A century on the court

One hundred years of Falcon Men’s Basketball

Excerpted from a series by Kevin Davis

The 2015-16 season marks the 100th year of intercollegiate men’s basketball in Bowling Green. As we continue to celebrate this landmark during the second half of conference play, we take this opportunity to remember the outstanding coaches, players and fans who have made Falcon Basketball great through the years. 

The following is excerpted from a series of articles that the Department of Athletics published earlier in the season. Links to the unabridged articles — organized by decade — are included for those who are interested in greater detail.

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In the Beginning – 1915-25

Sponsoring a men's basketball team for the first time in 1915-16, Bowling Green Normal College played its first game on Jan. 8, 1916, versus what is now Eastern Michigan University. The Normals, or Teachers — the Falcons' nickname until 1927 — lost the game 33-15. However, BGSU, who was coached by F.G. Beyerman and led by team captain Charles Branigan, would go on to win its first home game five days later on Jan. 13 with a 26-10 win over Defiance. The Normals or Teachers went on to go 3-8 overall in that inaugural season.

Over the first decade of play, the team posted an overall record of 50-74 under five head coaches in F.G. Beyerman (1915-21), Earl Krieger (1921-22), Allen Snyder (1922-23), R.B. McCandless (1923-24) and Warren Steller (1924-25).

The Normals recorded a program-high nine wins twice over the first decade of men's basketball, in both 1922-23 and 1924-25.

Hall of Famers

BGSU Hall of Famers from this era include Claitus Stough and Carl Bachman, who played from 1922-25. Bachman earned 13 varsity letters across five sports. 

Centennial Season Look Back: In the Beginning – 1915-25

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Coach Paul Landis

Landis Leads Falcons – 1925-35

The second decade of men's basketball saw one big change during the 10-year period, as the Normals or Teachers changed their nickname to the Falcons in 1927. Ivan Lake (Class of 1923) suggested the nickname after reading an article on falconry. Lake, the managing editor and sports editor of the Sentinel-Tribune in Bowling Green at the time, proposed the name change because it fit headline space and because falcons were "the most powerful bird for their size and often attacked birds two or three times their size."

The period from 1925-35 on the court was one of consistency as Paul Landis took over the program in the 1925-26 season. He remained at the helm of the program for the next 17 years. BGSU registered six winning seasons from 1925-35 and tallied double digit wins four times, including a program-high 12 wins in 1926-27.

Hall of Famers

The era also saw a number of future BGSU Hall of Famers take the court in Howard Filiere, John Hartman, Fred Marsh, Hayden Olds, Doyt Perry and Frankin Skibbie. Coach Landis wrapped up his time on the sidelines in 1941-42 and was inducted into the BGSU Hall of Fame in 1966.

Centennial Season Look Back: Landis Leads Falcons – 1925-35

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Madison Square Garden

An Era of Program Firsts – 1935-45

The 1935-45 decade of BGSU men's basketball was an era of firsts for the Falcons. BGSU made its first national postseason appearance in the National Invitation Tournament (NIT) in 1943-44 and then again in 1944-45, while the Falcons' also had their first ever All-American in Wyndol Gray in 1944-45. Gray was inducted into the BGSU Hall of Fame in 1964.

The men's basketball program also had a transition on the sidelines with two of the winningest coaches in BGSU history, as Landis gave way to Harold Anderson in 1942-43. Anderson posted a record of 18-5 over his first season at the helm.

BGSU also posted its first-ever 20-plus-win season with back-to-back 20-win years in 1943-44 and 1944-45. The Falcons went 22-4 overall in 1943-44 and then topped that with a program-high 24 wins (24-4) in 1944-45.

Hall of Famers from the Era

A large number of Falcons from this time are members of the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame, headlined by Gray who was inducted in 1964, and Coach Landis and Coach Anderson who were both inducted in 1966. Also members of the Hall of Fame from this era were: Don Otten, James Inman, Harold Bishop, Dewey Johnson, Wayne Rudy, Adolph “Duff” Madaras, and Charles Buckenmeyer.

Centennial Season Look Back: An Era of Program Firsts – 1935-45

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Lou Drago

Falcon Legends are Born 1945-1955

A number of Falcon legends would be born in BGSU's fourth decade of men's basketball history from 1945-55 in Don Otten, Mac Otten, Charles Share, James Gerber, Al Bianchi and Stanley Weber.

