TRAVERSE CITY — Larry Glass has been out of college coaching for more than 45 years, but his name still resonates at Northwestern, where he was head men’s basketball coach for six years.
In fact, his name popped up in the news in late February when the Wildcats, who finished the 2014-15 season 15-17 overall and 6-12 in the Big Ten, won four consecutive league games — the most by a Northwestern team in 48 years when Glass was at the helm.
His name is sure to come up again as there’s still one mark that has not been tied or topped since Glass departed Northwestern near the end of the 1968-69 campaign. His 1967-68 squad went 8-6 in the Big Ten, the last time the Wildcats have been over .500 in league play.
Glass, who would later put Leland girls basketball on the map, started coaching collegiately at a time when the Midwest ruled. He was hired as an assistant at Northwestern in 1960 by his college coach at Miami of Ohio, Bill Rohr, who had followed football coach Ara Parseghian to Evanston, Ill. From 1960-63, Ohio State, Cincinnati and Loyola of Chicago combined to win four consecutive NCAA titles. Ohio State won it all in 1960, then finished runner-up to Cincinnati the next two years. Loyola denied Cincinnati a three-peat with an overtime win to claim the crown in 1963.
John Wooden and UCLA followed in 1964 with a run that would be unprecedented in college basketball — nine titles in 10 years.
Glass took over the Northwestern program in 1963 at the age of 28 when Rohr left to become athletic director at Ohio University. After a tough first two seasons — 15-30 overall — the Glass-led Wildcats posted four consecutive .500 or better seasons, one of the best runs in modern Northwestern history.
Glass, who recently turned 80, sat down with the Record-Eagle to reflect on his college coaching career.
Q. Are you surprised that your 1967-68 squad was the last to finish over .500 in the Big Ten?
A. Every once and awhile somebody on a microphone (during a Wildcat game) will say something about it. That (record) wasn’t surprising because we had some good teams, teams that would have been in the NCAA tournament under today’s rules. They just took the Big Ten champ then. When they had such a to-do about (Michigan’s) Fab Five, the fact is, the Fab Five would have never gone to the NCAA tournament with the rules we played under.
Q. What were your most memorable wins?
A. One year we went out to Kansas, and Kansas was right up near the top (of the rankings). I remember they won the tip, went down and scored, and then blocked our first shot. I thought, ‘Oh, boy, this could be a long night.’ Well, we upset them and became the first Big Ten basketball team to win at Kansas.
We also scheduled Louisville and they had an All-American center named Wes Unseld. Their next game was at the University of Dayton (1967 NCAA finalist) and I think they were looking past us. We played them at Chicago Stadium. Jim Sarno, remember him? He was from Covert. He was our starting center and he was hurt, couldn’t play. Our second string center was Jerry Sutton and I remember telling Jerry ‘when a shot goes up you are not to turn away from Unseld and seal him out, you are to faceguard him. It’s likely there will be a time when the ball will come off the board and hit you in the head and embarrass you, but do it.’ One time he forgot and turned and sealed him out. The next thing he saw was Unseld laying the ball back in. That was the last time he turned. He faceguarded him the whole game and we upset them. That was newsworthy. That was a good win.
People around the country knew (of our losing history) so we got some Class A invites to Christmas tournaments - in California, at Madison Square Garden in New York and in Florida, the Gator Bowl tournament. We beat Lou Carnesecca (St. Johns) at Madison Square Garden and Bob Cousy (Boston College) in the Gator Bowl.
Q. Who were the best players you saw during that era?
A. (Kareem Abdul) Jabbar was one. He was everything everybody said he was. He was legit.
(Ohio State’s) Jerry Lucas never got the credit he deserved, even when he went to the NBA and was averaging 20 points a game. He never got the accolades some of the other players received.
Oscar Robertson, I’m saving for last. Oscar went to Cincinnati when I was the freshman basketball coach at Miami of Ohio. He taught us how to play. He was the best. Every time I hear people talk about triple-doubles I think of Oscar Robertson because he averaged a triple-double over the course of the year. He was on a planet by himself.
Q. Did you try to recruit Kareem (then Lew Alcindor) out of Powers Memorial in New York?
A. Yes. He was bright. He could get into any place he wanted. I think he wanted to go where the (program) was already established as opposed to ‘I’m going there to put them on the map.’ There was another player in his class at UCLA, a guard from Kansas Lucius Allen, that we had a shot at. We had a Northwestern alumnus in that area who had somewhat of an in with Lucius Allen’s family. But when Alcindor went to UCLA, Allen went out west as well.
We had a shot at Bill Bradley, too. We missed him by that much (holding his fingers a couple inches apart). When he left Northwestern (on his visit) we thought we might get him. But we didn’t. Had we gotten him, Bill Rohr would have never left Northwestern when he did.
We were close on Dan Issel as well. His parents wanted him to go to Northwestern. He went to Kentucky and Kentucky wasn’t even in the picture in the beginning. We thought it was a Northwestern-Wisconsin battle.
Q. Where were you when Rohr took the AD job at Ohio?
A. I was recruiting. I was sitting there with six recruits that we had a shot at, all within the confines of northern Illinois. We got five of them, and that was (future star player and Northwestern coach) Rich Falk’s class.
Q. Any regrets about resigning after six seasons?
A. Not a one.
Contact former Record-Eagle sports editor Dennis Chase at email@example.com.