1938–39 Oregon Webfoots men's basketball team

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1938–39 Oregon Webfoots men's basketball
NCAA National Champions
PCC champions
Conference Pacific Coast Conference North
1938–39 record 29–5 (14–2 PCC)
Head coach Howard Hobson
Home arena McArthur Court
« 1937–38 1939–40 »

The 1938–39 Oregon Webfoots men's basketball team was a Division I college basketball team that represented the University of Oregon. The Webfoots,[n 1] coached by Howard Hobson, played in the Pacific Coast Conference (PCC) and compiled a 29–5 won–loss record in regular and postseason competition. After winning the PCC title, they became the champions of the inaugural NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament.


The 1938–39 Webfoots were coming off a season in which they posted a win–loss record of 14–6 in Pacific Coast Conference play. In the conference's North division, the Webfoots won the title by a one-game margin over Washington. Oregon advanced to the best-of-three PCC championship series, but lost two consecutive games to Stanford that ended its hopes of being crowned the conference's champion.[2]


Newspaper editor L. H. Gregory called the Oregon team the "Tall Firs" due to the height of the team's players, since Oregon was taller than most other teams of the era.[3] Three Oregon players were named to the All-America team following the season: 6'8" center Slim Wintermute, 6'4" forward Lauren Gale, and 5'8" guard Bobby Anet. Other players on the team included 6'4" forward John H. Dick and 5'11" guard Wally Johansen.[3][4] Ford Mullen, a future Major League Baseball player, was a backup guard on the team.[5] Oregon's entire starting lineup returned from its 1937–38 team, which had lost a conference championship playoff to Stanford.[3] Also returning was their head coach, Howard Hobson, who was in his fourth season on the job.[4]

Oregon's preferred offensive game plan was to play an attacking fast break style of basketball. In response, opposing teams with shorter players often played a slower-paced offense; as a result, Hobson wound up supporting a shot clock in college basketball. On defense, the team switched between zone and man-to-man styles depending on how its opponent played.[3]

Name # Position Height Year Home Town
Bobby Anet 20 Guard 5–8 Senior Astoria, OR
John Dick 18 Forward 6–4 Junior The Dalles, OR
Lauren Gale 28 Forward 6–4 Senior Oakridge, OR
Bob Hardy 40 Forward 6–3 Senior Ashland, OR
Wally Johansen 32 Guard 5–11 Senior Astoria, OR
Red McNeely 15 Guard 6–2 Sophomore Astoria, OR
Ford Mullen 13 Guard 5–8 Junior Olympia, WA
Matt Pavalunas 11 Guard 6–0 Junior Raymond, WA
Earl Sandness 36 Center 6–4 Sophomore Astoria, OR
Ted Sarpola 25 Forward 6–2 Junior Astoria, OR
Slim Wintermute 22 Center 6–8 Senior Longview, WA

Regular season[edit]

McArthur Court, Oregon's home arena during the 1938–39 season

The Webfoots began the 1938–39 season by defeating Portland 51–24 on November 29, 1938.[6] Oregon's second game was also against a team based in Portland, which represented the Multnomah Athletic Club. The Webfoots won by an 83–25 final score. In a closer game with a team representing Signal Oil, Oregon stretched its winning streak to three games with a 46–34 triumph.[7] The team then recorded a victory over Pacific Packards, by a 54–39 final score.[8]

Following those games, the Webfoots embarked on a long trip through the Eastern United States; they were the first college basketball team from the West Coast to do so.[9] The first game of the trip came in December at New York City's Madison Square Garden against City College of New York (CCNY). Oregon had a poor start to the game; according to the Sporting News, the team was "confused by officials' interpretation of legal and illegal screens to the moving picks set by City College of New York."[3] CCNY took an early 10-point lead, but Oregon cut its deficit in half by the end of the first half, and tied the game at 30–30.[10] Despite Oregon's comeback attempt, CCNY won 38–36 to hand the Webfoots their first loss of the season. The trip continued on December 19 with a game at Convention Hall in Philadelphia, against local team Saint Joseph's. Oregon won easily by a 54–44 margin, as Gale and Wintermute led the Webfoots with 13 points each.[11] Future stops included Chicago, Cleveland, and Detroit, among other locations. The Webfoots went 6–1 in the seven games following the CCNY loss; their only loss in that stretch came against Bradley.[12] The final game of the road trip, held in San Francisco on New Year's Eve, saw the Webfoots lose to Stanford.[3]

At the beginning of 1939, the Webfoots began its PCC schedule with consecutive home games against Washington State, winning the first and losing the second. Oregon then began a 10-game winning streak, their longest since the start of the 1937–38 season. Idaho lost four times to Oregon during the streak, and Oregon State, Washington, and Washington State were defeated twice each. On February 18, the Webfoots' streak ended with a 50–31 loss to Oregon State, which would be their last of the season. Six days later, Oregon posted a 48–37 win over the Beavers. On March 3 and 4, Oregon defeated Washington for the third and fourth times that season, respectively,[8] of the Huskies' five losses, all but one was against the Webfoots.[3] By the end of the regular season, Oregon had won the PCC North Division with a 14–2 conference record, and had a 24–5 record overall.[13]