A 1945-46 Converse Second Team All-American, Don Otten became the program’s first 1,000-point scorer, and the Falcon All-American trend continued when his brother, Mac, was named a Helms Foundation Second-Team All-American in 1948-49. Share earned All-American Third-Team status, while Gerber, a 1953-53 Converse Honorable Mention All-American, totaled 1,495 career points as a Falcon, which still ranks 12th all-time in program history. 

A 1953-54 INS, UPI and Colliers First Team All-American, Bianchi averaged 19.1 points per game over just three years at BGSU, which ranks seventh all-time in BGSU history.

Falcons Join the Mid-American Conference

BGSU joined the Mid-American Conference (MAC) in 1953-54, a season in which the Falcons went 10-3 in league play to finish second overall.

Hall of Famers from the Era

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Al Bianchi

Perhaps the largest number of BGSU Hall of Famers came from the 1945-55 era, with a total of 13 Falcon men’s basketball players inducted from this time period.

Anderson, who coached the Falcons for 21 years from 1942-63, was inducted into the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 1966, after finishing his career as the all-time wins leader in BGSU history with a record of 362-185 overall.

Other men’s basketball inductees from this era include 

  • Alfred "Al" Bianchi
  • Wayne Bordner 
  • Vernon Dunham 
  • James Gerber 
  • James Knierim 
  • Leo Kubiak 
  • James Ladd 
  • Robert Long 
  • Mac Otten 
  • John Payak 
  • Charles "Chuck" Share 
  • Joseph Siegferth 

Centennial Season Look Back: Falcon Legends are Born – 1945-55

Championships and the NCAA Tournament – 1955-65

Coach Harold Anderson with Nate Thurmond
Coach Harold Anderson with Nate Thurmond

MAC Championships & Tournament Play

It took little time for the Falcons to make an impact in the MAC, as BGSU won three conference championships within its first 10 years in the league. After joining in 1953-54, the Falcons went on to win the MAC Championship in 1958-59, 1961-62 and 1962-63.

The Falcons continued their trend of playing in the postseason with a total of three trips to the NCAA Championship Tournament in 1958-59, 1961-62 and 1962-63, after playing in the NIT six times from 1943-1954.

Falcon All-Americans

With all of BGSU's success from 1955-65, a trio of players was named All-Americans in Jim Darrow, Nate Thurmond and Howard Komives. 

Darrow was recognized as an AP and UPI First-Team All-American in 1960. Thurmond received All-American recognition in 1963 in which he was named to the Sporting News and UPI First-Team and the All-American Second-Team. Komives was named as an API and UPI Third-Team All-American in 1964.

Passing of the Whistle

Coach Anderson transitioned from the sidelines to administration after the 1962-63 season, as he continued to serve as the athletic director. Anderson ended his 21-year coaching career at BGSU with an overall 362-185 record from 1942-63. His teams won three MAC Championships over his final five seasons on the sidelines, including back-to-back conference championships in his final two years in 1961-62 and 1962-63. Anderson had three teams go to the NCAA Tournament and led six different squads to the NIT Tournament during his time as the Falcons' head coach. His 1944-45 team finished second in the NIT, while his 1948-49 team finished third. 

Hall of Famers from the Era

Headlining the Hall of Famers during this time was the duo of Anderson and Thurmond, who were also both elected into the National Basketball Hall of Fame in July, 1985.

Thurmond was an All-American center on two MAC Championship basketball teams at Bowling Green, and went on to be named one of the top 50 players in NBA history.

Other men’s basketball inductees from this era include: 

  • James Darrow
  • Bob Dwors 
  • Crystal Ellis 
  • Jack Hecker 
  • Howard Komives 
  • Jim McDonald 

Centennial Season Look Back: MAC Championships & the NCAA Tournament – 1955-65

Walt-Piatkowski
Walt Piatkowski

A Decade of Future Draft Picks- 1965-75

Bowling Green picked up its fourth MAC title in 1967-78 and made the postseason twice from 1965-75, including the NCAA National Championship Tournament in 1968. BGSU also competed in the National Commissioners Invitational Tournament (NCIT) in 1975.

