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'65 Giants provided change of direction at Marion

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GIANT LEGEND: Legendary Grant County coach Jack Colescott talks about his 1965 Marion boys basketball team during the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame Induction ceremony Sunday at the YMCA. Colescott's Giants went 22-4 that season and is credited with starting a winning legacy that last three-plus decades at Marion.
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GIANT LEGACY: Daric Keys, a multisport standout and member of Marion's 1985-86-87 state championship winning boys' basketball teams, gives his inductance speech during the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame banquet Sunday at the YMCA.

BY SCOTT HUNT - shunt@chronicle-tribune.com

The legacy of the 1965 Marion boys basketball team is one that changed the mindset and created a different attitude in the school in the town.

The '65 Giants weren't state champs but their success started the culture change that led to three-plus decades of winning basketball along that saw six championship banners go up on the walls of what is now Bill Green Arena.

Several members on Jack Colescott's 1965 Marion Giants were on hand, along with a distinguished class of 10 individuals, for their inductance banquet into the Grant County Sports Hall of Fame at the YMCA on Sunday afternoon. The 2019 class is the 11th to receive the honor.

Colescott's first year as Marion basketball coach was 1965 and his coaching and that team's influence was also felt by Charlie Arrendale and Daric Keys, two of the individuals to go into Hall of Fame on Sunday. 

Arrendale was a star pitcher and standout quarterback for Marion, graduating in 1967, before pitching at Marion College and in the minor leagues of the Pittsburgh Pirates' organization. Inductees were given three minutes to speak, and Arrendale was one that had to improvise to cut his short. 

"What I didn't get to in my speech because I ran out of time was, I'm of a product those coaches that got their start back in the 60's that really turned it around," Arrendale said. "The number of teams, you can count the players on the teams that have been inducted already, plus the individuals."

Arrendale said he counted more than 100 people, both individuals and on teams inducted, that have been coached, taught or at least significantly influenced by Colescott and Dick Persinger, his assistant in 1965.

"They're responsible for a large portion of what's happened in that hallway," Arrendale said. "To this day I get such a kick out of talking to Jack, whenever I would see Dick Persinger, it was just laugh after laugh. What a  special person was Rex Wuerthner. That's what I like about seeing these guys. You kind of relieve it a little bit but it so far in the past, but there's kind of a sparkle."

Keys played part of his freshman season for Colescott before moving up to the varsity team.

Colescott was the final speaker and rekindled some of his fiery passion for coaching when he started talking about the '65 Giants.

He spoke about discussions he had with Persinger in the summer prior about what the team would need.

"We agreed we had to come up with a solid eight," Colescott recalled, saying the Giants need three guards and forwards along with two centers.

Seven of those players were seniors: Harold Curdy, Steve Ward and Dwayne Hann played guard. The forwards were Clyde Thornell, Cliff Good and Rick Harris. Dick Rohrer and junior Ken Stewart were the centers.

"In each of those three categories we had one reserve who could step in and that was one thing that made the team exceptional," Colescott said. "Marion basketball was in the midst of a losing tradition. Eight of the last 12 Marion teams had lost in sectional and you know in Marion that's a no, no."

The team won its first three games, then lost three in a row before Colescott and Persinger had a talk with the players on a bus ride home from Fort Wayne after the third loss in a row.

"This is not what we had in mind. 3-3, thats 50% and with that in mind, we might go home at the end of the season having lost 10 and won 10 and lost the sectional," Colescott recalled of the talk. "That's not satisfactory, and you know that's not what you want."

The following Saturday, the Giants were down 17 points at the end of the third quarter to undefeated Elkhart, a team Marion had never beaten. Colescott shared another conversation he had with Persinger at the time.

"Perse nudged me and said 'look up there,'" Colescott recalled and pointed to the upper section of Memorial Coliseum, the same gym he was standing in on Sunday. "I turned and looked and people were walking out in droves. All I could say was Perse, "If I were sitting up there, I would walk out too."

A 30-point fourth quarter followed, and the Giants won in overtime.

"That was a great comeback," Colescott said. "One of the greatest I've ever seen in basketball. And that turned the whole season around. Look at these guys, they'll tell you, it was in their hands."

The Giants turned that one win into 18-straight, a school record at the time. They won the Logansport Holiday Tourney. They won at Lafayette Jeff then knocked off Muncie Central, beating both NCC-rivals for the first time in more than a decade.

The '65 Giants won sectional and regional championship before narrowly losing to South Bend Washington in the Fort Wayne Semistate. They set another school record with 22 wins, and finished with only four defeats.

Those Giants in the 1965 season also charted a new direction in the history of Marion basketball.

"The losing tradition stopped and what transpired was a winning tradition," Colescott said. "Not on what on the coaches did, on what the players did. That winning tradition lasted for 34 years. We were in the year 1965, it was the year 2000 that they finally went below .500 percent. That's tremendous.

"It's all because of this bunch, the class that refused to give in to that losing tradition and did something to change it," he added. "Now, what did it take besides a special class? It took Giant pride, you ever heard of that? I've heard that so much in the past year. ...It takes Giant Pride. That means you have to care about the way you look, they way you act, they way you play, the way you appreciate your family and so on. All that has to start from the top."