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Looking Back: Spring 2010
Author: Kathryn Kirkland; Photos from 1961 Viking yearbook
Posted: June 10, 2010

Coach Sharkey Nelson: 'We had to come the hard way...'PORTLAND STATE COLLEGE MEN'S BASKETBALL COACH 1953 TO 1965

Back in February 1965, when I was Vanguard editor, coach Sharkey Nelson's team had an outside shot at the conference title with three games left to play. However, after a road game at Southern Oregon, coach Nelson dismissed 11 of the 12 varsity basketball players from the squad for a curfew violation. Seems almost quaint now, in this age of the spoiled brat athlete where nothing short of loaded handguns, grand theft, or near fatal beatings ever results in anything even approaching discipline.

Asked how he could dismiss basically the entire team (the only player not affected was his own son, John, who was with him after the game that evening, and who also happened to be the team's leading scorer), coach Nelson replied, "I couldn't turn my back." I wrote an editorial supporting the coach, using his quote as the title and ending with, "We are proud that he had the guts to do what he felt was right."

Nelson's team played the three remaining games using one varsity player and members of the JV squad, some of whom would play in a JV game earlier in the evening. There was an outpouring of student support for the team and for coach Nelson and, just as in a Hollywood movie, they finished the season with a 100 to 94 win in overtime against eventual conference champion Eastern Oregon.

That was 45 years ago and I still remember the thrill of that win.
-Clarence Hein '65