Led by Walt Piatkowski's All-American honors in 1967-68, a handful of Falcons were recognized nationally during this period. Piatkowski was recognized as a Converse Honorable Mention All-American in 1967-68. 

All-MAC Accolades 

Headlined by BGSU's first-ever MAC Player of the Year in Jim Penix in 1969-70, a number of Falcons received MAC honors throughout the 1965-75 era, with Piatkowski and Cornelius Cash receiving all-conference recognition three times apiece. 

Falcons Coaching Carousel

After Anderson's 21-year run as the leader of the BGSU men's basketball program ended with his retirement in 1962-63, the 1965-75 decade of Falcons' basketball saw four different coaches in Warren Scholler, Bill Fitch, Bob Conibear and Pat Haley.

Hall of Famers from the Era

BGSU had four future BGSU Athletics Hall of Famers at BGSU during 1965-75 in Piatkowski, Cash, Rich Walker, and most recently, Jim Lessig.

Centennial Season Look Back: – A Decade of Future Draft Picks- 1965-75

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David Greer

Falcons Give the Reins to Weinert – 1975-85

With a total of three coaches from 1963-1971 after the retirement of Anderson, the decade of BGSU men's basketball from 1975-85 saw just two head coaches lead the program with Haley passing the torch on to John Weinert.

Weinert was named the MAC Coach of the Year in 1978 and was also named the Basketball Times Coach of the Year in 1980. He retired from BGSU and coaching altogether following the conclusion of the 1985-86 season.

Postseason Success

The Bowling Green State University men's basketball team picked up their fifth and sixth MAC Championship titles during the 1975-85 decade, earning the conference crown in both 1980-81 and 1982-83. The Falcons also returned to the NIT twice during this period, earning bids to the national postseason event in both 1980 and 1983.

National Honors

Led by David Jenkins’ Associate Press (AP) All-American Honorable Mention honors in 1983-84, a trio of Falcons were recognized nationally during the 1975-85 era of BGSU men's' basketball.

David Greer – Hall of Famer

David Greer is the lone Falcon from 1975-85 who has been selected into the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame, inducted as part of the Class of 1999.

Centennial Season Look Back: Falcons Give the Reins to Weinert – 1975-85

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Coach Jim Larrañaga

The Era of Coach Larrañaga - 1985-95

Weinert retired to end his career at BGSU with an overall record of 146-133 over 10 seasons in Bowling Green. Then, new head coach Jim Larrañaga was hired and made an immediate turnaround in his first season, leading the Falcons to a 15-14 overall record in 1986-87. Coach Larrañaga would lead the program for a total of 11 years, posting an overall record of 170-144 from 1986-97. His 170 wins at BGSU are second only to Anderson, who recorded 362 wins over 21 seasons at BGSU from 1942-63.

Postseason Play

BGSU twice played in the NIT from 1985-95, making an appearance in the national postseason event in back-to-back years in 1990 and 1991.

All-MAC Accolades

Headlined by two Falcons earning MAC Freshman of the Year recognition in Shane Kline-Ruminski in 1992 and Antonio Daniels in 1994, a total of 20 Falcons received All-MAC accolades during this decade, while Steve Martenet and Jay Larrañaga earned Academic All-MAC honors. Current men’s basketball head coach Michael Huger was a two-time All-MAC selection, named to the second-team in 1991-92 and then earning a spot on the first-team in 1992-93. 

Falcon Hall of Famers

A total of two Falcons that played for BGSU from 1985-95 have been inducted into the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame in Kline-Ruminski and Daniels.

Centennial Season Look Back: – The Era of Coach Larrañaga - 1985-95

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Antonio Daniels

Falcons Carry on Legacy - 1995-2005

From Larrañaga to Dakich

With an overall record of 170-144, eight winning seasons, including the last four at BGSU, and three postseason tournament appearances in the National Invitation Tournament in 1990, 1991 and 1997, Larrañaga moved on to George Mason after being named the MAC Coach of the Year in 1997, in which the Falcons went 22-10 overall and won the MAC Championship in 1996-97.

