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Sunday, May 12, 2013 - Page updated at 07:30 p.m.

Harshman remembered at public memorial service

By Bud Withers
Seattle Times staff reporter

Erik Connelly was a 12-year-old boy attending a Washington basketball game back in the mid-1970s. His dad, who had dropped him off and gone to the Seattle Art Museum, was late picking him up, and by now, the lights were dimmed at Hec Edmundson Pavilion, and the crowds had gone home.

A car pulled up to Connelly and the driver offered a ride home. The boy turned it down, but he never forgot the gesture, because it came from Marv Harshman, UW basketball coach, who 10 years later would be in the Naismith Hall of Fame.

That story, and a lot of others, made the rounds Saturday at a public memorial attended by more than 1,000 for Harshman on the practice court named after him on the UW campus. Almost a month after his death at 95, it was a day of appreciation for Harshman the man more than the coach who divided a 40-year career among Pacific Lutheran, Washington State and Washington.

"Harsh was a guy I always felt was really comfortable in his own skin," said Steve Hawes, former UW and NBA center who played under Harshman early in the coach's UW tenure. "He didn't pull any punches."

Lorenzo Romar, the Huskies coach, played for Harshman, partly on the recommendation of another coach of some renown. While Romar was being recruited, he had a chance meeting with John Wooden, the famed UCLA coach, and asked him what he thought he should do.

"I'm thinking, 'Who would know better than the Wizard of Westwood?' " Romar said. "He didn't hesitate. He said: 'If you have a chance to play for Marv Harshman, I don't think you should pass that up. He's one of the finest men, and one of the finest coaches in the country.' "

Romar, a junior-college transfer, admitted there were times he felt he should be playing more. But he said, "He was a man who never lied to me."

Harshman's son, Dave, who played for him at Washington State and later was an assistant coach with the Sonics, emceed the event, and the family was a prominent part of the remembrances. Harshman and his wife, Dorothy, were married 66 years before her passing.

"Coach loved his wife," said Romar. "And he wasn't keeping it on the down-low. And you could tell how proud he was of his boys. He always kept his family first."

Early in the event, Dave Harshman ducked behind a podium and popped up wearing a set of Groucho Marx glasses and mustache, identical to the ones several Huskies donned during a pregame warmup when they one-upped the Oregon Ducks, who regularly used a stare-down tactic under coach Dick Harter back in the 1970s.

Jud Heathcote, Harshman's lieutenant at Washington State before he won a national title at Michigan State, recalled how he would needle him in introductions at events.

"One of the greatest athletes in history," Heathcote said. "He was an All-American in basketball and an All-American in football. But before you get carried away with those accomplishments, remember, there weren't very many Americans back then."

"The man could coach," said Bob Houbregs, the most decorated Washington player in history (1950-53) and in later years, a close friend of Harshman.

Sometimes loudly, players at all three of his stops agreed.

"It was, 'Rock,' or 'Rockhead, what were you thinking?' " said Detlef Schrempf, the former Washington forward whom Harshman called the best player he ever coached. "But he forgot about it the next day. That was really appealing."

Harshman won 637 games but amassed a greater number of friends.

"It wasn't about the wealth, or the cars you drove, or the toys you collected," Schrempf said.

"He had a rich life."

Bud Withers: 206-464-8281 or bwithers@seattletimes.com

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