Editor’s Note — This is Part II of a two-part series of John Grindrod taking an in-depth look at the 1964-65 Shawnee basketball team.
If there ever was a target on a team’s collective back, it was the 1964-65 Shawnee Indians heading into post-season play. Led by 30-year-old head coach Gary Duhaime, who arrived the previous summer from Toledo and found the shelves stocked with a plethora of players with preternatural basketball skills, the Indians had won eighteen straight games, all by double digits, while averaging 84 points a game.
Not only did Duhaime demand the most from his players but also from himself. When he wasn’t in his English classroom teaching his students about the nuances of Hemingway’s dialogue, he was grading game film, making out detailed practice plans, and writing up game accounts to send to major markets to increase exposure and enhance state rankings.
Following an 82-55 walkover in the first game of the Sectional against Kenton, Shawnee faced Ottawa-Glandorf and their terrific centerpiece, Tom Heckman, the future Dayton Flyer. Despite Heckman’s 36, the Indians prevailed, 78-55, setting up a Sectional Final against the Bryan Golden Bears.
Although three key Tribesmen- Rick Snider, Ron Core and Adrian Zuber- fouled out, Jeff Miller’s masterpiece, a 30-point, 15-rebound performance, fueled a 77-65 win.
As for Miller’s performance, Duhaime, now a Naples, Florida, resident, wasn’t surprised as he recalls Miller’s overall game.
“He wasn’t named Ohio’s Player of the Year for any counterfeit reasons. He truly was a special ballplayer. You just don’t get many like that in your career. I remember one day in practice late in the season when we were doing some half-court scrimmaging, and I said to my assistant, Les Myers, ‘It just occurred to me that we haven’t had to make one correction on Jeff the entire year.’ So, I told Les I was going to try to get him. During a sequence, I blew the whistle and yelled, ‘Come on, Jeff! You’ve got to check your man deeper! Get up on him!’ Jeff just looked over at me and smiled that certain way. He knew what I was doing.”
At Anderson Arena on the campus of Bowling Green, the Indians easily dispatched Marion Harding, 68-48, in the District Semifinal, despite some bad news on the injury front. First-team All-State guard Rick Snider suffered a severe ankle injury that would limit him going forward.
Recalls Snider, “Thank goodness for Jeff [Miller]. Denton [Sullivan] and Zip [Zuber], who really elevated their games.”
Despite Snider’s injury, Shawnee vanquished Mansfield St. Peter’s, 85-71, to send the Indians on to the Regional.
The first game saw the Indians roll perennial state power Cleveland East Tech, beating the Scarabs, 96-78. It was a game that Snider remembers both for how his teammates picked him up as he played on that gimpy ankle and also for one incident that still makes him laugh some fifty-plus years later.
“I was playing pretty gingerly, so I’m not even sure I should have been the target, but here’s what happened. Coming out of a time out, I was heading back out onto a floor just as the East Tech cheerleaders were done with their cheer and leaving the floor. As one came by me, she drove an elbow right into my chest. Who knew basketball could be such a physical sport even before the ball was in play?”
In the finals, the superb Miller continued to amaze, scoring 43 points on 20 of 27 shooting from all over the court, while leading Shawnee to a 103-85 win over Lorain Admiral King. Shawnee’s 103 and Miller’s 43 were both Anderson Arena records for any high school team to have played there, and the Shawnee two-game total of 199 points was a state record for a regional.
And so it was on to Columbus’s St. John Arena as “Lima News” headlines screamed, “Indians favored to win it all.”
However, there was a lesson to be learned, as is so often the case in sporting contests, and in this case, for Jeff Miller, Rick Snider, Denton Sullivan, Zip Zuber, Ron Core, Greg Monroe, Bruce Burden, Pup Cleaves, Mike Garver, Ron Glass, Tom Trump and Tom Stahl, the lesson was that mamma was certainly right when she said there would be days like this.
