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CU TO DEDICATE SOX WALSETH COURT

The basketball floor at the Coors Events Center was officially named "Sox Walseth Court" after the former CU men's and women's basketball coach on Dec. 12, 1996.

On December 12, 1996, the University of Colorado honored legendary basketball coach Russell "Sox" Walseth by officially naming the floor at the Coors Events Center "Sox Walseth Court".

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.

Fittingly, the Buffaloes men's team defeated intra-state rival Colorado State that night, 76-69. Later that season, CU would participate in its first NCAA tournament since 1969.

The following is a story published by the Boulder Daily Camera on December 12, 1996. (keyed in by CU student assistant Eddie Macsalka):

December 12, 1996
By NEILL WOELK
Camera Sports Writer


Not in the lifetimes of any member of the Colorado men’s basketball team has a Buffalo squad advanced to the NCAA Tournament.

To be exact, it’s been 27 years and counting, with the last appearance coming in 1969, when the Buffs lost to Colorado State, 64-56.

Tonight, the school and athletic department will honor the coach who took the Buffs to three NCAA Tournaments—including the last appearance—when they officially dedicate the new Coors Events Center floor as the Sox Walseth Court.

Walseth played at CU from 1945-48 and coached the CU men’s team from 1957-76, leading the Buffs to three conference and NCAA Tournament appearances. His 261-245 record makes him the winningest coach in CU history.

In 1980, Walseth then took over the women’s program. From 1980-83, he compiled a 79-21 record, including a perfect 10-0 mark in the Big Eight in 1980-81.

“I’m really very honored with the whole thing,” said Walseth, who still lives in Boulder. “The greatest thing about this is that the impetus for this came from the ex-players. I appreciate that more than anything. I’m not deserving of it, but I’m definitely happy to receive it.”

Walseth’s teams produced without a doubt some of the best players in Colorado history, including seven who played in the National basketball Association. Too, Walseth produced two of Colorado’s seven consensus All-Americans—Cliff Meely (1971) and Ken Charlton (1963)—as well as eight of the Buffs’ 17 1,000-point scorers in school history.

But Walseth couldn’t pin down either his all-time favorite team or players.

“I liked them all,” he said. “I never had a team that I didn’t think tried as hard as it could. We weren’t always successful, but we always gave it our best shot.

“The thing is, you remember more than just the games. You remember the kids. It’s fun to watch the kids you coached grow up and be successful in the world.”

Walseth’s most successful stretch came in the 1961-62 and ’62-63 seasons, when the Buffs won back-to-back Big Eight titles. CU finished with a 19-7 record both seasons, losing to Cincinnati both years in the NCAA Midwest Regional Finals. Those teams included Charlton, Jim Davis and Wilky Gilmore, all of whom finished their CU careers with at least 1,000 points.

Had the NCAA Tournament been a 64-team affair during Walseth’s days, it’s likely the Buff would have had more than three berths.

“You had to win the Big Eight to go,” Walseth said. “That’s what made it so tough. Shoot, in Wilt Chamberlain’s first year at Kansas, they got knocked off a couple times because he didn’t play, and they ended up not going to the tournament—even though they probably had the best chance to win the national championship.”

As the women’s coach, Walseth took the Buffs to a pair of AIAW national tournament appearances. His center, Lisa Van Goor, is still Colorado’s all-time leading scorer with 2,067 points.

“I really enjoyed coaching the ladies,” Walseth said. “It was a great experience.

I am just honored to be part of this. It’s nice to have your school recognize you and I cant think of a better honor than to have these kids now playing on a court with my name on it. If anybody would have told me 50 years ago this would happen, it wouldn’t have seemed possible.”

A number of former players will be attending tonight’s ceremony, including Scott Wedman, Cliff Meely, Burdette Haldorson, Bob Bauers, Ken Charlton, Jim Creighton, Chuck Williams, Lisa Van Goor and Sandy Bean-Biestek.

As of Wednesday morning, approximately 4,000 tickets for the game had been sold, guaranteeing Colorado of its largest crowd this season.

 
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