Dan Dakich, a former player and assistant coach under Bobby Knight at Indiana University from 1981-97, took over the reins in 1997-98. Under Dakich the Falcons made NIT appearances in 2000 and 2002, and his 156 career wins at Bowling Green are tied for the third most all-time for a head coach at BGSU with Landis who coached 17 seasons from 1925-42. 

Postseason Success

The Falcons posted MAC Championships number seven and eight over the period of 1995-2005, with regular season championship titles in 1996-97 and 1999-2000. Bowling Green made a total of three NIT appearances over the 10-year span, playing in the national postseason tournament in 1996-97, 1999-2000 and 2001-02.

Two All-Americans and Five NABC All-District Honorees

Daniels was recognized as an AP Honorable Mention All-American in 1996-97, the first Falcon to receive the honor since David Jenkins in 1983-84. That season, Daniels, who was named the MAC Player of the Year, led the Falcons to a MAC Championship and an appearance in the NIT. Five years later, Keith McLeod became the Falcons' 13th All-American when he was named an AP Honorable Mention All-American in 2001-02. McLeod was also named the MAC Player of the Year that same season.

All-MAC Accolades

A total of 14 Falcons received All-MAC accolades during the decade, headlined by three MAC Player of the Year honorees in Daniels in 1997, Anthony Stacey in 2000, and McLeod in 2002. Others included a MAC Defensive Player of the Year in DeMar Moore in 1997, a MAC Freshman of the Year in Stacey in 1996 and a MAC Coach of the Year in Larrañaga in 1997. 

Falcon Hall of Famers

Two Falcons that played for BGSU from 1995-2005 have been inducted into the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame in Daniels and Stacey.

Daniels was inducted in to the BGSU Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007. Stacey, a native of Elyria, Ohio, is the most prolific scorer in BGSU men's basketball history. Inducted in the BGSU Hall of Fame in 1999, he was named an assistant men's basketball coach at BGSU in May 2015 under head coach Michael Huger.

Centennial Season Look Back: Falcons Carry on Legacy - 1995-2005

The Last 10 Years – 2005-15

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Richaun Holmes

From Anderson to the Stroh

After nearly five full decades of playing in Anderson Arena from 1960-2011, Bowling Green State University opened up the Stroh Center in September 2011. The Stroh is a state-of-the-art venue for athletic events, concerts, student activities, lectures, commencement ceremonies, and campus and community events at Bowling Green State University.

The Stroh Center also serves as the home for the Falcon men's and women's basketball and volleyball programs. The facility was named for Kermit F. and Mary Lu Stroh of Wapakoneta, Ohio, who donated $8 million. 

Thank you Bill!

In January 2011, Bill Frack gave a $10 million endowment earmarked for the men's basketball program. At the time, it was the largest one-time gift ever given to a Mid-American Conference basketball program and is still to this day.

Postseason Success

The Falcons picked up their ninth MAC Championship in 2008-09 under head coach Louis Orr. A trio of teams went on to play in the postseason with the 2008-09 team playing in the NIT and both the 2011-12 and the 2014-15 team advancing to play in the CollegeInsider.com Tournament (CIT).

All-MAC Accolades 

BGSU had a total of 16 All-MAC honorees from 2005-15, as well as a MAC Coach of the Year and a MAC Defensive Player of the Year. Head coach Louis Orr became the third BGSU coach to be named the MAC Coach of the Year in 2008-09.

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Coaches Michael Huger and Anthony Stacey with Matt Fox

Just last season, in 2014-15, Richaun Holmes was tabbed the MAC Defensive Player of the Year, becoming only the second Falcon ever to receive this honor — joining DeMar Moore who won the award in 1996-97. 

Coaches Over the Last Decade

Dakich guided the Falcons into their most recent decade of play, as the former Hoosier coached the Falcons in both 2005-06 and 2006-07. Orr took over the reins in 2007-08 and made an immediate impact by guiding the Falcons to a MAC Championship in 2008-09. Orr coached for seven seasons at BGSU from 2007-14. BGSU recorded a record of 21-12 in 2014-15 under head coach Chris Jans and went on to play in the CIT postseason tournament, recording the program's first national postseason tournament win since 1975. A standout player for the Falcons from 1989-93, Michael Huger was named the 17th head men’s basketball coach on April 17, 2015.

Centennial Season Look Back: The Last 10 Years – 2005-15