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WALSETH RETIRES FROM CU
Shortly after the 1982-83 basketball season, long-time Colorado men's and women's basketball coach Russell "Sox" Walseth retired after nearly four decades of service to the University.
A player, coach and administrator, his time at CU spanned 38 years, starting as an athlete in the 1940s when he lettered a combined six times in both basketball and baseball. He was likely the first and one of only a few to have coached both the men's and women's basketball teams at the same NCAA school.
The following is a story published by the Boulder Daily Camera on March 16, 1983.
In a brief meeting with the members of the CU Lady Buffs, Walseth, 56, told his players that he was retiring. Walseth had been coach of the Lady Buffs for the past three seasons, compiling a 77-21 record, winning two Intermountain Conference championships and leading the team to two national tournament appearances in the process.
“I’ve enjoyed the last three years a great deal,” said Walseth. “I think this is a great time to retire because the program is in excellent shape. We lose only <one> player (to graduation) and next year’s team should be very good. It ought to give someone a fine start to continue the program in a positive direction.”
CU athletic director Eddie Crowder said the department would begin the search for a new coach immediately. “We’re going to try and find a replacement as quickly as possible,” said Crowder. “But, we’ll certainly conform with the affirmative action requirements in our search.
“We’re certainly very grateful to Sox for having done an outstanding job of coaching the team for the last three years,” Crowder continued. “We appreciate the efforts he put into making this team one the university could be proud of.”
Walseth gave no specific reason for his decision to retire. “I’d been thinking about it for awhile,” said. Walseth. “It’s not just a black and white thing. I guess basically I thought it was time to move on.”
Walseth’s resignation came as a surprise to some members of the CU athletic department, particularly associate athletic director Fred Casotti.
“I was very surprised,” said Casotti, a long-time friend of Walseth’s. “I had no inclination from Sox that he was leaving. He’s been a very fine coach and a very fine person. He was a good influence on a lot of people who have played for him, both men and women. He had a very fine career at Colorado, and I think he can be proud of that.
“He could be tough, very demanding, he insisted that you do it right,” continued Fred Casotti. “But he also had a very wry sense of humor … which was very effective. His players loved him.”
As for his decision to coach the women’s team, Casotti said. “The program was sort of at loose ends (after the abrupt resignation of Rene Portland). It was a daring experiment for him … but he accepted the challenge and ran with it. Now I think he feels he’s brought this program along and he’s ready to step down.”
Walseth’s assistant, Susan Horner, who should also be a frontrunner for the job, said. She was sorry to see Walseth leave.
“I think he did a wonderful job here,” said Horner. “Three 20-win seasons is great. You can’t do much better than that. I’m sorry to see him go. But, I think maybe he finally decided to relax a little. When you’ve been in the business as long as he has, you deserve a little rest.”
Several of his players also voiced regret at Walseth’s departure.
“I’m sorry he’s leaving,” said. Center Lisa VanGoor, who played all three seasons for Walseth. “But, I think maybe it’s best for him. I think maybe he needed a break. I’km just glad we coul dhelp him go out on a successfule note.”
“We had a lot of run,” added guard Diane Hiemstra. “We had a log of good times with Sox. I just hope we didn’t give him too many gray hairs.”
“Walseth began his career at CU as a player in 1945. He was a three-years starter for the Buffs and also lettered three years as a shortstop for the baseball team.
After a brief career in professional baseball and two seasons as head coach at South Dakota State, Walseth returned to CU as an assistant coach under Frosty Cox and H.B. (Bebe) Lee. He became the head coach of the CU men’s team in 1956, and remained in that position for 20 years.
During his stint with the men, Walseth enjoyed an illustrious career, compiling a 260-246 record. He won two Big Eight titles outright (1962 and 1969) and shared the title in 1963. He was named Big Eight Coach of the Year six times, and had his best season in 1969 when the Buffs went 21-7 and gained an NCAA berth. That was the last time CU won a Big Eight title.
Walseth’s last two years with the men, however, proved to be his downfall. After consecutive 7-19 seasons, he was removed from his position on March 12, 1976. He stayed on with the department in a fund-raising capacity until June 11, 1980, when he was named head coach of the Lady Buffs.
With the Lady Buffs, Walseth produced a consistent winner. His first team went 28-5 and CU was 28-8 the following season, both times winning the Intermountain Conference and a berth in the AIAW national tournament.
Last season, Walseth finished with a 21-8 record, fourth in the Big Eight (7-5) and a semifinal appearance in the Big Eight tournament. He also built a perfect 47-0 home-court record during his tenure, giving the Lady Buffs 51-straight wins on their home floor.
Walseth also said he will not return to CU in another capacity.
“I may get another job,” he said. “but I’m through with the University of Colorado.”
“As for who the next head coach will be,” Walseth said. “I hope to have a little input. But I’m not the one who makes the final decision. That will be up to the University officials.”
Walseth’s assistant said immediately she would apply for the job.
“I’m going to be the first one in the door,” said
Horner, who played at CU for three years and had served as an assistant
coach for four. “I’d love to have the job.”
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