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Saturday, April 24

Coach Kaye and '62 Lynx bound for
Hall of Fame    
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Interview by Jeff Mayfield

[APRIL 24, 2004]  Today (Saturday, April 24) is the annual Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame banquet. Coaches, teams and friends of IBCA are nominated, and the few who rise to the top are selected as inductees. This year one of the teams joining the prestigious group is Lincoln College's 1961-62 team, which featured a bevy of Logan County athletes. The LDN was able to catch up with the head coach of that crew, Norm Kaye, via telephone from his home in Florida. What follows is the second part of the transcript from that enjoyable interview…

[Click here for Part 1]

LDN: Did you bus out to Hutch or did you fly out there?

NK: We took the train out of Pekin or Peoria. I had to put labels on Wayne Turner, of Atlanta, and a couple of others so they wouldn't get lost. I still have the ticket, and we rode on the Santa Fe for a $4 round-trip ticket. Isn't that amazing? It makes me think of other people that were on that trip. I guess you would call him my student manager -- now owns Eltas & Associates, one of the largest public relations firms in Chicago. They do all the Disney promotions and things of that nature. And they have all been very successful people.

LDN: How did you even find out about the Lincoln College job?

NK: I was in the service from '54 to '56, at the end of the Korean War, and I was stationed in Germany protecting you, or the future of you, and I wrote maybe 100 applications to high schools and different things. I had coached the freshmen at Northern Illinois University for two years and I had been very successful there, but it seems that most schools then just wanted an older person and I was pretty young.

Some friends of my sister lived down here, and they were with what was known as the Stetson China Company (large producer of pottery china before plastics came out) here in Lincoln. And they said, "Hey, there's a job that has opened up down here," and so I wrote up an application and sent it in. A week -- no, it was two weeks -- later I made a follow-up phone call, and they put me through to President Raymond Dooling, and he said, "Could you come down for an interview?"

Well, if I had had a cell phone, I woulda been running then. So, I did come down to Lincoln for the interview. I tell people that I got the job over two maintenance men that applied. It wasn't a very attractive job at that time.

The gym wasn't that fantastic. Before the facade was put on it, it looked just like a gym in Hoosiers. During my first year the president said they were going to renovate it, but he wasn't sure when they were going to start. So, I took a sledgehammer to about a 6-foot-wide vestibule, and I started knocking it down. He came up and said, "What are you doing?" and I said, "We gotta do this." I had already cleaned the basement -- painted it and put up a locker room and a training room to build up a little prestige there, ya know.

The first thing I did for tickets is that I raised the price 50 cents. I used to go down to the old Lincoln Hotel and other places to meet people and give them free tickets, but after a while I didn't need to do that anymore. These players were from Logan County, and plenty of people wanted to see them play.

LDN: People credit you with turning around the LC program and putting Lincoln College on the map. What do you say to that?

NK: What people don't know is that two years before that we had John Swart, who later starred at Illinois State and is in their Hall of Fame, and we just didn't quite have what I call the glue to make it happen. If I woulda had Bob Miller, we woulda gone then.

Anyway we were playing Moline that year and they were the No. 1 offensive team in the nation, and we played them in the state quarterfinals and beat them 116-113. And then we played, I think it was, Wilson in the semifinals, and we were one down with 10 seconds to go -- and I can still remember this -- and I called timeout. I said to myself, "I got it, I got it, I got it, here it is…" and I drew up a little thing where they threw it in to Swart.

This one guard whose name I won't mention -- I ran him to cut off the other guard to the far side of the lane. They were all gonna attack Swart. He was to fake his shot and pivot around and drop a pass to this kid under the basket. There wasn't a defender within 10 feet of him, but he decided that he was gonna dunk it and he rattled the rim. They kicked it down to the other end and scored at the final whistle, and so we lost by three.


[to top of second column in this article]

That was what I called a tournament team. They did not have the tremendous consistency of the '61-'62 squad, but on any given day they could beat anybody. That was the team that kinda got college coaches looking at the players -- like Joe Stoll at Bradley because we played their freshmen. It was so good for our players and so good for our program. We also developed the Illinois Collegiate League for baseball during that time period. Have you ever heard of that?

LDN: Yes, I have.

NK: That was with Emil Verben, the former Cardinal and Cub. We had Del Unser from the Phillies and Don Kessinger from the Cubs was playing out of Peoria at the time, so there were a lot of things going on beside basketball. We had a golfer get to the NCAA

And we built up the soccer thing.

You have to understand that Lincoln College is an excellent, excellent two-year institution. They were extremely successful, at least in my day, at what I call retreading. Some kid would flunk out of Princeton or Harvard and come to LC and retool his skills on studying and learning, and they would go back and become really successful. We had a lot of students like that.

LDN: Did you guys play Lincoln Christian College in those days?

NK: We did play them my first and or second year, and after that I don't know why we didn't play each other. We had started the Central Illinois Collegiate League, and that might have had something to do with that decision. They always had very good, very competitive teams. They were building a lot of buildings when I was in town setting a good foundation for their future. I had some good friends over there.

LDN: What else should people know about this team?

NK: If I get to speak at LC on Friday or Saturday or at the banquet on Saturday, I would say, "It is amazing what you can accomplish when no one cares who gets the credit."

Of all the teams I've had and things of this nature, this was the team that looked up at the scoreboard at the end of the night and said, "Did we win or lose?" They didn't care who got the most rebounds or who got the most points or who made the plays. They may have talked about it later, but as far as caring about mentally or emotionally, they cared about winning.

They also had high integrity, they were dedicated and coachable, and they were humble when they won.

They were also respectful of their opponents. I never heard a time when they said, "Well, we're going to Springfield today. We're gonna really kill them." They were always extremely respectful, and that's what you've gotta do of their opponents.

They were a classy group. Tommy's a provost, Mike Lumpp made a successful career for himself, Wayne Turner is Turner Oil Company in Atlanta, Bob Miller coached for a while and then he established a couple State Farm Insurance branches, and the list goes on and on. They were all very successful players and people. It was part of their makeup.

They also all had excellent, excellent high school coaches. Miller and Turner came out of Atlanta, where Doc Kinsey was a great coach, and Lumpp and Zurkammer came out of Lincoln, where Paul Johnson was a great coach.

Even at Duke today, they look for players who are humble and respectful and have great high school coaches. That's the key to success.

Maybe it was fate that brought them all together at that one time, I don't know.

LDN: Well, Coach, that's all the time we have. Once again, on behalf of the Lincoln Daily News and the great residents of Logan County, CONGRATULATIONS on this outstanding honor. We salute the Lincoln College Lynx of 1961-62!

[Jeff Mayfield]

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