Iron Mountain ski jump

Iron Mountain ski jump

Wednesday, August 28, 2019


There is a lot of talk about “tradition” at this time of year, as schools and churches gear up for another year. But tradition is not nearly as traditional as traditionalists would like us to believe it is. Tradition always starts with me.

I made a very short contribution to Undeniably Indiana, the IU Press book published to celebrate Indiana’s 200th birthday, by pointing out that the word “Hoosier” was applied to Indiana folks because the traveling evangelist, “Black Harry” Hoosier, often called “The Greatest Preacher Ever Forgotten,” was so popular in the state. His "groupies" were called "Hoosiers," sort of like Grateful Dead groupies were "Deadheads."

The book is 274 pp, and many of the remembrances of Indiana have to do with basketball, of course. For instance, on p. 133, Grace Waitman-Reed refers to “…the basketball tradition that Coach Knight had built over his nearly three decades as the ‘Hurryin’ Hoosiers’ head coach.”

Knight coached at IU for 29 years [1971-2000] and won 3 national championships.

Grace assumes that the IU basketball tradition started with Knight, because she went to IU during his years.

But it actually started with Branch McCracken, who was coach in my IU student years. In fact, Waitman-Reed is guilty of an anachronism. “Hurryin’ Hoosiers” is not part of the Knight tradition. It was applied to the Hoosiers first in the McCracken years.

McCracken coached at IU for 24 years, in two stints, [1938-43, 1946-65] interrupted by military service in WWII. The national collegiate basketball championship tournament started after his first year as coach, and he won two national championships in 23 years.

But wait! Did the IU basketball tradition start with McCracken, the coach of my years? No, it started much earlier, with Everett Dean, who was IU’s first All American player, in 1921, and coached from 1924-1938, winning 64% of his games, before the NCAA tournament, but he did win a national championship later when he coached at Stanford.

So when did the IU basketball tradition start? Like all traditions, with me, and my generation. Tradition always starts with “me.”

Grace thinks IU basketball started with Knight, because he was “her” coach. I think it started with McCracken, because he was “my” coach. And there is no one left alive for whom Everett Dean was coach, so he gets left out entirely, even though he is the one who is really responsible for the whole IU basketball tradition!

John Robert McFarland

“Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” Usually attributed to Albert Enstein. That’s the traditional attribution, at least. It probably started with Ugh, the cave man.

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