Torchy Clark

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Torchy Clark
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born 1929
Oshkosh, Wisconsin
Died April 22, 2009(2009-04-22) (aged 80)
Orlando, Florida
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1969–1983 UCF
Head coaching record
Overall 274–89 (.755)
Accomplishments and honors
Championships
5x Sunshine State regular season championships
Sunshine State Tournament championship
Awards
4× Sunshine State Coach of the Years
Sunshine State Coach of the Decade
Records
Most wins in UCF history (274)

Eugene "Torchy" Clark (1929–2009) was an American college basketball coach. He was the first head coach of the UCF Knights men's basketball team that represents the University of Central Florida in Orlando, Florida. Then named Florida Technological University, Clark served as the university's head basketball coach from 1969 to 1983.[1]

During his 14-year tenure at UCF, Clark never had a losing season, and built the Knights into a national power, leading the team to five Sunshine State Conference regular season championships, one conference tournament championship and six NCAA tournament appearances in eight years. In 1978, Clark led the Knights, which at the time were riding a 24–game winning streak, to the Final Four. During his tenure, the Knights were ranked in the top 10 nationally for seven consecutive years.[2]

Coaching career[edit]

Clark served as UCF's, then FTU's, first head basketball coach.[3] In 1969, Clark, who was a Wisconsin high school coach, was responsible for starting the university's basketball program from scratch. In their first year, as a club level team, the Knights went 11–3, including a 99–38 victory in their first game over Massey Tech.[2] The first season would serve as an omen for UCF basketball, with Clark bringing the university unprecedented success as a Division II team.

As the Knights head coach, Clark earned Sunshine State Coach of the Year honors four times and won the conference's coach of the decade award. While at UCF, Clark coached both of his sons, Bo and Mike. All three men are members of the UCF Athletic Hall of Fame, and Clark is a member of the Sunshine State Conference Hall of Fame.[4] Bo is the Knight's all-time leading scorer with Mike second on the list, and as a freshman in 1976 Bo was the nation's leading scorer.[5] The father-son duo were featured in a 1979 Sports Illustrated issue.[5]

Clark coached his last game as a Knight on February 26, 1983, with UCF falling to Florida Southern. During his tenure, Clark's squads went 274–89, winning 20 or more games in a season seven times. In the decade after Clark retired, the Knights had only one winning season, the year after he left.[6]

Before coaching men's college basketball, Clark was the basketball coach at Xavier High School in Appleton, Wisconsin. Among the players he coached there was Bob "Rocky" Bleier, who later overcame debilitating war wounds suffered in the Viet Nam War to become running back for the Pittsburgh Steelers, and earn four Super Bowl rings -- as they became the first team to do so, in 1975, '76, '79 and '80. Under Clark, the Xavier varsity basketball team had an outstanding run almost every year in the Wisconsin Catholic Interscholastic Athletic Association State Championships.

Xavier opened its doors for the first time in the fall of 1959, and as young man Gene "Torchy" Clark 'moved' from St. Mary's Grade School in Appleton to become the first head coach for the football and basketball teams at the city's first Catholic high school. He also coached the boys tennis teams and was the athletic director at XHS. His legacy at Xavier almost seems made up, as he quickly established a very successful and strong tradition... one that still makes the school widely respected in athletic circles.

He coached 10 seasons at Xavier (the 1959 football season was against JV teams as the school opened with only freshmen and sophomores, and, XHS joined a conference in '61). Torchy's teams won almost 90% of the time, and, they earned plenty of 'hardware' to fill the school's trophy cases: XHS won 7 conference championships in 8 years in football, and, they captured 8 conference titles in 8 seasons in basketball. His record for football and basketball at Xavier was 277-35-2 -- a phenomenal 88% over 10 years.

