1964 men’s basketball team reunites to celebrate NCAA tournament 50th anniversary
Fifty years ago this spring, Centre College men’s basketball traveled to the NCAA tournament for the first time in the College’s history. To commemorate this achievement, members of the 1963-64 men’s basketball team, as well as coaches and cheerleaders of the time, will reunite at this weekend’s January 4th men’s basketball game against Sewanee.
“We’ve invited all team-members, managers, coaches and cheerleaders from that season back to this game,” says Associate Vice President for Development and Alumni Affairs Shawn Lyons ’81. “It’s an opportunity for them to relive a highlight of their college experiences.”
The women’s basketball game begins at 1 p.m. on Saturday; members of the 1964 team will meet before the 3 p.m. men’s tipoff to hear from men’s basketball head coach Greg Mason about this year’s basketball team. At halftime of the men’s game, the 1964 team will be recognized in the Alumni Gym. Following the game, a private reception and dinner will be held for this esteemed group of Centre athletes in the Evans-Lively room of Old Carnegie.
“This team was the first Centre basketball team to post a winning record in the post-WWII era,” says Lyons. “You can make a pretty strong argument this is the team that really started Centre’s strong tradition in basketball.”
One player who will be in attendance is Hal Smith ’64, a Southgate, Ky., native who currently resides in Louisville, Ky. Smith was a four-year letterman and team captain of basketball and track at Centre, with top statistics in rebounds, free throws, scoring and total points. He was inducted into the Centre College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
Also in attendance will be Steele Harmon ’56, the assistant coach for the 1964 basketball team. Harmon himself was a standout five-letter athlete while a student, playing football, basketball, track, tennis and baseball. He coached multiple sports at Centre, including football, baseball, basketball and track. He was inducted into the Centre College Athletic Hall of Fame in 1994.
“I loved having time with the team and with Coach Phillips,” says Harmon of the trip to the NCAA tournament. “It was such a fine group of young men to work with. It was exciting to realize that Centre could start to develop a winning tradition.”
In fact, his most treasured experiences from his time as coach are the bonds he formed with other athletes.
“The highlight of my job was to develop a close relationship with Hal Smith, Mel Borland, Gary Wright, Dick Rankin, Mike Marks, Julian Palmer, Charlie Schomaker, Ronnie Yount and several others,” Harmon says. “It was a very coachable group of fine athletes.”
Harmon is especially looking forward to the chance to see members of the dream team and learn more about what they are doing now.
For Lyons, this reunion, because it happens at the opening conference game for men’s basketball, could not be more appropriate.
“The reunion helps celebrate the first appearance of a Centre basketball team in the NCAA tournament,” he explains. “We are honored to have members of an esteemed Centre basketball team present to cheer on today’s Colonels as they try to do the same thing 50 years later.”
1964 Men’s Basketball Team Members
Lew Phillips (deceased), Head Coach
Steele Harmon ’56, Asst. Coach
Ben Arnold ’67
Melvin Borland ’64
Bob Carran ’64
Terry Coyle ’67
Chuck Jensen ’67
Mike Marks ’66
Julian Palmer ’66 (deceased)
Brent Pierce ’67
Dick Rankin ’64
Charlie Schomaker ’67
Hal Smith ’64
John Thompson ’66
Denny Walts ’66
Gary Wright ’64
Ronnie Yount ’66 (deceased)
David Drake ’65
Jerry Garrison ’66
Penny Preston Bamford ’64
Larry Davis ’65
Nancy Gunn Gay ’65
Pattie McCollum Kimberlin ’65
Chinky Ellis Kraft ’65
Judy Trotter Simpson ’64
Karen Willis Smith ’66
Sally Seibert Walters ’64
Learn more about basketball at Centre.
By Mariel Smith