Remembering the glory years of a basketball dynasty
By Troy Lesan
Lake Viking Association Member Ed Weissenbach was the Gallatin High School basketball coach in 1970, and he still vividly remembers a game his team played that year. The Gallatin boys were up against a perennial power-house in high school basketball. In fact the opposing team hadn’t lost a game all year. As it turned out, Gallatin won a hard-fought and narrow victory. There was a celebratory mood among the players (including Association Member Richard Reynolds). This was one of the few times Gallatin had beaten this opponent in a while. In fact during the 1969-70 regular season, Gallatin ended up being the only team to beat them. This team that Gallatin had beaten, which was one of the truly elite programs in the area, took their record of 28 wins and one loss and eventually marched on to finish second in the state basketball tournament.
Weissenbach recalls that after the Gallatin boys’ 1970 victory over the formidable team, “We felt like we were the King of the Mountain.” As the Gallatin team basked in a warm glow of exultant triumph, they also felt that they had achieved an important milestone for the progress of their vastly improving program. So, the question the reader will inevitably ask is: who was this powerful opponent? Who was this team over which the Gallatin Bulldogs had finally become victorious? Was it Chillicothe, Cameron, one of the St, Joseph schools, or even a Kansas City team? No. It was actually the Huskies from Jameson, Mo. (population 165.)
That’s right – Jameson! Jameson is that sleepy little burg that’s a few miles up the road from Gallatin, yet the story of its high school basketball team – particularly during the glory years between 1959 and 1980 – is an epic tale. In those days Missouri High School sports had three classes: Small, Medium, and Large. With a population that ranged from 223 in 1940 to 149 in 1990, it’s not hard to guess which class Jameson competed in. But they dominated! During their heyday in high school basketball, the Jameson Huskies were district basketball champions eight times. The 1963 team finished third in the state, and the next year in 1964, Jameson finished fourth in the state. The already mentioned 1970 team finished second in the state with a record of 28 wins and two losses, and the 1980 team finished third in the state. During the two year stretch of the 1979 and 1980 seasons, the Huskies compiled a remarkable record of 61 wins and two losses! At one point during this incredible run, Jameson won 75 consecutive home games!
The small towns of Northwest Missouri have always been basketball crazy. The little teams like Northeast Nodaway of Ravenwood, North Harrison of Eagleville, Gilman City, and even Jameson’s arch-rivals from the neighboring community of Coffey have all had their great teams, their shining moments. But none of those other teams embraced basketball with such a dedicated fervor or joyous gusto nor did they soar to the lofty heights of excellence that the Jameson boys achieved. Jameson never had enough students to field a football team so their boys played basketball year round. During the years preceding World War II, the kids played on an outdoor court in the schoolyard. Then, they actually had an inside court on the rough old board floor of the Manglesdorf Seed Company in Jameson. Granted the old floor was a little “knotty” in places and there were a few posts in the way, but at least the boys were able to play their beloved game uninterrupted by rain, sleet, or snow.
The little town of Jameson always had good high school basketball teams as far back as the 1930’s and 40’s. Lake Viking Association Member Margaret Burns grew up on a farm outside of Jameson. Her dad drove the school bus. Margaret remembers Jameson as a close knit community that was bonded even more by the affection for their basketball teams. When I listen to Margaret recall those days at Jameson High, I can almost hear the background music of a bouncing basketball. Not the pluck, pluck, pluck of a ball bouncing on the shiny waxed floor of modern school gymnasium, but more of a soft seismic throb of the balls bouncing on the dirt playground, the old board floor, or even the farmyard where the basketball hoop hung at an ever so slight cant on the side of a shed or a barn.
Basketball was the local infatuation, and the flame of passion for Jameson’s program began to burn brighter after World War II ended. In 1945 after coming home from the Navy, Lawrence Holley, who served as both basketball coach and school superintendent, was successful in securing the construction of a new school gymnasium at Jameson. A new gym! The town couldn’t have been prouder! Margaret Burns remembers watching Lawrence Holley digging the trench for the foundation of the new gym by hand with a shovel. Margaret knew the Holley family well and often babysat Lawrence Holley’s son Larry.
In 1959, Lawrence Holley as superintendent hired Carl “Tom” McDaniel as Jameson’s new basketball coach. At first, Tommy didn’t set the world on fire as a coach. His first two seasons were lackluster by Jameson standards, but he wasn’t worried. He knew that he had a great core of younger players coming up who would kick the program into high gear. Included among that group of blue-chip underclassman were Larry Holley (the superintendent’s son), a sharp-shooter named Tom Prindle, and several other good players. Coach McDaniel correctly envisioned his Jameson team as a Phoenix rising from the ashes of temporary mediocrity on the backs of these promising youngsters.
By 1962 Jameson had a good team that had compiled a record of 26-2, but they lost in District to North Harrison of Eagleville. North Harrison had a star player named Jerry Armstrong, and they finished second in the State Championships. Armstrong went on to play college ball with Texas Western University whose surprise National Championship win in 1966 was the subject of the movie Glory Road.
During the following year, however, Jameson was not to be denied. They posted an all-time school best record of 28 wins and two losses and came in third in the state. Coach “Tom” was prophetic in his earlier appraisal of the group of young basketball players.
One of those players from the 1963 team, Larry Holley, was awarded honors as First Team All-State. Holley went on to a career as a college basketball player and, more importantly, is a well-known coach for William Jewell College. Currently Holley is serving in his 34th year as head basketball coach at William Jewell. (His 42nd year altogether. He also coached at two other colleges). Holley is listed among such coaching immortals as Adolph Rupp, Dean Smith, and Mike Krzyzewski as one of only 17 head coaches at a four year college to have won over 800 victories. Holley is a member of the Greater Kansas City Coaches Hall of Fame, the Missouri Basketball Coaches Hall of Fame, NAIA Hall of Fame, the Missouri Sports Hall of Fame and of course the William Jewell Hall of Fame. Holley also runs a respected summer basketball camp.
Ordinarily, the above exploits of the Jameson basketball team and alum Larry Holley would be enough of a story... but we’re just getting started. Next month’s issue of the Lake Viking News will continue the amazing story of the Jameson Huskies and their incredible run of excellence in Missouri high school basketball.