Patten Gymnasium, site of the 1939 NCAA national championship game

By winning the PCC North Division, Oregon earned the right to play the winner of the South Division, California, in a best-of-three playoff series. The series was held at McArthur Court, the Webfoots' home arena.[13] In addition to the PCC championship, the winner would gain a berth in the first NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament, which the National Association of Basketball Coaches would run.[3] The first game was won by the Webfoots, 54–40; more than half of Oregon's points were scored by Gale and Wintermute, who had 18 and 11 respectively. Oregon clinched a two-game sweep with a 53–47 victory in the second game; Dick and Wintermute contributed 16 points apiece.[13]

Oregon advanced to the NCAA Tournament's West Regional, which was held on March 20 and 21 in San Francisco.[8] First, Oregon defeated Texas in the first round by a score of 56–41. Wintermute had 14 points in the game, and Dick added 13.[14] In the regional final against Oklahoma, Dick had 14 points and Gale and Wintermute scored 11 and 10, respectively. Oregon advanced to the national championship game with a 55–37 victory.[15] The title game was held on March 27 in Northwestern University's Patten Gymnasium.[9] Oregon's opponent was Ohio State, who had won the East Regional by winning against Wake Forest and Villanova.[3]

Oregon took advantage of the Buckeyes' defense, which was designed to stop Gale and Wintermute, by using Gale as "a decoy", in his words.[3] This created an opportunity for contributions from the Webfoots' other players, including Dick, who led both teams by scoring 15 points.[3] On Ohio State's offensive possessions, the Webfoots used a match-up zone defense, which held the Buckeyes' field goal percentage to 17 percent for the game.[9] The Webfoots held a five-point lead at halftime, and pulled away in the second half to win the national championship, 46–33.[3] Afterward came what Dick termed "a two-handed trophy presentation"; during the game, Anet had broken a figure off the top of the championship trophy while attempting to gain possession of the ball by the sideline.[9][16]


At the end of the season, Anet, Gale, and Wintermute were selected as All-Americans.[17] Hobson was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1965, and Gale followed him into the Hall 12 years later.[18] The entire 1938–39 Oregon team has been enshrined in the Oregon Sports Hall of Fame, and Anet, Dick, Gale, Hobson, Johansen, and Wintermute were inducted as individuals.[19] The University of Oregon Athletic Hall of Fame selected the team and Hobson as part of its inaugural class of inductees in 1992. Dick and Gale (1993), Wintermute (1994), and Anet and Johansen (1996) were also inducted in later years.[20] All five of the team's starters have had their numbers retired by the university.[21]


  1. ^ The team had been nicknamed the Ducks, the University of Oregon's modern name for its athletic programs, by members of the press. That nickname was unofficial, however, and the team was officially called the Webfoots.[1]


  1. ^ Frei, pp. 6, 17.
  2. ^ Frei, pp. 37–39.
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l Gergen, Joe. "The beginning: Oregon is king – 1939". Sporting News (Internet Archive). Archived from the original on October 4, 2008. Retrieved October 22, 2011. 
  4. ^ a b ESPN College Basketball Encyclopedia, p. 352.
  5. ^ Bellamy, Ron (January 30, 2009). "Hoop Memories: The last living Tall Firs starter recalls that championship season". The Register-Guard. Retrieved December 31, 2009. 
  6. ^ Strite, Dick (March 28, 1939). "Mighty Oregons Scramble Ohio State to Take Hoop Title of All America". The Register-Guard. Retrieved January 7, 2010. 
  7. ^ Frei, p. 58.
  8. ^ a b c 2009–10 Oregon Men's Basketball Media Guide, p. 111.
  9. ^ a b c d Russell, Michael (April 7, 2008). "When Firs stood tall". The Oregonian. Retrieved December 22, 2009. 
  10. ^ Frei, pp. 65–66.
  11. ^ Frei, p. 67.
  12. ^ 2009–10 Oregon Men's Basketball Media Guide, pp. 95, 111.
  13. ^ a b c 2009–10 Oregon Men's Basketball Media Guide, p. 95.
  14. ^ "Oregon, Oklahoma Cagers Face Title Clash Tonight". Berkeley Daily Gazette. United Press. March 21, 1939. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  15. ^ "Oregon Defeats Oklahoma to Enter National Basketball Finals". The Bend Bulletin. United Press. March 22, 1939. Retrieved July 30, 2010. 
  16. ^ Jones, Todd (March 29, 2007). "Stuff Of Legends: The Final Four has been home to the greatest plays, characters in college basketball history". The Columbus Dispatch. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  17. ^ "1938–39 Men's Basketball Team". University of Oregon. Retrieved December 15, 2014. 
  18. ^ "Hall of Famers". Basketball Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  19. ^ "Hall of Fame Roll of Honor Members". Oregon Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  20. ^ "Oregon Hall of Fame Inductees". University of Oregon. Retrieved December 24, 2009. 
  21. ^ Raley, Dan (January 20, 2009). "Pac-10 Notebook: Huskies to hang Roy's No. 3 with the best". Seattle Post-Intelligencer. Retrieved December 30, 2009.