long-range shooting and quick bursts of energy from his guard position; as well as the underclassmen Mike Garver, Ron Glass, Tom Trump and Tom Stahl.
Recalls Burden, “The new coach and new offense were just a thrill to be a part of.”
With what Duhaime saw in the pre-season, he obviously was ready, and it would be an understatement to say that he was optimistic. While few coaches would ever intimate that their teams would go undefeated before the season-opening jump ball, the coach who believed that his optimism infused self-assurance into his players, told area sportswriters, “Sure I’m optimistic, but I have reason to be. Until we get beat, we’ll be trying to go all the way.”
Despite Shawnee’s sluggish first-half start in the season’s lid-lifter, Tiffin Columbian could do little to slow the Indians down after Duhaime and assistant coach Les Myers made the halftime adjustment of switching to a 1-3-1 offensive set to unclog the middle for Denton Sullivan and also free up Snider for perimeter jumpers. The 51 second half points in the inaugural 73-54 win proved a harbinger of the offensive fire power that was to come so very often.
Game 2 saw Shawnee roll WBL foe Defiance, 105-65. Defiance head coach and Jerry Lucas’s backup on the 1960 Ohio State NCAA championship team, Howie Norse, said of Miller after his 33-point effort on 14 of 22 shooting from the field, “Any college that gets him will be getting an outstanding player, really, one of Ohio’s best.”
Wins continued to mount, each easily by double digits and each featuring Duhaime’s controlled fast break as the Indians lit up the scoreboard again and again- 82 against Toledo Scott, 94 against Lima Senior, 90 against Wapak, and 94 against Kenton.
By Game 15 in early February, Shawnee was rolling at 14-0 and ranked fourth in the state behind only Urbana, Newark and Canton McKinley. However, this would be a test, or so said the media, as the opponent, Piqua Central, also was undefeated and state-ranked.
Recalls Rick Snider, “The game was in such high demand that it was moved from the Piqua gym to Hobart Arena in Troy. It was the largest crowd we’d ever played before.”
By halftime, Shawnee had rung up 50, and followed that with “only” 40 more in the second half, cruising to a 90-74 win behind a career-high 27 by Sullivan. Miller’s 27 matched that, and Snider added 21 more. As for defensive stars, “Lima News” writer Gary Snyder credited Miller and, especially the All-WBL football player Ron Core for his tenacity. When the next AP and UPI poll came out the following week, the team Duhaime re-dubbed Lima Shawnee, not Fort Shawnee, achieved the number-one ranking he craved.
Despite the highest offensive output of the season at Bellefontaine in the next game in a 111-72 pasting, Rick Snider remembers halftime as much as the actual game.
“Even though we scored 39 by halftime, Coach Duhaime called it ‘a ragged 39’ and totally eviscerated us for our cockiness he sensed after that number-one ranking came out. That really lit a fire under us.”
That fire wasn’t extinguished until the last of an astounding 72 second half points were netted. Greg Monroe’s baker’s dozen contributed significantly in the 40-point third stanza.
A slump on the road against Celina before a rabid home crowd that sportswriter Snyder likened to a cage of unfed lions almost cost the Indians. They trailed at halftime for the first time all season and held only a slim 52-46 lead heading to the fourth. It took most of Rick Snider’s career-high 32 points to leave Mercer County a 74-63 winner.
While an 11-point league road win would have pleased most coaches, Duhaime, he of such high expectations, spoke as if he were the losing coach, telling the media after, “We were looking past them. They were ready, and we weren’t.”
In a much-anticipated final regular-season contest against a good Lima Central Catholic team paced by future Division I collegiate athletes, Dan Sadlier (University of Dayton in basketball) and Jim Winegardner (Notre Dame in football), Mr. Inside, Miller, tallied 29, and Mr. Outside, Snider, 20, and the Indians finished the regular season a 96-68 winner.
With an 84.1 scoring average, Coach Gary Duhaime’s young guns reloaded as they were about trek down the tournament trail.