Richard A. "Dyke" Raese
Written by John Antonik
Richard A. "Dyke" was the right man at the right time for West Virginia University basketball. Raese's fast-paced and entertaining style of play was the perfect fit for a college game undergoing major changes in the late 1930s with the abolishment of the center jump after made baskets.
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That rule change made it possible for teams to win without a big man - something Raese certainly took advantage of during his brief four-year coaching career at West Virginia University, compiling four consecutive winning seasons and a 55-29 overall mark.
Raese, a native of Davis, W.Va., attended West Virginia University where he graduated in 1932, but he never played basketball in college, instead learning the game from fraternity brother Marshall “Sleepy” Glenn. After graduation Raese became a high school coach in his native Davis, where he frequently took his undersized teams to Maryland and beat much larger schools. After leading Davis to the final four of the 64-team West Virginia state high school tournament in 1938, Raese had his choice of the West Virginia University basketball and Spencer High football jobs. Despite offering half of what he could have made had he taken the Spencer job, Raese chose to go the college route.
The WVU basketball team Raese inherited from Glenn in 1939 was not very talented, but he still managed a 10-9 record in his first season. In 1940, the team improved to 13-6 and in 1941, Raese had another 13-win season against one of the strongest basketball slates ever assembled with games against Ohio State, Kentucky, Michigan State, Toledo, Penn State, Army and Duquesne.
In 1942, with guard Scotty Hamilton and center Rudy Baric returning, all of the pieces came together for Raese and the Mountaineers. West Virginia won 12 of its first 13 game before suffering a 46-39 loss at Temple, and then won three of its five remaining regular season games, including an outstanding 41-33 win over Duquesne in the Field House, to complete the regular season. All that remained was a charity game against Salem. Unbeknownst to most of the players on the team, NIT scouts had seen West Virginia play a terrific game against Army in West Point earlier in the year and were considering the Mountaineers for the final spot in their eight-team tournament in New York City. West Virginia needed a victory over Salem to clinch a bid, which it got, and West Virginia had to reassemble its team to face top-seeded Long Island, coached by Clair Bee, in the first round of the NIT.
Raese led West Virginia to upset wins over Long Island in the first round, Toledo in the semifinals, and then Western Kentucky in the championship game to win the school’s first national basketball title. Not only had Raese’s Mountaineers taken the Big Apple by storm, but excitement in the Mountain State had reached a fevered pitch. Soon vacant fields were being cleared, hoops were being nailed to the backs of sycamore trees and telephone poles, and boys everywhere in the state began playing basketball. Raese was able to win the NIT title without a single scholarship player or one standing taller than 6-foot-3. Hamilton became the school’s first basketball All-American while Baric was named NIT MVP after scoring 48 points in three tournament games. Remarkably, all five of Raese’s starters came within 70 miles of Morgantown.
In the meantime, Raese had applied for admission to the U.S. Naval Reserves and shortly after his team won the NIT, he received his commission and was assigned first to Annapolis Md., and then to Chapel Hill, N.C. where he spent the next four years heading up the Navy Pre-Flight School Basketball and Physical Education Program. He was preparing to head to the Pacific when the war abruptly came to an end.
Upon completion of the war, Raese had his choice of continuing his coaching career at West Virginia University or becoming the head coach of a new Cleveland professional basketball franchise, but he instead chose to pursue a career in business, becoming President of Greer Industries, located in Morgantown, W.Va.
Raese was inducted into the West Virginia Hall of Fame in 1977. He died August 17, 2000.