Part II, 1941-1970
BY CURT SYNNESS
Notre Dame’s Ed Simonich arrived on the Hilltop in the fall of 1938 as football and basketball coach. In 1942, he directed the Saints to a 15-2 overall record, and 13-2 in conference play, for the school’s first MCC hoops championship.
The Saints’ David Secor of Ironwood, Michigan, led the conference in scoring with a 13.6 points per game average.
Several other top hoopsters included Jack McCarvel and Ray Hunthausen of Anaconda, and Helena Cathedral High alumnus Don Sullivan.
After the campus was depleted of able-bodied men entering World War II, the team was comprised of Naval officers in training. Over the 1944-45 season, the “Sailor Saints” beat the University of Montana four times, and Montana State twice.
Following the war, basketball was not played on the Hilltop for one season, but returned to the school in the winter of 1946.
Legendary coach John Gagliardi directed the Saints for four years, winning conference titles his last two seasons, in 1952-53.
The Saints had an unusual 2-0 win over Eastern Montana due to forfeit in 1952. The EMC Yellowjackets were leading 87-84 late in the game when an Eastern player fouled out. When he refused to leave the floor, a technical foul was called, and then EMC coach Harold Alterowitz withdrew his team from the floor in protest.
The forfeit was disputed, but the decision was upheld.
In the season finale of 1952, Pat Kelly’s basket with four seconds left on the clock lifted the Saints to a 78-76 win over Western Montana, and a share of the MCC championship with Rocky Mountain.
But according to Marty Mouat, CC had failed to pay its league dues, and therefore was ineligible to meet the Bears in a playoff game for a berth at nationals.
One of the highlights during Gagliardi’s tenure took place with an 88-86 upset over Gonzaga, on a last second basket by Walt Romasko.
First team All-Conference hoopsters under Gagliardi included Helena Cathedral products Kelly and Romasko, and Claude Weaver of Helena High.
Gagliardi went on to coach football at Minnesota’s St. John’s College for over 50 years, winning three national titles and setting the all-time record for college victories.
In 1953-54, Carroll alumnus Ray Hunthausen coached the Saints to at least a trio of firsts on the Hilltop: winning 20 or more games (22-4), an undefeated league title (10-0), and scoring 100 or more points in a game (104-71 over Eastern Montana).
Hunthausen’s cagers followed that with another league crown in 1955, giving the Saints four consecutive MCC championships.
At the NAIA District playoffs in Bozeman, Carroll lost to the College of Idaho 93-71. The Vandals were led by their 6’10” center, who was averaging 33 points a game at the time, none other than future NBA Hall of Famer Elgin Baylor.
Carroll’s first All-American
The 1955-56 season saw sophomore Dick House achieve Carroll’s greatest individual single season performance up to that time.
House, a 6’2” forward from Helena High, established no less than seven CC scoring records, including 45 points in a game, 495 season points and a 22.5 points per game average. House, who left the college after the school year, became the Hilltop’s first All-American, being selected an All-Catholic honorable mention.
The decade of the 1950s saw seven Saints cagers earn first team All-Conference selections, including former Helena Cathedral greats Kelly (twice), Romasko (twice) and Jim Trudnowski (twice) and Hal Hunter (twice); and Helena’s Claude Weaver and House.
The late Jim Trudnowski later spent 42 years at Carroll, serving as a coach, professor, vice president of academic affairs and dean of the college.
Darcy, 4-time first team All-Conference
Ron Darcy, a 6’4” post from Butte, opened the decade of the 1960s with four successive first team All-Conference selections, and was a two-time conference MVP. He made four All-American teams, including All-Catholic second team and NAIA honorable mention in 1962, 1963 All-Catholic HM, and NAIA honorable mention in 1964.
Darcy finished with several Carroll records, including 1,239 career points.
The first half of the decade, the Saints were coached by John Frankino (1961-63) and Presley Askew (1964-65).
In 1965, Bill Albright, a versatile senior guard, was a rare MVP at both football and basketball for the Saints.
Former Carroll hoopster Tom Kelly took over the reins for the 1965-66 season, and guided the Saints to its first ever national tournament.
Behind the performances of first team All-MCC selectees Tony Sapit of Chicago and Havre’s Arnie Anderson, and second team choice Jim Mallard of Cincinnati, the Saints went 8-2 in the conference and finished at 20-12 overall.
CC tied with Eastern Montana for the league title, and then beat the Yellowjackets 73-70 for the championship. Carroll then defeated the College of Idaho in the District 5 playoffs, two games to one.
Carroll was not seeded at the NAIA Finals in Kansas City, but beat No. 14 Bethune Cookman (Florida) 91-88 in the opening round, before being edged by No. 3 Grambling 95-86.
Coach Frankino returned for the 1966-67 season, and directed the Saints an unbeaten (10-0) league championship in the newly formed Frontier Conference. Over four seasons at the helm, Frankino posted a 64-32 record.
The ’67 Saints set school rebounding records of 96 in one contest, and an average 63 boards per game. Sapit was named third team NAIA All-American.
The following season, Sapit was ruled academically ineligible mid-way through his senior year. At the time, he was ranked eighth in the nation in rebounding, at 20.2 boards per game.
The 6’6” Sapit, who set numerous Carroll records, received a tryout with the Oakland Oaks of the American Basketball Association. But he chose to return to Carroll and complete work on his degree. He graduated in 1969, and went on to a successful law enforcement career in Chicago.
Andersen left the school with a new career scoring record of 1,645 points and three first team All-Conference selections.
The Saints closed out the decade highlighted by a pair of first team All-Frontier citations for Pat Burns (Butte), and the father-son combo of coach Bill Racicot, and guard Marc Racicot (Libby). Marc later served two terms as Montana’s governor.