You may not think of the Chippewa Valley as some kind of basketball mecca, but we certainly have our high points.
Eau Claire is often considered a baseball town, but during the Ken Anderson era, Eau Claire was home to a small-college basketball powerhouse. Anderson coached the UW-Eau Claire men’s basketball team from 1968-95, leading them to a 631-152 record. His teams won 14 conference titles and reached the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics tourney 15 times (where they were runners-up in 1972 and 1990). In 2012, the court at Zorn Arena was named in his honor.
Eau Claire has been no slouch when it comes to high school March Madness, either. In fact, between 1917 and 1962 – when Eau Claire’s second public high school, North High, opened – Eau Claire (later Memorial) High School went to the state boy’s basketball tournament 25 times. That’s still the third-highest figure in tournament history. During that time, ECHS won titles in 1917, 1927, and 1955.
The girl’s basketball team at little Fall Creek High School has established a strong legacy. Since the girl’s WIAA tournament began in 1976, Fall Creek has made 10 appearances at the Big Dance, behind only Cuba City and Janesville Parker. The Crickets brought home the gold trophy four times (1985, 1987, 1988, and 1996), puting them behind only Cuba City and Milwaukee Washington as all-time champs.
Bennett is best known among fans for leading the Wisconsin Badgers to the Final Four in 2000 (and for coaching UW-Green Bay and UW-Stevens Point). Before that college success, Bennett coached at Eau Claire Memorial for four seasons, leading the Olds Abes to the Class A title game in 1976. (They lost to South Milwaukee.)
Mickey Crowe may have played hoops for JFK Prep in Manitowoc County, but his ties to Eau Claire are strong: He’s lived here for decades and his late father, Marty, coached at Eau Claire Regis and Chippewa Falls McDonell. Crowe led the nation with 41.7 points per game in 1974-75 and remains No. 2 on the Wisconsin high school all-time scoring list. He is the subject of a recent biography, Over and Back – Mickey Crowe: The Strange and Troubled Life of a Wisconsin High School Basketball Legend.
Just last week the Pinehurst Project, a group of grassroots winter sport enthusiasts dedicated to reinventing Pinehurst Park on Delbert Rd., received their largest donation to date. The gift, valued at almost $11,000, was donated by Arthur “Gene” Rogers in memory of his wife, Irene, who had learned how to ski at Pinehurst Park many years ago. “I remember my wife standing at the top of the mountain overlooking Aspen, CO,” Rogers recants, “…I told here not to worry. The farthest you’ll fall is from your butt to the ground.” This is one of the many stories Gene Rogers had about his wife and her love for skiing. Pinehurst Project Board President Christian Peterson was overwhelmed by Rogers's generosity and said, “What a wonderful way to leave a legacy and encourage more families to get their start at Pinehurst and see where the trail leads them.”
Three 30-second commercials for the Wisconsin Department of Tourism featuring key figures from the 1980 comedy classic "Airplane!" premiered on March 3 at the Wisconsin Governor's Conference on Tourism.
The three ads feature NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar and actor Robert Hays in the original cockpit from the movie as they take viewers on an aerial tour of some of the state's finest scenery. But that's not all; the spots also reunited writers and directors David and Jerry Zucker and Jim Abrahams.
"I started my NBA career in Wisconsin and I still hold many fond memories of the state and its people." – real quotation from NBA legend Kareem Abdul-Jabbar
"We love our home state of Wisconsin and we're happy to promote it whenever we can," the Zuckers and Abrahams proclaimed, followed by a synchronized chant of the three most important proclamations in the Wisconsinite lexicon: "Go packers! Go Bucks! Go Brewers!" Hear, hear.
"I started my NBA career in Wisconsin and I still hold many fond memories of the state and its people," said Abdul-Jabbar. In fact, he even references his leaving the Milwaukee Bucks for the Los Angeles Lakers in 1975 in the commercial by saying "I can't believe I ever left this place." Well, we're glad to see you again too, Kareem.
The summer spot, which can be found on the Travel Wisconsin YouTube page will run in local markets and cinemas between May 12 and July 24 throughout Wisconsin, Chicago, the Twin Cities and Cedar Rapids, as well as at Bucks games in March. The fall and winter spots will debut in the coming seasons in selected markets.
Keep reading to watch the commercial ...