Alan Hoskins, Supervisor of Public Information
Wednesday, November 24, 2010
When it came to selecting the charter members of Kansas City Kansas Community College’s first Sports Hall of Fame, one choice was obvious.
For 20 years, Al Heider coached men’s basketball, compiling a 261-145 record that is the best in KCKCC history and a 64.2 percent winning percentage that ranks with the elite anywhere.
According to Paul Jewell’s “History of Kansas City Kansas Community College,” those 20 years produced 10 Interstate Conference championships and seven second place finishes. Even more impressive, during the seven-year period from 1949 through 1956, Heider’s teams finished unbeaten six times and had a combined overall record of an unheard of 61-1.
Three teams were 10-0, two 8-0 and one 6-0, which alone would earn him induction into the Sports Hall of Fame in ceremonies Saturday, Dec. 4, between the KCKCC-Cowley County basketball doubleheader at approximately 3:30 p.m.
“One of the strong points of this period was the fact that no player was ever cut from the team,” wrote Jewell, who served several years as Heider’s assistant. “Therefore, a strong second or B team was organized and played in the independent league in the city, experience that helped to develop a strong first or A team.”
But Heider, who passed away in 1985, was more than a basketball coach. He was an assistant in both football and track and taught bookkeeping.
“Coach Heider was ahead of his time,” says Otto Kaifes. “I played in the Air Force in Japan and he was way, way ahead of everyone. We’d use that pick and roll over and over again just like they did at Utah (then a national power).”
Kaifes got out of the Air Force in January of 1955, just in time to join a Blue Devil team that would finish 8-0 in the conference and 16-1 overall. “We were undefeated until the second to the last game when we got beat by Jack Hartman’s team I believe at Independence. They had the best seven, two referees and five players. Coach Heider was a religious man but he got so mad at the officials I couldn’t believe it. On one play, Leon Parker was standing out of bounds with the ball and one of their players took it right out of his hands and dribbled down and made the basket. Then he really got mad.”
Others on that team included Don Burchfield, Jerry Nugent, Dick Foster, Royce Leaton, Lloyd Martley, Carl Pugh, Jim Schelosky and Charlie Nichols. “He was an outstanding coach, worked hard and was very serious,” says Nichols. “He was very much straight arrow, you always knew he would do the right thing.”
Heider was successful in an era far different than the one we have today. For one, there were no scholarships. “We had to pay our own way,” says Butch Ellison, who played for Heider in the 1957 and 1958 seasons, earning All-American honors and becoming only the second KCKCC grad to play for Kansas. “I think for $150 you could take 16 credit hours. I didn’t know what I was going to do after Sumner High School so my mother went down to United Finance and borrowed $150 and took me and enrolled me in college.”
“He was a good recruiter and hit the local schools real well,” says Kaifes. “He was also well respected. I think everyone knew he was a good coach and wanted to play for him.”
Heider was also a pioneer at a time when African Americans were not allowed to play at some colleges. “He was a forerunner of coaches who dealt with blacks,” said Ellison. The junior college was separated into two colleges until 1955. Clarence Henderson was the first black to play at the junior college in 1956. When I got there, we had three from Sumner High starting, Craig Hall, John Robertson and myself.”
“As a kid, I could never tell who dad liked or didn’t like,” says Joel Heider, who will represent his late father at the Dec. 4 induction. “There was no color barrier. He treated everyone all the same. There was only one color, that of being a human being.”
A look back at some of the scoring leaders for Heider unveils some well-known names – Craig Hall, who averaged 26.5 and 24.2 points in his two seasons; Butch Myers (22.8), Lloyd Martley (22.3), James Keaton (19.6 and 18.8), Ron Shanks (19.4), Dan Swazick (19.1 and 13.8), Carl McCormick (18.4), Charles Weems (17.2 and 15.4) and Bill Young (16.5 and 13.3).
The list of all-conference players according to Jewell’s book is just as impressive – Gerald Arbogast, John Battles, James Befort, Don Burchfield, Ken Calloway, Will Carroll, Ivan Crabaugh, Bill Dollard, Bob Douglas, Joe Grantham, Craig Hall, Dean Harvey, Walt Haskins, Ed Hosking, Otto Kaifes, Jim Keaton, John Keith, Carleton Kleitz, Gene Lazzo, Curtis Long, Carl McCormick, Bob Mackish, Lloyd Martley, Bob Marvine, Sid Messer, Butch Myers, Pat Nugent, John Oman, Roy Prather, Jack Pridey, John Roberson, John Robertson, Jerry Sewell, Ron Shanks, Bill Strumillo, Dan Swazick, Bill Swinney, Jack Terry, Bill Verbeck, Charles Weems, Jewell West, Lynn (Pug) Winslow and Bill Young.
In addition to Jewell, Heider’s other assistants included Don Mortvedt, Doug Dean and Gerald Ulrich.