And, that day was the state semifinal contest against Cincinnati St. Xavier, and the “like-this” part was Shawnee’s picking the worst possible moment to have its worst shooting night. The result was a 71-59 loss, their lowest offensive output of the season. Ohio’s Player of the Year, Miller, scored half as many as the 30 points per contest he’d scored in the brilliant seven-game tournament stretch leading up, and a St. X Bomber named Bob Arnzen, a cousin of the Delphos St. John’s Hall of Fame basketball coach of the same name, canned 22.
“Lima News sports editor, Chuck Dell, felt the key to the game was the Duhaime’s vaunted controlled fast break was stopped, forcing the Indians to play at a much slower pace than they were accustomed. The Indians never got closer than nine points in the second half and returned to Lima at 25-1.
From his home outside Atlanta, Snider still bristles at the loss.
“I think we’d have beaten that team nine out of ten times if we played, but, I guess, the reality is we didn’t when it mattered.”
For key off-the-bench player Bruce Burden, who would headline an outstanding 24-1 Shawnee squad the following season, one that ended one game shy of a return to St. John Arena when Shawnee lost to Toledo Libby, since his mid-December retirement from Burden Construction, he’s had more time to think about his mates’ and his own Springsteen version of “Glory Days.”
Says Burden, “It was a very sad night when we lost, a lot of tears and hugs, but, as time evolved, I’ve come to put that year and the next in perspective. Not bad for two years, 49-2, right?”
From his home in Coral Springs, Florida, recalls Miller, who would go on to a career at Ohio State, playing for another coach, like Duhaime, he revered, Fred Taylor, “Even though we came up a bit short, I would like to think we brought a lot of overdue respect not only to Shawnee but to all the schools in the Lima area.”
Recalls Snider, “It was pretty impressive that we had six seniors that received Division I athletic scholarships. Jeff went on to play basketball at Ohio State, and I received a basketball and golf scholarship at Purdue. Ron Core and Pup Cleaves accepted football scholarships at Miami of Ohio. Denton [Sullivan] went to play basketball at Nebraska, and Greg Monroe got a golf scholarship to Bowling Green. I don’t think that happens very often.”
Burden recalls his head coach Duhaime and sees him clearly now in the rearview mirror as someone special.
“When you’re young I don’t think you truly realize how special a coach really is. Coach Duhaime was so ahead of his time. He wrote press releases after every game, he organized team dinners, and he instituted curfews. There were weekly calls to our parents to involve them in the program. He had us all wearing sport coats and ties on game days and even organized team haircuts at Elmview Barber Shop, all to build camaraderie and instill esprit de corps.”
Duhaime was also a firm believer in slogans, and, many a former player can perhaps close their eyes and strain to hear him say, “You’ve got to believe” and “When you’re not out practicing, someone else is, and when you meet him, he will win” and “Do what I say exactly how I say it, and we will win.”
While Duhaime admits the last of those slogans may have sounded egotistical, he also had a mindset he wanted to develop.
“I wanted my players to have complete confidence in me, and, by doing so, I felt they’d develop complete confidence in themselves.”
Duhaime stayed at Shawnee five years and compiled a gaudy record of 94-18 before returning to his native Toledo area to coach just across the Ohio-Michigan line at Temperance Bedford High School, where he also coached some outstanding teams and sent many more players on to college ball, using the same controlled fast break he brought to Shawnee.
Over time, he also developed friendships, often when working basketball camps, with many eminently successful coaches, such as Bobby Nichols, whose 377 wins at University of Toledo is a Mid-American Conference record; Bob Rupert, who used a very successful run at Canton McKinley to get the University of Akron head job; and University of Dayton’s Don Donaher, who amassed 437 Flyer wins.
And, so it was back in the golden age of Shawnee basketball, especially in that inaugural season of a new coach, one with an appetite for up-tempo and a yearning to establish a standard of excellence through meticulous attention to every aspect of his program.
John Grindrod is a regular columnist and feature writer for The Lima News, a freelance writer and editor and author of two books. He can be reached at email@example.com.