HAGEN: Life fades but legend of 1964 Howard team lives onJim Cordts was resting at his home Friday afternoon in Madison. The former teacher and coach in Wessington, Howard and Madison will celebrate his birthday on Thursday, turning 78 years old.
By: Luke Hagen, The Daily Republic
Jim Cordts was resting at his home Friday afternoon in Madison.
The former teacher and coach in Wessington, Howard and Madison will celebrate his birthday on Thursday, turning 78 years old.
But the biggest highlight of his week comes today, when his 1964 Howard boys’ basketball team is being recognized as this year’s team of excellence at the South Dakota High School Basketball Hall of Fame induction ceremony.
“I’m probably more keyed up for this induction,” Cordts, the team’s former coach, said in a quiet, scratchy voice in a telephone conversation. “I hope my health is OK. I’m just trying to take it easy.”
The fourth annual cere mony is at the Dakota Prairie Playhouse in Madison. Sixteen players and Cordts’ Howard team will be recognized at the 2 p.m. banquet.
Cordts was 29 when he coached the ‘64 Howard Tigers to a 28-0 record and the Class B title, which is still the town’s most recent boys’ basketball championship. The Tigers defeated Scotland 60-51 in the championship game, played at Sioux Falls Arena, and became the first team from 1949 to 1964 in Class B boys’ basketball to go undefeated. In four years at Howard, Cordts led the Tigers to three state tournament appearances.
Forty-nine years later, Cordts said he still thinks about the memories of that season, including a two-point victory over Volga in the region championship game and playing in front of about 9,000 people for the title.
But Cordts, who moved to Madison to teach and coach in a bigger town, has also spent a lot of time thinking about his health lately. In November, he was diagnosed with cancer. In about three weeks, he will have surgery to have his esophagus and part of his stomach removed.
“There’s nothing I can do about it,” said Cordts, who spent the majority of his 34 years in Madison as an assistant basketball coach. “It’s the way it goes. I have to pray for it and hope to have a lot of people praying for me.”
Cordts said he’s looking forward to seeing his former players on the Howard team today. Dave Callies, 66, is one of two starters who are still alive and will be in attendance today in Madison.
Still living in Howard, Callies is the executive vice president and CEO of Miner County Bank. He said Cordts was a very well-respected man, who also coached Howard’s football team to an undefeated record, with one tie, earlier that school year.
The other living member of the 1964 Howard starting five is Glenn Rasmussen, who was an all-tournament team selection at state and is also the younger brother of Wayne Rasmussen, who played 10 years of NFL football for the Detroit Lions.
The three members of the team who’ve died are guards Roger Truman and Jerry Potter, both of heart attacks, and center Denny Carlson, who had complications from various illnesses. Carlson and Truman were both all-state selections and Rasmussen was an all-state honoree.
“It’s a nice recognition even though some of the team won’t be able to be there to appreciate it and have it,” said Callies, who was a senior forward on the title team. “We’ll certainly remember them.”
Callies and Cordts said they were both surprised when they found out their Howard team would be recognized. But they agreed it will be “bittersweet” when only a portion of the starting lineup will be in attendance to be recognized.
“It will be a good time for me as far as visiting with the boys who are there,” Cordts said. “I had some very good memories in Howard. The kids were very special there. It was an exciting season and is something I’ll always remember.”