Sports

1971 season long gone, but impact lives on

The championship 1970-71 OHHS basketball team met for a 40-year reunion last month. Front row, left to right: Don Railsback, coach Jim Langus, Greg Davis and John Kjargaard; middle row: Steve Waldron, Ken Hamernik and Mike Felix; back row, Randy Allen and Jim Waller. - Photo by Melinda Davis
The championship 1970-71 OHHS basketball team met for a 40-year reunion last month. Front row, left to right: Don Railsback, coach Jim Langus, Greg Davis and John Kjargaard; middle row: Steve Waldron, Ken Hamernik and Mike Felix; back row, Randy Allen and Jim Waller.
— image credit: Photo by Melinda Davis

For me, it was the winter of 1970-71.

We all have those moments or experiences...the ones that sear our psyche, mold our lives, haunt or harmonize our souls.

The experiences might have taken a few seconds (a kind word from a teacher), a fews days (Bible camp) or several months (freshman year in college).

Mine began in November of 1970 and ended in March of 1971, my senior season of Oak Harbor High School basketball.

It is a law of human physics that as we get older our athletic exploits grow more grand. I, too, suffer from this condition.

With that said, the following is not a delusional statement: Our team had the best regular season in the history of OHHS basketball.

We recorded the school’s only undefeated regular season (20-0, 16-0 in league); set Northwest AA League records for most points per game (66), fewest allowed (44), biggest average margin of victory (22), and largest gap between first and second place teams (Mount Vernon and Burlington finished second seven games back); earned a No. 2 ranking in the state AA polls, a school best; and won every league game but one by at least 11 points.

We were upset in the district finals by Mount Vernon, but the second place was the highest district finish at that time for an Oak Harbor team.

Because of the luck of the state bracket draw, we faced the No. 1 ranked team, Curtis, in the first round of the state tournament and lost. Curtis went on to win the state title and finish the season as the state’s only undefeated team.

In those days, state was single elimination. We did, however, get to play one consolation game and won, which set an Oak Harbor High School record for wins in a season, 21.

We also set attendance records. Our gate of 1,600 fans for our final home game was a school best. Our game with Curtis at Pacific Lutheran University drew 4,200.

Long before the community got swept up in Wildcat mania during the 2006 football team’s run to the state title, the people of Oak Harbor were pulled together by our march to a perfect season. It was heady stuff for an 18-year-old. Community members treated us to banquets and a trip to a Sonics’ game.

Community leaders also credited the success of the basketball team with helping pass a school bond to build a new high school. The bond, which had failed several times earlier, received a 68 percent approval rate, up 15 percent from the previous try.

Late last month the class of ‘71 met for its 40-year reunion, and the basketball team, along with members of the 1971-72 team, met at coach Jim Langus’ house in Everett as part of the festivities.

The conversation centered on two things.

First, the two losses. Yes, we are still bitter after all these years. And, yes, we lost because of poor officiating.

Second, and more importantly, we -- and not just I -- reflected on the positive impact the season had on our lives, then and now.

In the middle of all the memories is coach Langus, the person who began the ripple effect of the season that touched so many lives.

In 1970 he was a 27-year-old, first-year coach who was both naive (he would loan us his new up Mach I Mustang to cruise around town) and a genius. He was kind but demanded perfection. And, above all, he was a master motivator.

Rules on coaches’ decorum were different in those days, and he excited not only us but our crowds. Oak Harbor players and fans loved him; our opponents and their followers, not so much.

At the first poor call, he would rip off his neck tie. Soon his sport coat would be deposited several rows deep into the crowd behind our bench. Finally, off came his wrist watch. Who knew a  Timex  could bounce so high?

He apologized to me once for his game-time antics and for being a poor role model. He is mistaken. We had talent but lacked direction. We were starving to win but didn’t know how. He gave us a map and menu and taught us how to read.  He ingrained  a work ethic, self-confidence and self-worth. Poor role model? No, he made us men.

 

The Cast of Characters

The coaches: Head coach Jim Langus coached in Oak Harbor for only two seasons, both championships. After several jobs in other school districts, he worked many years for the City of Everett and Snohomish County. Assistant coach George Peck served as an assistant basketball coach for 30 years in Oak Harbor and was the head tennis coach. He is retired and lives in Oak Harbor.

The senior starters: Greg Davis, David Garrison, Ken Hamernik, Don Railsback and Jim Waller.  The reserves: seniors Jeff Anderson, Steve Chambers and Mike Felix; and juniors Randy Allen, John Kjargaard, Greg Stacer and Steve Waldron.

College sports: Davis (Eastern Washington), Hamernik (Naval Academy/WSU), Railsback (Eastern) and Allen (Eastern) played some college basketball; Allen was also a collegiate golf champion; Garrison (University of Washington) ran track four years; Waller (Washington) and Kjargaard (Everett Community College) each played baseball for one year; and Stacer (Everett) played football.

Today: Davis (Gig Harbor) owns his own clothing company, Garrison (Renton) sells real estate, Hamernik (Redmond) is a salesman, Railsback (Houston) sells business plans and Waller (Oak Harbor) recently retired from teaching and coaching and is sports editor for the Whidbey News-Times.

Anderson (Mount Vernon) owns several laundromats, Chambers (Bellingham) sells survival suits, Felix (Dallas) is an executive for AT&T, Allen (Spokane) is a middle school principal in Post Falls, Kjargaard (Oak Harbor) is a builder, Stacer (Anchorage) works for the State of Alaska, and Waldron (Oak Harbor) is a builder and commercial fisherman.

Below: The 1971 OHHS basketball team. In front, coach Jim Langus. The players, from the left, are David Garrison (20), Steve Chambers (12), Greg Stacer (44), Don Railsback (40), Steve Waldron (20), Randy Allen (0), Ken Hamernik (4), Jim Waller (22), Jeff Anderson (24), Mike Felix, Greg Davis (32) and John Kjargaard (14). Photo by Wallie Funk.

 

 

The 1971 OHHS basketball team finished the regular season undefeated. In front, coach Jim Langus. The players, from the left, are David Garrison (20), Steve Chambers (12), Greg Stacer (44), Don Railsback (40), Steve Waldron (20), Randy Allen (0), Ken Hamernik (4), Jim Waller (22), Jeff Anderson (24), Mike Felix, Greg Davis (32) and John Kjargaard (14).

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