His basketball teams went to the State Tournament in Milwaukee 6 times in 9 years, and the Hawks returned to Appleton with a trophy each time: Xavier won the State Title in 1963, was 2nd in '64, was 4th once, and claimed 3 Consolation honors. A then-single-game-record-crowd of 7,095 witnessed the '63 state finals, eager to see Xavier top Marquette High, 71-66, in a raucous, 'mostly-blue' Milwaukee Arena.

His basketball teams won 49 straight, but their shot at the '64 state title and 50-in-a-row came up short against Marinette Central & Coach Marty Crowe, 43-37. Torchy's teams also had a 62-game regular season win streak -- before Chicago St. Pat's put an end to that string, 66-54, before an as-always packed-in-crowd in the noisy & hot XHS gym.

The post-season Football Playoffs in Wisconsin did not start until 1969 -- after Clark left Xavier for a college coaching position in Florida.

The gym at Xavier was dedicated in honor of Torchy Clark on Saturday, Feb. 21, 2004. Many alumni came back for the special night, including Rocky Bleier, who introduced Coach Clark. The MC for the event was Peter Bates, Xavier Class of 1979 and the Voice of the Hawks for XHS athletic events for 30 years. Torchy – and his wife, Claire – plus the many dedicated coaches and the hard-working, gifted student athletes who first walked the hallways at Xavier were very instrumental in establishing the Hawks’ athletic tradition.

His football teams posted a record of 69-9-2 overall, as 3 times XHS was 9-0 and 3 times was 8-1. Xavier shut out its opponents in nearly 50% of their games, as the Hawks averaged 27 points per game and allowed just 6 points a game... over 9 football seasons. The ’62 team was rated # 1 in the state by the Associated Press.

His basketball teams were 208-26, and, after his first two years never had more than 3 losses in any of 8 straight seasons. XHS was undefeated in 6 seasons at home, and in two other seasons had just one loss at home – as his home-court advantage was 95-7 over 10 seasons. The Hawks outscored opponents in those 10 years by an average of 70.7 points to 50.7 points per game.

Torchy's record for football and basketball at Xavier was 277-35-2 -- a phenomenal 88% over 10 years.

He was inducted into the Hall of Fame for the Wisconsin Basketball Coaches Association in 1981, and Torchy was the first Xavier coach to be so honored. [7]

Torchy died April 22, 2009 [8] after a battle with cancer. His wife had died two years earlier.

Collegiate Head coaching record[edit]

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
UCF (Independent) (1969–1975)
1969–70 UCF 11–3
1970–71 UCF 17–9
1971–72 UCF 20–6
1972–73 UCF 19–7
1973–74 UCF 16–8
1974–75 UCF 14–10
UCF (Sunshine State Conference) (1975–1983)
1975–76 UCF 20–5 10–0 1st NCAA Southeast Regional
1976–77 UCF 24–4 8–2 1st NCAA Southeast Regional
1977–78 UCF 26–4 10–0 1st NCAA Final Four
1978–79 UCF 19–7 7–3 2nd
1979–80 UCF 25–4 8–2 2nd NCAA South Regional
1980–81 UCF 23–5 9–1 1st NCAA South Regional
1981–82 UCF 21–8 9–3 1st NCAA South/Central Regional
1982–83 UCF 19–9 10–2 2nd
UCF: 274–89 71–13
Total: 274–89

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion

References[edit]

  1. ^ 2010-11 UCF men's basketball media guide
  2. ^ a b "2007–2008 UCF Knights Men's Basketball History". UCF Athletics Association. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  3. ^ In December 1978, Florida Technological University was renamed the University of Central Florida.
  4. ^ "UCF Mourns the Passing of Coach Torchy Clark". University of Central Florida. 2009-04-22. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  5. ^ a b "He's A Tough Gun Of A Son". Sports Illustrated. 1979-12-17. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  6. ^ "There'll Never Be Another Torchy Clark". Rivals. 2010-01-22. Retrieved 2013-01-07. 
  7. ^ http://www.xavierhawkssports.com/torchy-clark.html
  8. ^ http://www.legacy.com/ns/eugene-clark%20-obituary/126508551