George Raveling recalled ferocious battles in the Pac-8 between his Washington State teams and the Washington teams coached by Marv Harshman, who had left the Cougars to coach the Huskies.
In the beginning, Marv Harshman was alternately a mentor and a rival for George Raveling.
Ultimately, though, he was simply a friend, the two sharing a common bond as members of a close-knit fraternity of coaches during the 1970s glory years of the Pacific 8 Conference.
It was an era when UCLA and John Wooden dominated, turning the Pac-8 into the self-proclaimed “Conference of Champions.”
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But January and February weekend nights were filled with mammoth battles throughout the conference with coaches such as Raveling at Washington State, Harshman at Washington, Ralph Miller at Oregon State, Dick Harter at Oregon and Bob Boyd at USC.
“I always felt that Marv was one of the best coaches in the college ranks,” Raveling said Friday after hearing of the passing of Harshman, who died earlier in the day at 95. “Unfortunately, he ended up in a league with Wooden. It was just, at that time there were so many great coaches in the league, especially when the league had only eight schools.”
Raveling took over at WSU in 1972, a year after Harshman had made the somewhat unthinkable move of going from coach of the Cougars to coach of the Huskies.
Raveling, 76, talked about Harshman by phone from New York, where he was on business for Nike. He is Nike’s director of international basketball. He said he can’t imagine what the reaction to a coach going from WSU to UW would be today.
“It would be almost like treason,” he said.
Harshman, though, was still largely greeted warmly when he returned to Pullman for annual games against the Cougars, Raveling said.
“You’d always get some people who might hiss or boo,” Raveling said. “But I’d say the majority of the people welcomed him back and respected him.”
Harshman coached at WSU from 1959-71, going 155-181, still the fourth-most wins in school history. He was replaced for a season by Bob Greenwood, who went 11-15 before Raveling took over in 1972.
For the next 11 years, Harshman and Raveling slugged it out on the floor during the winter, and in the living rooms of recruits the rest of the year.
Harshman and UW were 14-9 against Raveling and WSU from 1972-83. And Raveling says Harshman pitched a shutout in recruiting.
“We never beat him in recruiting for a kid where we went head-to-head in-state,” Raveling said. “And a lot of it was Marv. He had a network of people in the state who had known him for a long time and really respected him and so they clearly had a lot of confidence that if a kid went there that he was going to get expert coaching.”
Raveling said he initially considered Harshman something of a role model when he took over at WSU.
“His teams were always extremely well-prepared and very fundamentally sound,” he said. “And just the way he carried himself, he always commanded respect. I always paid close attention to everything he did because I knew I could learn from him. When I got to Washington State, everybody held him in such high esteem that I knew he had left his mark there.”
Coaching at separate in-state schools meant they also quickly became rivals.
“There is always that element of the rivalry that causes people to deal with one another differently,” Raveling said. ‘But I think we always had civil relations. And once we were away from it we had more of an open-arms relationship.”
Raveling said his memory of WSU-UW games of the era is simply how competitive they were.
“We struggled to beat them every time we played them,” he said. “Even if we won, it was a battle. People ask me from time to time who are the top coaches you coached against. The three guys from our league I always say are Marv, John Wooden and Ralph Miller.”
Harshman coached for 13 years at Pacific Lutheran, 13 more at WSU and then 14 at Washington, leaving a legacy that Raveling says might never be duplicated.
“I don’t think anyone has had the impact on college basketball in the state of Washington that he had,” Raveling said. “He was the single most important person, in my mind, in the state of Washington for college basketball and its history.”
Bob Condotta: 206-515-5699 or firstname.lastname@example.org. On Twitter @bcondotta.