SIOUX CITY – Dan Callahan came out of retirement Saturday night.
The popular mentor, who dramatically rescued Morningside from the basketball junk heap back in the day, settled into his easy chair in front of the widescreen with the task of “coaching’’ Loyola University Chicago in the Final Four against Michigan.
No April foolin’.
It was a mythical matter of homeboy looking after the hometown.
“Coaching’s in the long ago, but I’ll be coaching Loyola,’’ said Callahan, who was Hall of Famer Maurice John’s lead assistant in 1969 when Drake University lost a controversial 85-82 decision to almighty UCLA and Lew Alcindor in the national semifinals in Assembly Hall in Louisville.
“Gotta pull for my guys from Chicago,’’ continued the 83-year-old Callahan, who graduated in 1954 from long-closed St. Philip High School along Spalding Avenue on the Windy City’s westside. “The Loyola coach, Porter Moser, went to Benet Academy and it’s in a Westside suburb, Lisle.
“Loyola and DePaul have high schools, too, but they’re on the northside so we didn’t play those guys.
“St. Philip’s was pretty good, though. We played Tilden Prep and it was a powerhouse then and won the city with “Red’’ Kerr, who later starred in the NBA.
“And, we beat Fenwick and they had a pretty good player a few years before me named Johnny Lattner.’’
If you’re not familiar, Lattner won the Heisman Trophy as a Notre Dame quarterback.
Coach Callahan, let it be made quite clear, knows all about Final Fours, even when one of them was simply the NCAA semifinals.
If you’re a Siouxlander with Drake ties, grad or fan, the loss to UCLA still grates to the core.
The Bulldogs, who trailed by UCLA by 10-plus margins, and were so unimpressed by play-by-play TV Curt Gowdy that he referred to Drake as “Duke’’ – until the Des Moines collegians drew to within two, 41-39, at halftime.
“The thing that Coach John, the players and myself remember most is the foul discrepancy,’’ maintains to this day. “They had a ton of free throws.’’
UCLA shot 44 gifters and made 26. Drake was whistled for 30 fouls.
UCLA precariously clung to an 83-82 lead after Drake’s Dolph Pulliam sank a short jumper with seven seconds left.
“From where we were sitting Dolph also got fouled and he should have gone to the line to tie,’’ recalls Callahan with still festering disdain for the no-call. John Valleley, after Drake’s 30th foul, then hit two free throws to decide it
Drake had trailed by 12 with 3:48 to play.
The game is ranked at the 14th best in semifinals (Final Four) history.
Callahan’s basketball roots run deep in Chicago, Sioux City, Moberly, Missouri, and at Drake.
Dan and Mary still reside in Sioux City where their four children – Dana, DiAnn, David and Danny – all graduated from East High.
After playing for John at JUCO national power Moberly Junior College and Drake, Dan returned to coach at Moberly from 1986-91.
At Moberly his teams were 118-60.
After a four-year stint at Drake he coached two years at West Des Moines Valley High School then began a 13-year run at Morningside.
In the dual-affiliated NCAA Division II and NAIA days, he inherited a 0-24 program and took a team to the dandy 32-team NAIA national tourney in then brand new Crosby-Kemper Arena in Kansas City in his second season.
After a 9-16 debut campaign on The Hill, the then-Chiefs went 9-5 in the old North Central Conference and 17-12 overall.
The 1974-75 season ended with a loss to Wisconsin-Parkside in the NAIA nationals, but the 17 wins were the most at the school since the 1951-52 season.
The pinnacle of his tenure was reached in 1982-83 when the Chiefs advanced the NCAA Division II Final Four, losing to Jacksonville State in the semis and District of Columbia in the third-place game and finished 26-6.
In 1984 his team won the North Central Regional, but fell to Central Missouri in the D2 Elite Eight and went 22-9.
As an alum, Callahan has always remained close to the Drake basketball program and welcomes the naming of its new coach, Darian DeVries, a native of Parkersburg, Iowa, and an assistant at Creighton for 10 years.
DeVries also collected just over a 1,000 points while playing at Northern Iowa.
“There have been some tough times there since Coach John left,’’ says Callahan. “One of guys who succeeded him, Howard Stacey, died recently and except for the years Tom Davis (54-66, 4 years) took over and the one season his son, Keno (2008, NCAA first round), was coach, there hasn’t been much passion.
“Niko Medved was 17-17 this season but he left pretty suddenly and Drake folks were more than a little upset.
“After we went to the semifinals Drake went the next two years and people sometimes forget that.’’ The Bulldogs beat Houston and Notre Dame to reach Elite Eights before losing.
One of Callahan’s longtime friends, Moberly and Drake teammate Red Murrell, also passed away recently. Murrell was named to Drake’s all-time team.
“Coach John was a wonderful father-figure for me,’’ says Callahan in reverence for the late mentor, who died in 1974 of cancer. “I grew up in a divorced family and he was my father in many ways, even later in life.’’
“As a player, Maurice John never wanted me shoot. I had kind of a one-handed push shot. At Moberly I could shoot and the crowd loved it in our little band box gym.
“There was no smoking, drinking or cussin’ with Coach John, well, maybe some cussin’ at me.’’
- In 1963 when the school won the national championship, Loyola was simply referred to virtually every media report and dispatch as Loyola, Ill.
Somewhere along the line the school became Loyola University Chicago.
In the 1965 semifinals, Loyola beat Duke and Cincinnati trimmed Oregon State. The 25-team tourney field included, among others, Texas Western, Illinois, UCLA, Seattle and Oklahoma City.
- The term “final four’’ which evolved into “Final Four’’ has become a worn out term for several sports.
However, “final four’’ didn’t appear in print until 1975 when author Ed Chay, a sportswriter for the Cleveland Plain Dealer, in an article for the Official Collegiate Basketball Guide, stated that the Marquette basketball team “was one of the final four’’ during the previous national tournament.
Marquette lost to Kansas in the semis in ’74 and fell to North Carolina State and David “Skywalker’’ Thompson in the finals.
The National Collegiate Athletic Association pioneered the term and later trademarked it.
Previously, the grouping of the last four teams still standing was simply referred to as the national semifinals.
- Callahan and Loyola Coach Porter Moser have one brief connection.
“One of my assistants at Moberly Junior College was Kevin Fricke and he was later one of Coach Moser’s assistants when he was the coach at Arkansas-Little Rock,’’ said Callahan.
“Then, when Moser was the coach at Illinois State I went to a game with Kevin Fricke and he took me to the lockeroom and he introduced me and we had short visit.’’