Dye coached Bob Houbregs to the NCAA semifinals in 1953 and is ranked No. 4 in victories for Washington men's basketball.

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Tippy Dye, the diminutive Midwesterner with the distinctive first name, left a legacy at Ohio State, Washington and Nebraska as a standout athlete, coach and administrator during a decorated career that spanned four decades.

The former Washington men’s basketball coach guided the Huskies to their only NCAA tournament semifinal appearance in 1953.

On Wednesday afternoon, he died at Spring Hill Manor in Grass Valley, Calif., at the age of 97.

“It was very peaceful,” said his daughter Penny Carnegie.

It’s impossible to write the history of UW basketball without devoting a chapter to Dye, the school’s 10th coach, who took the program to unprecedented levels on and off the court.

He arrived in 1951 and took a job that paid $12,500.

“He came at the start of our sophomore year,” said former UW star Bob Houbregs. “From the first moment we met him you knew he was in charge. He came in and it was our first glance at him. And he was 5-6. Boy, it’s a good thing everyone was sitting down because we could see who he was.

“But he took command right away. He let us know what to expect. Told us to dress properly and that we’d play hard defense. He just went on and on. That was the first meeting, and in short order, we had success.”

In Dye’s first season, he led Washington to the NCAA tournament and a 24-6 record. The next year the Huskies were 25-6.

During the 1952-53 season, Dye guided the Huskies to a 28-3 record. Washington was the favorite to win the national title but lost 79-53 to Kansas in the semifinals. The Huskies then beat Louisiana State 88-69 to finish third.

The win was the culmination of a wildly successful three-year start at UW and the pinnacle of Dye’s coaching career.

Six years later, he left Washington with a 156-91 record. Dye ranks fourth on Washington’s all-time win list behind Hec Edmundson (488-195), Marv Harshman (246-146) and Lorenzo Romar (219-113).

“He left an unbelievable legacy with this program, but more so with his players,” Romar said in a 2010 interview. “Talking to his players and those that watched the program, they might say: ‘Tippy would never let that fly,’ or ‘Tippy would do it this way.’

“This is 50 years later and they still have the utmost respect for him, and the little time that I spent with him, I can see why.”

Dye never coached again and served as athletic director at Wichita State, Nebraska and Northwestern before retiring in 1974.

His college career began in 1933 as a three-sport star athlete at Ohio State. He quarterbacked the Buckeyes to three straight wins over rival Michigan and was an all-conference football and basketball player.

In 1941, Dye was the basketball coach at Brown and served as a football assistant. He served three years in the Navy during World War II and returned to Ohio State, where he guided the Buckeyes to a 53-34 record from 1947-50, including a 22-4 mark and conference crown in 1950.

The next year, Dye took the job at Washington.

In a Pacific Coast Conference that included coaching greats John Wooden (UCLA), Slats Gill (Oregon State) and Jack Friel (Washington State), Dye won three league titles in his first three years. The Huskies also finished second three times.

“Most of those coaches were with their respective schools 25 to 40 years and their legacies are steeped in length and success,” Houbregs said.

“Tippy was only with us nine years, but he dominated for three years.

“If he stayed longer, he probably would be up there with Wooden and the others. But he was losing interest. He wanted to be an athletic director. That’s what he really wanted to do more than a coach.”

No story about Dye is complete without telling the origin of his nickname.

Born April 1, 1915 in Harrisonville, Ohio, William Henry Harrison Dye was named after the country’s ninth president, a general and hero in the 1811 Battle of Tippecanoe.

When Harrison campaigned for president in 1840, his running mate was John Tyler, and their motto was: “Tippecanoe and Tyler too.”

And the nickname was born.

Dye is survived by his daughter Penny Carnegie, son William HH Type Dye III, son-in-law Roger Carnegie, four granddaughters (Mary Haase, Laura Carnegie, Mary Dye and Jody LaLoup) and four great grandsons (Ryan Haase, Braydon and Parker LaLoup and Daniel Finnie).

Dye will be buried in Pomeroy, Ohio, with his wife of 64 years, Mary, who died in 2001.

“He was gentle and kind,” Penny Carnegie said. “He loved people. He really taught me what living was, and he taught me about dying.

“He and my mother really gave me my faith. They were people who gave self-esteem to other people.”

Percy Allen: 206-464-2278 or pallen@seattletimes.com.

On Twitter @percyallen

The fantastic four
Tippy Dye, who died Wednesday at the age of 97, was the fourth-winningest coach in Washington men’s basketball history.
Coach W-L Years
Hec Edmundson 488-195 27
Marv Harshman 246-146 14
Lorenzo Romar 219-113 10
Tippy Dye 156-91 9