By Al Rose
Moose Lake Star Gazette 

Celebrating the era of Lakers basketball


Coach Joe Mayer, third from left in front row, is surrounded by former players including Jim Terry, Jim Hankey, Bill Zellmann, Billy Shaw, Paul Nelson, Clayton Ohlin, Don Koskey, Gary Manty, Jerry Madsen, Mike Kirk, Ted Shaw, Jon Brown and Jerry Hammitt.

Former Lakers basketball coach Joe Mayer was honored during a gathering in the Moose Lake Area Historical Society Friday, September 11. The event also functioned as a reunion for members of classes from 1964 -68 and recognized faculty from 1964-68 along with players and students from those years, spouses and significant others and cheerleaders and band members.

Coach Mayer's 1964 team was Central 61 champs with a record of 16-4. His 1965 team was also Central 61 champs with a record of 20-1 and the 1966 team was District 25 champs with a record of 18-6. It was noted the last time the Lakers were district champs was in 1951. The coach had an 83 percent winning record while compiling an overall record of 54-11.

Moose Lake Mayor Ted Shaw, a former player for the coach, read from a framed plaque proclaiming September 11 as Joe Mayer Day. The coach was presented with a key to the city for his superb coaching, character building and success. Mayor Shaw also thanked all who helped organize the event, including Jerry Hammitt, Don Koskey, Jim Terry, Don Nikkola, Jon Brown and Natalie Frohrip.

Although not able attend, Jack Halverson was recognized for his lifelong support of Lakers and Rebels sports.

The teachers were recognized, including all the role models, such as Pat Martinson, the home economics teacher who taught a practical and useful class; Marlys Schmidt, the librarian; Elaine Zwickey, who taught typing, a skill that would later be applied to the keyboard when computers came on the scene; Bill Carlson, the shop/industrial arts teacher, who Mayor Shaw further recognized for his electronics class and for all he has done with the Moose Lake Internet; Bill Hanson, the social studies teacher; Anna Nelson and Betty Weske. "Thanks to all you special guests," said the mayor.

Those who have passed were lovingly remembered - Larry Fadness was said to have been a natural athlete; Skip Hanson was recalled to be fun loving, an amazing athlete and later to be courageous in the face of his physical ailments; Sherry Stein was remembered to be an energetic chief cheerleader.

Hanson, social studies teacher, read a poem written by a student for him entitled "Not An Ordinary Teacher."

Nikkola, the master of ceremonies, recognized the late Lakers football coach Bob Yuso's wife, Lynn. "She always has had a soft spot in her heart for us, as we do for her." Nikkola recalled being cut from the team as a sophomore. "I was 5-feet, 5-inches," he said.

Koskey started the well wishes and memories. "I was a sophomore when Coach Mayer came to us. He never showed any disappointment with the size of the gym. He never made excuses. He took advantage of the size of the gym. He brought much knowledge to Moose Lake. He implemented a man-to-man defense and a full court press he called the continuity offense. He opened the gym on Saturday and we had pick-up games, including the coaches. Coach picked Bill Hanson as his friend and I got an A in history. He started a basketball dynasty and was the best coach in Moose Lake history."

Wade Wenstrom from the class of '65 shared, "I had nothing to do with basketball," he said. "I remember that when it came time to use the gym, basketball had priority over baseball. I once hit a line drive foul that hit Coach Mayer in the ankle and put him in the hospital with a blood clot. There was a time that Paul Nelson wanted to try catching me. I motioned that I'd be throwing a fast-ball, so I cut one loose and it shattered Paul's beak."

Jim Hankey said, "When coach came to town we had to replace two guys. Coach helped me get a scholarship at St. Thomas. Coach was small and feisty. Later when we played Gary Oltmans from Oxford he scored 24 points on us twice. Coach Mayer was second only to Coach Yuso in cussing. He was concentrated and serious in his ways of winning."

Eddie Dahlberg said, "Coach instilled in us how to hold in the huddle until everyone was introduced. It was not about the individual. It was about the team."

Gary Manty talked about the team. "Everybody came forward. There was the full-court press and the fast break. We were ahead 54-4 against Hinckley in the sub-districts. Coach came in and said, 'I don't have anything to say.'"

Billy Shaw simply stated, "Basketball was teamwork. Coach Mayer was able to do it."

Terry remembered being recruited from Montana. I made fun of the gym and had to run a bunch of killers. Coach would sometimes grab our shorts when we jumped. He once said to me, 'Not paid to watch you dribble' - so I shot more. We would have been a contending team past the districts."

Mike Kirk recalled how the coach didn't believe in knee pads. "We were to go for loose balls. We wore floor burns like badges. Joe strutted confidence. It's what we needed as a team."

Clayton Ohlin recalled, "We beat Bemidji, where coach had come from, on their court."

Bill Zellmann sent greetings from his father. "Coach taught me how to play basketball the way I loved to play basketball. He taught me how to get around a pick. If Koskey was open in the corner it was money. We had a solid team my senior year. We only lost one game and that wasn't until the last game. We used a zone press to make a good comeback effort after being down 20 points."

Paul Nelson said, "Bill Hanson was my favorite teacher. I came from Kentucky and had a hillbilly accent. I was trying to say the word 'tour' and it kept coming our 'ter.' Mr. Hanson asked what the past tense of that would be. During those days when technology was poor, the film and the record wouldn't work in health class and kept going 'clack' so we starting going 'clack' when that would happen. It didn't take long before Coach was fed up with that and told us he did not want to hear another 'clack.' He taught us teamwork and knew when to keep us loose."

Mayor Shaw said, "I'd like to thank Bill Carlson again for the electronics class. It served me well. I remember once in 1966 Coach wanted us to get into his system and we wanted to. He had discipline. There was a time he was ordered by administration to wear a tie. He wore a fish head tie. A couple of the other teachers escorted him out so he wouldn't get in trouble. He set basketball to a new level of play that would last for years."

Brown remarked, "It's not easy dealing with parents. Coach created a chemistry. We played against Coach's coach in Bemidji and it went to overtime. I was just clobbered by this really big guy. I had a 1-1. I was called for having a foot on the free throw line. I told coach, 'I was concussed.'"

Coach Mayer came forward. "This is humbling that you did this for me. One story I'll share is coming here and wondering 'What will I do with a 6-foot, 7-inch kid?' Jim (Terry) had trouble with free throws. I wanted him to make five in a row. Finally I said, 'Just aim for the back of the rim and make two in a row.' My coaching was overrated. It wasn't me. It was the players."

The program closed with a remark that Coach has changed the world one life at a time.


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