Tuesday, July 14, 2009

A Closer Look at Coach Dutch Lonborg

Coach Arthur "Dutch" Lonborg won 237 games at NU

Gardner, Illinois is located about an hour south of Chicago along I-55. I’ve stopped there more than a few times to visit a gas station as I’ve driven along I-55, but until recently I never knew Gardner was home to one of Northwestern’s most famous basketball coaches. Arthur “Dutch” Lonborg was raised in Gardner before moving on to attend the University of Kansas. At Kansas, Lonborg played for Coach Phog Allen. Any basketball fan will recognize that name as the arena named after Allen is now one of the most famous sites in college hoops. Lonborg would later make a major impact on KU himself as the school’s athletic director, he held the job from 1950-63, but his greatest coaching success came at Northwestern where he won 237 games and the 1931 Helms Foundation National Title.

Looking Lonborg’s record and career history, it quickly becomes clear he was one of the most respected basketball coaches of his era and his success at Northwestern was primarily the reason. Although he coached at three different schools (McPherson College, Washburn College, and NU), Lonborg recorded 73.3% of his career wins at NU. Aside from the National Title and Big Ten Title in 1931, Lonborg also led NU to the Big Ten Title in 1933 and second place finishes in 1932 and 1934. He is also Northwestern’s longest tenured head basketball coach coaching NU from the 1927-28 season until 1949-50.

Aside from coaching NU to those two Big Ten Titles, Lonborg also coached and helped develop three NU legends. The captain of Lonborg’s first team was Waldo Fisher, who not only played hoops, but was an end on NU’s first Big Ten Champion football team. Even more impressive, after finishing school, Fisher spent 50 years working at Northwestern. He retired in 1974 as an assistant athletic director and is honored today as NU’s half of the Waldo Fisher-Frank McGrath Award which goes to the MVP of Northwestern’s yearly matchup with DePaul. If the truest measure of a coach is the young men they develop, Lonborg did very well with Mr. Fisher, but he wasn’t the only key figure in Wildcat history coached by Dutch.

In 1938-39 another multi-sport star played for Lonborg. This time it was a football lineman by the name of Robert “Bob” Voigts. Voigts, of course, would go on to coach Northwestern’s football program to a Rose Bowl Victory a decade later.

Last, but certainly not least, Lonborg also coached a multi-sport All-American named Otto Graham. Graham captained a 1943-44 Wildcat team which went 12-7 overall and finished 4th in the Big Ten. That record was the best record NU posted in the decade of the 1940s and no doubt the combination of Lonborg’s coaching and All-American forward Graham’s athletic skill contributed to that success.

While at NU Lonborg served as president of the National Basketball Coaches Association in 1935. After leaving NU, Lonborg continued to be an active player in helping shape the world of college basketball as he became chairman of the NCAA Tournament Committee. Later on, he was an administrator for the 1960 U.S. Olympic team.

In 1990 Lonborg was elected to the Northwestern Athletic Hall of Fame. Now, I call on Northwestern to add to Dutch Lonborg’s legacy by hanging a banner in Welsh-Ryan Arena commemorating his 1931 Championship squad.


NorthwesternHighlights said...

Great research. Thanks for doing that.

Streams of Whiskey said...

I agree that a banner for the 1931 team is a good idea. Kansas and North Carolina have banners hanging for their Helms title teams; why don't we?