Category Archives: Shocker history

How MTXE almost didn’t happen

A 1978 Wichita Eagle story about the hiring of basketball coach Gene Smithson, part of our Shocker Summer nostalgia series, contained this passage:

Smithson, who was named Monday, was not among the 108 candidates that the Wichita State search committee worked with. Smithson said WSU contacted him for the first time Saturday. That would be hours after Bill Olsen, Louisville assistant, caught a plane back home to Louisville after spending the night in Wichita. Olsen’s departure came only four hours before a press conference scheduled to announce his acceptance of the job.

Bill Olsen?

That episode is a bit of Shocker history that escaped many. Smithson, of course, recruited some of the greatest Shockers and ushered in a landmark era, albeit one marred by NCAA probation.

It almost didn’t happen that way. What happened with Olsen?

Olsen, now retired, remembers Wichita fondly and was set to take the job, one he grew familiar with when Louisville and WSU played in the Missouri Valley Conference.

“It was one of the great places to go,” he said Thursday in a phone interview. “It was always packed and sold out. I thought there was great potential there.”

Olsen interviewed on campus and returned to Louisville, where he made a list of concerns for athletic director Ted Bredehoft to address, preferably in writing. Olsen, perhaps before most, saw Levitt Arena as an aging facility in need of an upgrade. He found the arena lighting poor and the lack of practice space troubling. He said Harry Miller, fired after the 1978 season, told him players had to live out of their gym bags and practice at other gyms in the fall (although Olsen wasn’t sure what activities took over Levitt, and in those days men’s basketball overwhelmingly out-ranked women’s sports).

Olsen sent WSU sports information director Joe Yates to check out an on-campus gym, presumably Henrion, as a practice site. Yates, Olsen said, measured the floor and reported it was too short for a college team.

“We were used to Freedom Hall, which was a great basketball facility,” Olsen said.

Olsen was offered the job and he returned to Wichita in early April 1978 intending to sign a contract. His salary, with TV and radio bonuses, would be around $50,000, more than Louisville coach Denny Crum made. But when he got off the plane, Bredehoft was nowhere to be found. Olsen checked into the Wichita Royale, under a fake name, and waited. He talked to Bredehoft the next day, and said the answers to concerns about Levitt Arena didn’t satisfy him.

“I did not feel comfortable taking a job when the AD did not meet with me the night before I was to sign a contract,” Olsen said.

So Olsen booked a flight back to Louisville. Three days later, WSU hired Smithson. Olsen, who started as an assistant at Louisville in 1969, became athletic director in 1980 and held that job until 1997.

While he never reached his dream of becoming a head coach, Olsen and his family happily stayed in Louisville. He helped Crum coach the Cardinals to an NCAA title in 1980 and oversaw another in 1986. He hired football coach Howard Schnellenberger in 1985, starting Louisville on its path to the ACC.

“It turned out well for us,” he said.

Make your picks

Nominations for the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame are open. You can mail nominations and supporting materials to Larry Rankin in the media relations office by Saturday.

 How to submit: Larry Rankin, Assistant AD/Media Relations, Charles Koch Arena, 1845 Fairmount, Wichita, Kansas, 67260-0018 or email at
Athletes who enrolled at WSU before the fall of 2004, or before, are eligible.

Wichita State’s top stories of 2012

  1. 1. Men’s basketball wins the Missouri Valley Conference title and returns to the NCAA Tournament. Losing to VCU ended the run on a disappointing note. That shouldn’t detract from the regular season – going 16-2 in the MVC is impressive. The 8-0 record in February is about as good a month of basketball as this program has seen. Read More »

Enter the Hall

Nominations for the Shocker Sports Hall of Fame are due by Saturday to Larry Rankin at WSU’s media relations office. As always, there are plenty of athletes with HOF potential to consider. Athletes enrolled by the fall of 2003 are eligible.

The biggest name to become eligible is volleyball player Sara Lungren (2003-07), who seems to own a strong case. Lungren is an honorable mention All-American (2007) and a two-time MVC Player of the Year (2006, 2007).

