McKendree coach wins 1,000th game

Nov 14, 2009 - 4:02 AM By R.B. FALLSTROM AP Sports Writer

LEBANON, Ill. (AP) -- Harry Statham got a congratulatory telephone call from Dean Smith in 2004, the day after he passed the North Carolina legend to become the career men's victory leader.

The 72-year-old McKendree University coach wasn't expecting to hear from Tennessee women's coach Pat Summit after becoming the second member of the 1,000-win club and toppling yet another milestone in a 44-year career - all at the same school.

"I don't think so," Statham said with a grin. "You welcome all phone calls, and like them all to be positive."

McKendree pulled away from a five-point halftime lead in a 79-49 victory over East-West University, fulfilling expectations of a sellout crowd of 1,600 that included about two dozen former players and 10 shirtless students with "Harry1,000!" spelled out on their chests.

Statham is 1,000-381 at the NAIA school, about a half-hour drive east of St. Louis, and won the milestone game in a gym that bears his name.

Summit, who is 1005-193 in 35 seasons, is the only other coach of a four-year school to reach 1,000 wins. Gene Bess of Three Rivers Community College in Poplar Bluff, Mo., a two-year school, has 1,087 victories.

After the game, East-West coach Michael Lang shook Statham's hand and then raised the veteran coach's left arm high into the air. Mayor Scott Abner gave the coach a key to the city and school president James Dennis presented a ceremonial game ball and a cake with the letters 1,000 in orange icing, the zeros in the shape of basketballs. The school's legacy scholarship program, $1,000 per year for children and grandchildren of alumni, was named in Statham's honor.

"Your dream," longtime announcer Jim Youngs said, "gets better and better."

Eric Hobbie had 22 points for McKendree, which shot 67 percent in the second half. Brad Copelin and John Steppe added 11 points apiece and Andy Wolff had eight assists.

The entire roster attended a postgame news conference, seated at a long table with Statham in the center.

"We have a group of players I'm very, very proud of," Statham told the crowd after the game. "Our success has not been me, it's been our team."

McKendree, ranked fifth in the NAIA preseason poll, led 30-25 at halftime against a team that entered 2-2. Players perhaps were trying too hard for their coach, going scoreless for 4 1/2 minutes before Hobbie bounced in a 3-pointer with 28 seconds to go.

"He wasn't happy to say the least," forward Kenny Detmer said. "He got the point across. We just had to play our game."

Both Statham and his wife, Rose, who was sitting in the second row in stands opposite her husband, wore anguished expressions much of the first half.

"We thought we were going to win the game, and we did," Statham said. "We just played better."

Anticipation for the 1,000th victory didn't attract the same attention as when Statham passed Smith with his 880th victory. That game drew 70 former players to see a coach who's more at home the more milestones he hits.

"We're getting used to these things," Statham said. "I'm just glad to get it in the book and move on. Good win, good night, everybody played and most everybody scored."

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