Four-Fathers of Cougar Basketball: Marv Harshman

Jan. 20, 2006

Editor's Note: This is the final in a four-part series featuring the 'Four-Fathers of Cougar Basketball': Jack Friel, Marv Harshman, Jud Heathcote and George Raveling.

The quartet will be honored prior to Saturday's (Jan. 21) men's basketball game versus Oregon State at Beasley Coliseum. For tickets call 800-GO-COUGS or go to the Tickets link at

Today's feature: Marv Harshman.

By: Ashley WalkerWSU Sport Information

Innovative, inspiring, and honest are just a few of the many words that can be used to describe legendary Cougar Basketball Head Coach Marv Harshman, who ran the Cougar helm from 1958-1971.

Harshman made the journey over the mountains after coaching at Pacific Lutheran University and joined the Cougar family in 1958. When coming over to Washington State, the coach knew he had big shoes to fill. Brought to Pullman to replace retiring head coach and fellow Four-Father Jack Friel, Harshman was stepping into a program that had been run by one man for the last 30 years.

'Jack (Friel) was an excellent coach,' Harsman said. 'He was one of the really outstanding coaches at that time and he had a lot to do with some of the changing of the rules (of the game).'

Knowing the challenges that lay ahead, Harshman turned to his innovative high-low post offense and his atypical recruiting strategies to turn the Cougar program around. He chose to seek out players for their work ethic and personality.

'We looked more for character in our kids when we recruited, kids that liked to work hard and would for us,' said the legendary coach. 'We searched out players that had qualities we liked and were willing to spend time working. A lot of the supposedly `great' players didn't have the same kind of attitudes,' Harshman added.

Bringing in kids that were rich in character proved to be effective for Harshman. His Cougar squads moved up the Pac-8 throughout his coaching tenure at WSU and became a massive threat. They finished second in the league three times in four years (1966-1970) only behind the UCLA dynasty coached by legendary John Wooden.

Harshman's squad brought excitement to the Cougar community and filling the stands was never a problem for the team.

'The students were much involved in the games. Fraternity kids would have to stay a couple nights out in the snow keeping their spots so they could get tickets,' Harshman said Sports filled a pretty big place (at WSU).'

The 1986 WSU Athletic Hall of Fame inductee left Washington State after the 1971 season and went on to become the head coach at the University of Washington.

In Seattle, Harshman led the Huskies to three NCAA playoffs and added 246 more wins to his belt. When he decided to retire in 1985, Harshman was the winningest active NCAA Division I college coach at 642-448.

His other accomplishments include being named the Seattle 'Man of the Year' in 1975, coaching the USA to the Gold at the 1975 Pan-American Games in Mexico City, 1984 NCAA Coach of the Year, and Kodak District XIV Coach of the Year. In 1985, he was named to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and named the NIT/Kodak Man of the Year in Sports.

Marvel `Marv' Harshman was born at Eau Claire, Wis., in 1917. He came to the state of Washington in 1927 when his family decided to pack up and move to Lake Stevens. An athlete himself, Harshman went on to play football and basketball at Pacific Lutheran University where he earned All-American honors in football and all-conference honors in basketball.

Upon graduation in 1942, the Lake Stevens product went into the Navy for three years and returned to take over as the head basketball coach at his alma mater. His team won four NAIA District I championships and made the national tournament four times. Harshman was named the NAIA District I Coach of the Year an unprecedented seven times before coming to Washington State.

After having lived all over the state of Washington, Harshman, like many others still cherishes the closeness of the Pullman community.

'I think what I liked about Pullman was that it was a very comfortable place to live. We raised our family there,' said Harshman. 'You knew everyone on campus and the whole situation was great.'

Harshman, along with Jack Friel, George Raveling, and Jud Heathcoat will be honored this Saturday, January 21, as one of the Four-Fathers of Cougar Basketball. The ceremony will be held prior to the Cougar basketball game versus Oregon State.

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