Twenty-four days after Indiana hired Bob Knight as its new basketball coach in the spring of 1971, Oregon, in a completely uncharacteristic move, went big and named Dick Harter to its head basketball job. Harter had had a hugely successful two years with Penn, going undefeated in the Ivy League two successive years.
You know well of Knight’s tempestuous tenure at Indiana. Not so well known — but possibly, every bit as wacko — was Harter’s time at Oregon. Essentially, he was Knight without the trophies. Among other indignities, he once tripped a (male) cheerleader at Oregon State — intentionally. He had a televised game delayed 25 minutes at old Bohler Gym in Pullman while he requested that the baskets be measured against the 10-foot standard. His tenure at Oregon was wildly mercurial.
Harter’s program became beloved in Eugene and in Oregon (pockets of it, at least). Old McArthur Court sold out soon into his tenure, and the big scoreboard above the floor would routinely jiggle on its chains when the place got rocking, which was often. But he was detested with the same fury by opponents and coaches on the West Coast, among them John Wooden and Marv Harshman. I call it the most controversial basketball program in Pac-12/10/8 history, and I don’t think it’s close.
I worked in Eugene for the entirety of the Harter tenure, though not as Duck hoops beat writer. But I covered enough UO games to get a distinct flavor of the times. Harter is gone now, but I was able to catch up with most of the key figures of that era, players and administrators, the majority in person. I think you’ll enjoy this loopy trip down memory lane. It’s available on Amazon now and in major bookstores, or you can order it at your favorite local store.
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