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Stanford wins the Big One - 1942
By Joe Gergen
For Sporting News

Of all the players and teams for whom the NCAA Tournament was realized too late, none had greater cause for disappointment than Hank Luisetti and Stanford.

It was Luisetti, a Stanford All-American, who revolutionized the game in December 1936 when he introduced his running one-handed shot to the East Coast in a game against Long Island University at Madison Square Garden.

Although Stanford was selected the best team in the country (by the Helms Athletic Foundation, among others), the Luisetti-era Indians never had the opportunity to play for a true national championship.

Starting in the days of the center jump after each basket, Luisetti helped drag the sport into a new era with his shooting, ballhandling, quickness and ability to hang in midair. It wasn't until the arrival of the giants a decade later that anyone had an effect on basketball as did Luisetti, who finished his collegiate career in 1938. Contemporaries said he was 20 years ahead of his time. He was at least one year early in terms of the NCAA Tournament.

Luisetti led Stanford to three consecutive Pacific Coast Conference championships and to a 46-5 record in his final two seasons. But it wasn't until the year after his graduation that the first NCAA Tournament was staged. Ironically, the first NCAA titlist was an Oregon team Luisetti's Stanford club had beaten in his last college game.

Although Luisetti never would get the chance to compete in the national event, Stanford would. But only once. It happened in 1942, when the Indians won a best-of-3 playoff series with Oregon State for the conference championship. They were selected to compete in the Western playoffs at Kansas City, along with Rice, Kansas and a Colorado team that had lost only once, and then by a single point in its next-to-last regular-season game.

Stanford was a big team, with all its starting players 6-foot-3 or taller. Yet the Indians, using the one-handed shot Luisetti had popularized, liked to run. Their acknowledged star was Jim Pollard, who later would become a professional standout with the Minneapolis Lakers.

Remarkably, three Stanford starters -- co-captains Don Burness and Bill Cowden and sophomore Howie Dallmar -- had attended the same high school in San Francisco. It wasn't by some master plan they were attending the same college in nearby Palo Alto.

"We were lucky," Dallmar said, "and so was the coach."

The coach was Everett Dean, who had been Indiana's first All-America player as well as a successful coach at his alma mater before heading west.

Dean had inherited an excellent pool of local talent at Stanford. Pollard hailed from Oakland and center Ed Voss from nearby Piedmont. In fact, the Indians' first eight players were from the Bay Area.

With Burness troubled by an ankle injury, the scoring load in the Western playoffs fell heavily on Pollard. He responded with a spectacular 26-point performance in a 53-47 victory over Rice and a 17-point effort in Stanford's 46-35 triumph over Colorado, which had edged Kansas, 46-44. Since the national-championship game was scheduled to be held in the same Municipal Auditorium the next week, the Indians remained in Kansas City, accepting invitations to lunch at local country clubs and to visit defense plants.

A proctor had accompanied the team on the train and some players took exams while they were in the Midwest.

Stanford's opponent had been decided in the Eastern playoffs at the Tulane gymnasium in New Orleans. It was there that Dartmouth, which had to defeat Princeton in a special playoff for the Eastern Intercollegiate League title to qualify for the tournament, topped Penn State, 44-39, and ripped Kentucky, 47-28. Kentucky had scored an upset of its own in an opening-round game by beating Big Ten Conference champion Illinois, 46-44.

The result of the jousting was a championship matchup that, for the first time, pitted teams from the most distant sections of the nation. It also ensured a contest between schools with the same nickname, Indians. Additionally, Dartmouth coach Ozzie Cowles had played under Dean during the older man's first year in coaching at Carleton College in Minnesota.

Although Stanford, 26-4 at this juncture, was considered the favorite on the basis of its overall size and speed, its chances were jeopardized when Pollard was stricken with the flu the day before the title game. Weak and feverish, he could only sit on the bench in civilian clothes and cheer.

Because of the manpower shortage, Burness dressed for the first time in the tournament and hobbled onto the court for the opening tip. But his presence was mostly symbolic and he was replaced without scoring a point, leaving the California team without two regulars for the most important game of the season.

The situation would have stopped a lesser team. It did not stop Stanford. Jack Dana had performed well in Burness' absence during the Western competition and he did even better in the title game. And Stanford received additional help from substitute Freddie Linari.

Dartmouth's offense was built around center Jim Olsen and 6-foot forward George Munroe, the smallest starter in the game. Olsen was neutralized by Stanford's superior size, but Munroe gave the West Coast Indians fits with his shooting. It was his one-hander that accounted for the game's first basket. Dana matched it, then Munroe scored again.

After Dallmar tied the score at 4-4, Munroe led Dartmouth on an 8-2 run as it opened a 12-6 lead. A field goal by Voss and a fast-break basket by Cowden cut the deficit to two points and the teams traded baskets until the final minutes of the first half. It was then that Dallmar drove for the tying basket. Dana's layup in the waning seconds of the half boosted Stanford into its first lead, 24-22.

The score was tied at 26-26 four minutes into the second half when the 6-4 Dallmar dribbled the length of the court for a basket. Then Linari, who had played sparingly in both games of the Western playoffs, scored his first two points of the tournament. It lit a spark and Stanford raced ahead. De spite the absence of Pollard and Burness, the Pacific entry won comfortably, 53-38.

Dana, who had scored seven points against Colorado in the Western final, doubled that total against Dartmouth. Linari added three baskets for six points. Voss contributed 13 points. But the high scorer in the game was Dallmar, who had 15 points and played an outstanding floor game.

Dallmar was pleasantly surprised when he was presented with the outstanding-player honor.

"If Pollard hadn't been sick," Dallmar said, "he would have won it." Perhaps. And if Luisetti had been allowed to compete, perhaps he would have earned the award.

But it didn't work out that way. Luisetti never got to play in the NCAA Tournament, and Pollard never got to play in the championship game. Dallmar got to do both and he responded with a great performance, one that grew in significance over the years.

For never again in the first 49 years of the NCAA Tournament did a Stanford team receive an invitation. Not under Dean, who coached through 1951. Not under his successor, Robert Burnett, who lasted three seasons. Not under Dallmar, who returned to his alma mater and coached the Indians for 21 years. And not under any of Dallmar's successors.

Dallmar, who played professional basketball with the Philadelphia Warriors and then coached Pennsylvania in the collegiate ranks, guided Stanford to 264 victories. His tenure, unfortunately, corresponded roughly with that of John Wooden at conference rival UCLA.

"We had teams when I was coaching that certainly deserved to be in the NCAA," he said, "but in those days only one team per conference could go, and we were all playing for second place behind UCLA. I feel sorry for those players from those teams who never got the chance."

Only one Stanford team made it. It remains the lone school to win the national title in its only NCAA Tournament appearance.


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