Excerpts by Andrew Millbrooke & Tom Rohlffs
WHEN TALKING ABOUT HIGH school basketball in Oregon, it all starts with Amory Tingle ‘Slats’ Gill. Slats played in the first two high school state championship games, leading Salem to the 1920 title. He was named All-Tournament first team both seasons. At age 27
he became head coach at Oregon State University, leading the Beavers to 599 wins and two final four appearances from 1928 until 1964. Gill also was the Beavers baseball coach from 1932-37 and athletic director from 1964 until his untimely death from a stroke in 1966. Gill was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968. Oregon State’s basketball arena, Gill Coliseum, is named in his honor.
Amory got the nickname ‘slats’ as a twelve year old, when swimming one day, a friend commented on his skinny frame that his ribs were sticking out like slats on an old picket fence”. Salem was the center of basketball power in the state from the 1920’s toear ly 30’s, playing for 10 of the first 14 state titles, winning four championships. The state tournament was played in Salem every year as well. Coach Hollis Huntington led Salem to three titles (’25, ’26, ’33) during this stretch.
Astoria had a great run to start the 1930’s winning four titles in six seasons (’30, ’32, ’34, ’35) under coach John Warren. Salem continued
to be a major power until the 1950’s winning three more titles (’39, ’40, ’50) under the direction of coach Harold Hauk. Salem finished runner-up in 1941 and 1948 as well. The 1950’s brought in a big man that set state- tournament single-game records that still stand today.
Lincoln’s Wade ‘Swede’ Halbrook, a man that eventually grew to 7-feet 3-inches tall, tore down 34 rebounds in a 1952 game against Salem and made 24 field goals in 36 attempts against Central Catholic that same year. It was no surprise when Lincoln won the title and Swede was named first team all-tournament.
Halbrook played two seasons for Gill at Oregon State, earning All-American status in 1955. Life magazine declared Swede the “Worlds Tallest Basketball Player” in 1954. Halbrook played two seasons in the NBA and his Syracuse Nationals team defeated Wilt Chamberlain’s Philadelphia Warriors in a three- game sweep in 1961.
The balance of power shifted north in the 1970’s as teams from the Portland metro area won the big school state title in 19 of the next 25 seasons from 1970-1994. In the ensuing 15 seasons, Portland area teams won nine titles for a total of 28 of the past 40. The Benson Techmen led the early charge winning three of four titles from 1971 until 1974, led by the great Richard Washington, a first team all-tournament selection for three straight years (’71-‘73). Benson Coach Dick Gray added two more titles to the Techmen trophy case, winning in 1981 and 1990. Coach Gray accumulated 560 victories in 38 seasons.
At the end of the 70’s along came a kid from Eugene who many long-time observers believe was the best all-around player ever to play high school basketball in Oregon: Danny Ainge. That’s right, before playing professional baseball for the Toronto Blue Jays and helping the Boston Celtics win NBA titles, Danny Ainge was a three-sport star for the North Eugene Highlanders. Ainge is the only high school athlete to be named first team All-American in football, basketball, and baseball. He led the Highlanders to the state title in basketball in 1976 and 1977. Coach Barney Holland also led North Eugene to the 1966 title. Ainge went on to star in college at BYU, earning the Wooden Award as the nations best player as a senior in 1981.
Mike Doherty’s record of 850-390 is tops among high school coaches. He won three state titles in 50 years. Doherty coached at nine Oregon high schools — Washington (1962-65), McNary (1965-69), Reynolds (1969- 75), Corvallis (1975-91), Baker (1991-95), Hermiston (1995-98), Oregon City (1998-2010), Scappoose (2010-2011) and Newberg (2011- 12). He led McNary to the 1968 title with a 44-42 win over Lake Oswego. He also coached Corvallis to titles in 1980 and 1984, finishing 2nd in 1986. His 28-2 Oregon City team also finished runner-up in 2008. In 2002, he was inducted into the National High School Athletic Coaches Association Hall of Fame, and in 2007, was named national coach of the year by the National Federation of High School Coaches Association. Two other coaches that stood the test of time; Nick Robertson coached 41 seasons compiling a 699-309 record. He won titles in 1979 with McMinnville and 1998 with Beaverton. Barry Adams’ five different teams won 656 games in a 40-year career. He won titles in 1983 with Glencoe and in 1996 with South Salem. Barry was chosen Oregon Coach-of-the-Year four times.
Doherty, Robertson, and Adams are entered in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame.
Nick Robertson As far as total state championships you must talk about them in two eras, pre-1960 and post-1960.
Pre-1960: Salem won seven state titles between 1920 and 1950.
Astoria won six titles in a 13-year span from 1930 to 1942 and added a 3A title in 1998. Klamath Union won four state titles, their last one coming in 1965. Franklin, Medford, and Eugene all won three championships during this period.
Post-1960: Corvallis picked up five championships between 1936 and 1984.
North Eugene won four titles between 1963 and 1977 and added a fifth with a 5A championship in 2007.
Benson won five titles between 1971 and 1990.
Jefferson won three titles (1951, 1972, 2000) and five 5A championships.
Grant has won four titles, spanning from 1969 to 2008.
Parkrose (’64, ’78, ’82), Wilson (’85, ’89, ’91), have won three titles.
The Jesuit Crusaders and the West Linn Lions have dominated tournament play by winning the last seven state tournaments. Under Coach Gene Potter the Crusaders have won six titles since 1999. The Lions are currently on a three-peat as state champs.
Mike Doherty’s coaching record
Oregon City 12-231-90
TOTAL: (50-850-390) .686