  • Several other volleyball players are eligible. Karen Augspurger, Elizabeth Meyers and Darci Vohs among those who merit a look.
  • Men’s basketball player Jason Perez remains the highest ranking member (No. 6) of WSU’s career scoring list not in the SSHOF.
  • Men’s basketball player Bob Elmore remains Bob Lutz’s top choice.
  • With pitcher Mike Pelfrey in last year, baseball might be in for a drought. Conor Gillaspie, not yet eligible, is the next player I would regard as an automatic selection. There are some big names – Koyie Hill, Todd Dreifort, Blake Blasi, Drew Moffitt among them – not inducted. While all can make a case, none of them own credentials that make them slam dunks. With Gillaspie (eligible in three years) comes pitchers Rob Musgrave and Aaron Shafer, both worthy candidates.
  • Paul Miller, the 2006 MVC Player of the Year, remains eligible. No men’s basketball player has been selected since Kelly Pete in 2007. Randy Burns and Jamar Howard also eligible.

WSU tied for No. 24

Wichita State is back in the national rankings, and you can see both polls here. The AP writers get the Shockers more than the coaches, and that doesn’t surprise me. I think AP voters had a chance to watch WSU play on Saturday and those who didn’t read about it on Twitter and national Internet sites. Coaches are less likely to be influenced by those factors, probably because they have games to play or prepare for on Saturday.

If you watched WSU dismantle a pretty good team, you saw a team that passes the top 25 eye test. If you look at the score on Sunday, and consider Creighton’s slump, you might not be so taken. On Feb. 6, WSU was ranked on 13 ballots, none higher than No. 18.

After beating Creighton, WSU appeared on 52 ballots, as high as No. 12 on one, and on 12 in the top 20. Clearly, playing so well on ESPN2, with national media members such as Seth Davis and Jason King praising the Shockers, helped a lot.

It’s not a huge disparity (No. 24 in the AP poll and No. 26 in the coaches), so it’s not as if the coaches are ignoring the Shockers. The coaches rank Murray State and Saint Mary’s higher than the writers, so it’s hard to scream about a BCS bias.

Some Shocker AP poll trivia:

  • First appearance: No. 11 (tie), Jan. 12, 1954
  • Highest rank: No. 1, Dec. 15, 1964
  • Total weeks ranked: 80
  • Most weeks ranked one season: 12 (1964-65)



Stutz double times it

WSU center Garrett Stutz made 7 of 16 shots and 10 of 12 free throws on Saturday to score 24 points.

WSU center Garrett Stutz scored 24 points and grabbed a career-high 15 rebounds on Saturday, a double-double performance that is no longer out of the ordinary. He has eight this season. Last season, the Shockers recorded seven, two by J.T. Durley, Gabe Blair and Toure Murry and one by Stutz.

Stutz is playing better this season. He is also playing more Read More »

X-Man speaks to Slam

Devoted reader, hockey afficiando and former Eagle sports writer Kollen Long passed along this interview with Xaiver McDaniel, done in September by Slam  magazine.

X always speaks his mind and there are some good items within.

  • He believes his reputation for fighting kept him off several All-Star games.
  • Dr. J was his favorite player.
  • He hated playing against Larry Smith and Dennis Rodman.
  • He admits that a game against the Clippers didn’t bring out his best efforts. Games against the Blazers and Lakers, naturally, inspired a different devotion.

Wichita State’s top stories of 2011

  1. Wichita State’s men’s basketball team turned a disappointing finish to the season into a triumph by winning the National Invitation Tournament. Blowing out Nebraska and Washington State and winning at Virginia Tech highlighted the run.
  2. On the flip side, WSU got that chance because of a regular season that didn’t always make sense. The Shockers became the first MVC member to play in the Maui Invitational. They will remember it  for a whistle-filled loss to Kemba Walker and Connecticut. The Shockers dominated on the road, going 8-1 in the MVC with seven double-digit wins. They lost three MVC home games, however, to finish second. A close loss at home to VCU in the BracketBusters also helped keep the Shockers out of the NCAA Tournament. Read More »

One last run at Joe Ragland’s big game

WSU senior guard Joe Ragland.

Here is my final bit of trivia/list-making with regards to Wichita State guard Joe Ragland’s 31-point performance against No. 18 UNLV on Sunday.

  • It is WSU’s 17th 30-plus game against a ranked opponent, according to my research. It is WSU’s first since Aubrey Sherrod scored 31 against No. 15 Tulsa in a loss during the 1984-85 season.
  • Dave Stallworth leads the list with four appearances, highlighted by his 46-point game against No. 1 Cincinnati during the 1962-63 season. Read More »

Wichita State’s banner king

WSU volleyball coach Chris Lamb.

Wichita State volleyball coach Chris Lamb should negotiate a banner bonus.

On Friday, the 2010 NCAA volleyball banner rolled down from the Koch Arena rafters. That’s No. 10 for the volleyball program, all from teams coached by Lamb. No WSU coach is responsible for more.  Read More »