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YEAR BY YEAR | ALL-DECADE TEAM 1970s: One Valley title with Cheese

  • Published Tuesday, March 4, 2014, at 4:01 p.m.
  • Updated Wednesday, March 5, 2014, at 1:37 p.m.

The aura of the 1965 Final Four had worn off by the start of the 1970s. Mired in consecutive eighth-place finishes, Gary Thompson was fired and Harry Miller was brought in.

Miller didn’t have much early success, finishing fifth in the Valley four straight years. But in 1975-76, a strong combination of a veteran point guard (Calvin Bruton), dominant center (Robert Elmore), scoring forward (Robert Gray) and freshman phenom (Cheese Johnson) led WSU to its first Valley title in 11 years. The Shockers lost in the NCAA’s first round on a Michigan shot in the final seconds.

Johnson became one of the most notable Shockers, and not just because of his name (Lynbert was his given first name, which sounded like “Limburger” to a relative). He’s one of five Shockers to lead the team in scoring three times (joining Cleo Littleton, Dave Stallworth, Cliff Levingston and Randy Burns), and was two-time All-Valley.

By 1978, flamboyant athletic director Ted Bredehoft had enough of Miller and looked east, to Normal, Ill., for his next coach. Gene Smithson sat in front of the microphones at Levitt Arena, and after he was introduced, explained an acronym that he lived by: MTXE.

SeasonOverallMVC (Finish)CoachTop scorer
1969-708-183-13 (8th)Gary ThompsonGreg Carney (23.2)
1970-7110-163-11 (8th)Gary ThompsonRon Harris (18.7)
1971-7216-106-8 (5th)Harry MillerRon Harris (18.3)
1972-7310-166-8 (T5th)Harry MillerBob Wilson (17.6)
1973-7411-156-7 (5th)Harry MillerBob Wilson (20.0)
1974-7511-156-8 (5th)Harry MillerCalvin Bruton (13.7)
1975-7618-10*10-2 (1st)Harry MillerRobert Gray (13.3)
1976-7718-107-5 (T3rd)Harry MillerCheese Johnson (17.1)
1977-7813-148-8 (T5th)Harry MillerCheese Johnson (19.0)
1978-7914-148-8 (T3rd)Gene SmithsonCheese Johnson (22.2)

* – NCAA Tournament

PlayerHt.Pos.
Terry Benton6-8C
Calvin Bruton5-9G
Robert Elmore6-10C
Ron Harris6-6F
Cheese Johnson6-5F
Off the bench
Charlie Brent6-4F
Preston Carrington6-1G
Robert Gray6-6F
Steve Kalocinski6-6C
Richard Morsden6-4F
Ray Shirley6-7F
Vince Smith6-4G
Bob Trogele6-3G
Bob Wilson6-2G

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