The Murray State Tradition: Part 5

It’s almost that time of year again, Racer basketball fans.

Last January, I used my columns for a four-part Murray State Tradition series highlighting some key figures in our basketball history.

It all started with an assignment for which I had to examine the question of why basketball is so popular in Murray.

As I began interviewing and researching, the historical significance of the Murray State basketball program left me in complete awe.

I knew the least I could do was retell some of these stories.

So here we are, counting down the weeks and days to the opening tip of the 2013-14 season.

As we prepare to meet a new team of Racers in just a few weeks, I imagined now was an appropriate time to go back and retell the stories of four more of our basketball forefathers.

If you missed out on last year’s stories, you can search the name of this column on TheNews.org.

We’ll begin our look not with a player, but a coach.

Back in January, I wrote about the founder and first coach of Racer basketball – Carlisle Cutchin.

Today, we look at arguably the second most iconic coach after the founder himself – Cal Luther.

Luther played college basketball at Valparaiso University from 1949-51.

After college, he spent two years serving in the military before beginning his coaching career at the University of Illinois.

Luther was hired away from Depauw University in 1958 to become the sixth head coach of the Racers. He inherited a struggling Murray State program which had failed to post a winning record in each of its two previous seasons.

The new head coach quickly turned the program around.

In 1964, the team won the OVC Tournament and made the program’s first ever trip to the NCAA Tournament.

From there, Luther’s teams went on to post 14-straight winning seasons, including two more OVC championships and another NCAA Tournament berth.

Luther accepted the role of Athletic Director in addition to his coaching responsibilities in 1967, leading Murray State’s entire athletics program to great success.

During his 11 years as Athletic Director, Murray State programs claimed nine conference championships and one All-Sports Trophy.

Luther left Murray State in 1978 to become the head coach at Longwood College, but would later return to the OVC in 1992, coaching at UT Martin from 1992-99.

His 319 wins as an OVC Head Coach (241 at Murray State and 78 at UT Martin) make him the second-winningest OVC coach of all time.

Inducted to the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1986 as a coach and administrator, Luther was one of the first in a long line of world-class coaches to call Murray State home.

 

Column by Jonathan Ferris, Staff Writer