Dave Strack - Wolverines Basketball Coach Who Launched Cazzie & Company
Dave Strack, a star player and later coach of the University of Michigan basketball team, died Jan. 25 in Tucson, Arizona. He was 90. Strack coached the Wolverines from 1960 to 1968, leading the team to three consecutive Big 10 championships, two consecutive appearances in the NCAA Final Four, including a championship game against UCLA. Strack came to the University of Michigan as a player and lettered in 1943, 1944 and 1946. He took a leave from the team in 1945 to serve as a Marine captain during World War II. He received a bachelor's degree and a master's degree at Michigan. After working as an assistant coach at Michigan and head coach for a year the University of Idaho, Strack replaced Bill Perigo as Wolverines head coach.
Strack's teams led by All-American Cazzie Russell won the Big 10 championship in 1964, 1965 and 1966. The team went to the Final Four in 1964 and 1965. In the 1965 UM went into the final game ranked No. 1 in the country to face the No. 2 ranked UCLA Bruins coached by the legendary John Wooden. UM lost the game 91-80, a hard end to an amazing season. In addition to Russell, Strack's players included high-scoring Bill Buntin, team captain Oliver Darden, George Pomey and Larry Tregoning. Strack was named UPI coach of the year in 1965. Russell, a highly recruited Chicago high school player, was won over by Strack to attend UM. He went on to set scoring records and win praise as one of the best players of his time. In December 1964, the Wolverines faced off against Princeton, a showdown between Russell and Princeton's Bill Bradley. With two minutes remaining in the game, Michigan was behind by 10 points, Russell took command of the game to lead Michigan to an 80-78 victory. Bradley did score 41 points in the game. But Russell and Buntin combined for 51. Russell and Bradley would late become teammates on the NBA champion New York Knicks.
Strack left the UM coaching position to manage the athletic department business operations in 1968. He was replaced by Johnny Orr, who died last year. Strack left the university in 1972 to become athletic director at the University of Arizona in Tucson.