The Register-Herald, Beckley, West Virginia

September 11, 2013

Lawall recalls WVU’s 1942 National title team

By Mickey Furfari
For The Register-Herald

MORGANTOWN — Charles E. “Bud” Lawall Jr. was the noted student manager of West Virginia University’s 1942 men’s basketball team that shockingly won the National Invitational Basketball Tournament.

That gutsy group of Mountaineers was seeded dead last in the eight-team field at New York City’s storied Madison Square Garden. It was more prestigious than the NCAA Tournament, which also had only eight teams, at that time.

R.A. “Dyke” Raese was the outstanding head coach of that underdog squad, which finished the 1942 season with a most impressive 19-4 record.

I contacted Bud Lawall, a long-time friend now living in the Phoenix, Ariz., area, for this column, because he is thought to be the only member of that memorable outfit still alive.

As far as I know, Coach Raese, trainer and track coach Art Smith, and all nine players are deceased. Lawall, again the student manager, is 92 years old and admittedly in pretty good health.

Let’s get into a recall of details involved in that tremendous 1942 conquest before getting into Lawall’s recollections.

First of all, the late Roy M. “Legs” Hawley, then the WVU athletic director, campaigned his media friends in New York to help him get the team selected for he NIT.

He succeeded.

In the opening round against top-seeded Long Island University, West Virginia went into overtime to pull out a monumental 58-49 upset victory before 17,000 fans. In the process, that snapped LIU’s 42-game winning streak — the nation’s longest.

What’s more, that school’s head coach, Clair Bee, was a native of Grafton, the same hometown of roly-poly WVU playmaker Floyd “Scotty” Hamilton.

That great All-American guard, who’s now in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, also led the way to a 51-39 win against Toledo University in the semifinals, then West Virginia eked out a 47-45 win in the nip-and-tuck finals against Western Kentucky.

It remains the school’s first national title in a major sport.

Rudy Baric, a 6-foot-3 center, was voted the tourney’s Most Valuable Player. He’s also in the WVU Sports Hall of Fame, as is Roger “Shorty” Hicks, whose timely free throws sealed the NIT crown.

Besides Baric, Hamilton and Hicks, Bud Lawall recalled that the other players were Lefty Rollins, George Rickey, Lon Kalmar, Don Raese, Dick Kesling and Neil Montone (who came from football to help in the NIT preparations).

Coach Raese filled in as the 10th player whenever the squad scrimmaged between the three games.

The Mountaineers had five days off between the first and second contests and then just a day before the finals on March 25.

When they returned home, there was a public parade in celebration down High Street and later a dinner celebration, headed by the West Virginia governor, at the Elk Club Ballroom downtown.

Lawall, who also handled the contributed spending money for the Mountaineer cagers, remembers that they saw a Broadway show after each game.

“They enjoyed those so much; everybody stayed to see even more plays before they headed back to Morgantown,” he said.

“It was a wonderful experience for all of us. It was a most exciting 12 days in New York for all of us. Everyone played great.”

Lawall still has fond memories, especially of the leading performances of the long-armed Baric and the fancy passing and goaling of Hamilton.

Dyke Raese was a stickler for the zone defense and snappy, accurate passing on offensive scoring sorties, according to Lawall.

Lawall’s father, Charles E. Sr., was WVU President then. Bud and his wife Lucille were married for 65 years. She died in 2008.

Lawall, who graduated with a degree in business administration and economics in 1943, started his highly successful business career after serving three and a half years in the U.S. Military service.