Arizona Basketball

Former Arizona Wildcats AD Dave Strack, 90, passes away


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RELATED LINK: Greg Hansen’s column about Dave Strack last March details Strack’s impact on the Arizona program

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Former Arizona athletic director Dave Strack, instrumental in hiring Fred Snowden, Jim Young and Larry Smith, coached Michigan to the 1965 NCAA hoops title game

Former Arizona athletic director Dave Strack, instrumental in hiring Fred Snowden, Jim Young and Larry Smith, coached Michigan to the 1965 NCAA hoops title game

Former Arizona Wildcats athletic director Dave Strack passed away yesterday at the age of 90.

Strack was hired as Arizona’s AD in January of 1972 after spending three years as Michigan’s business manager and associate athletic director. Strack coached Michigan’s basketball team from 1960-68 and led the Wolverines to three consecutive Big Ten titles.

Under Strack, Michigan reached the Final Four in 1964 and 1965 and was the national runner-up in 1965 against UCLA and John Wooden. Strack compiled a 113-89 overall record at Michigan. His 113 career wins place fourth on Michigan’s all-time list.

Strack’s tenure at Arizona included the hiring of the first African-American head coach of a major university — basketball coach Fred Snowden, who was an assistant coach at Michigan. Strack, the AD when Arizona entered the Pac-10 in 1978, also hired former Wolverines football assistants Jim Young and Larry Smith to coach the Arizona program.

Young and Smith were a combined 79-41-3 as the Wildcats’ head coach.

Strack resigned as Arizona’s AD in 1982, two years after a scandal involving the football program’s use of an athletic slush fund for improper payments to coaches, alumni and recruits. The infractions occurred under Tony Mason, another former Michigan assistant Strack hired to replace Young, who left in 1976 to take the Purdue job.

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Dave Strack at a recent Michigan basketball reunion event (University of Michigan photo)

Dave Strack at a recent Michigan basketball reunion event (University of Michigan photo)

The football program served an NCAA probation in 1983 and 1984.

Stack remained at Arizona as a professor of education after resigning as AD.

As a basketball player, Strack was the team captain and MVP at Shortridge High (Ind.) before arriving at Michigan. He became a three-time letterwinner for the Wolverines and captained the 1945-46 squad. In 1992, Strack was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame.

He joined the Michigan coaching staff in 1948, as the freshman coach, and was later promoted to varsity assistant under Bill Perigo. Strack returned to Michigan in 1960 after a one-year coaching stint at the University of Idaho, where his team posted an 11-15 record.

Former Michigan coach Johnny Orr, whom Strack hired as an assistant with the Wolverines in 1967, passed away on Dec. 31 at age 86. Snowden, who passed away in 1994, was a member of Orr’s staff at Michigan before Strack hired him at Arizona.

Snowden revived Arizona’s basketball program, taking the Wildcats as far as the Elite Eight in 1976. After three consecutive losing seasons, Snowden resigned in 1982. One of Strack’s last hires was Ben Lindsey from Grand Canyon University as the basketball head coach.

Cedric Dempsey, who replaced Strack as Arizona’s AD in 1983, fired Lindsey after one season in which the Wildcats went 4-24 overall and 1-17 in the Pac-10. Dempsey hired Lute Olson away from Iowa and Olson built Arizona into a national powerhouse.

Strack was inducted into the Michigan Hall of Honor in 1984. He recruited the likes of Cazzie Russell, Bill Buntin and Rudy Tomjanovich. Russell was the first of two national players of the year in Michigan history.

WILDABOUTAZCATS.net publisher, writer and editor Javier Morales is a former Arizona Press Club award winner. He also writes articles for Bleacher Report, Lindy’s College Sports and TucsonCitizen.com.

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