Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hank Kuzma Nov. 30, 1927 - Sept. 13, 2014 He Coached Storied 1965 Midland Basketball Team

Newspaper article Pittsburgh Post-Gazette (Pittsburgh, PA)

Hank Kuzma Nov. 30, 1927 - Sept. 13, 2014 He Coached Storied 1965 Midland Basketball Team

Article excerpt

In the early 1960s, Hank Kuzma was one of the first high school basketball coaches in Western Pennsylvania to use flash cards to give offensive and defensive signals to his players. He also was one of the first district coaches who spent lots of time scouting opponents. But Mr. Kuzma is remembered most for one team he coached.

His 1965 Midland High School team is still considered one of the greatest in Western Pennsylvania history. Midland finished 28-0, outscored opponents by an average of 31 points a game and produced two future pro players - forward Simmie Hill and guard Norm Van Lier.

Mr. Kuzma, 86, of Steubenville, Ohio, died Saturday of pneumonia at Weirton (W.Va.) Medical Center. He coached basketball at the high school and small-college levels, including seven years at Midland in Beaver County.

"Everybody keeps asking about that '65 team," said Ed Olkowski, who was an assistant under Mr. Kuzma at Midland.

"They ask about that team and the 1967 Ambridge team. But it's very difficult to compare teams. It's like asking who the greatest quarterback was from Western Pennsylvania."

Midland closed in 1986 and the school building now houses Lincoln Park Performing Arts Center, a charter school. The Lincoln Park basketball team won the Class A state championship in March. Mr. Kuzma attended some Lincoln Park games and stayed in touch with Lincoln Park athletic director Mike Bariski.

"When we had our celebration and parade after the championship," said Mr. Bariski, "someone had a sign that said, '1965 team No. 1 - 2014 team No. 2.' So, yeah, a lot of people still talk about that '65 team."

Midland had some successful teams before Mr. Kuzma arrived, but he took the Leopards to another level. He won five section titles in seven years and also lost in the 1964 WPIAL title game. His record was 141-15 and his 1965 team won seven WPIAL and PIAA playoff games by an average of 24.6 points in the state's largest classification. Besides Hill and Van Lier, the other Midland starters were Steve Alston, Ron Brown and Brent Lake.

Midland was only one of Mr. …

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