The Penn basketball community is mourning the loss of one of its greatest leaders. Former coach Dick Harter, who led the Quakers from 1966-71, died late Monday night of cancer at his home in Hilton Head, S.C at the age of 81.
Harter grew up in Pottstown, Pa., only 40 miles northwest of Philadelphia, and enrolled as an undergraduate at the university in the School of Education. He was a reserve guard on the men’s basketball team before graduating in 1953.
Harter returned to the Palestra in 1966 as a coach. Just two years later, Penn finished 9-17. Nevertheless, Harter rebuilt the program and by 1969-70, he led the team back to the NCAA tournament.
The next year, however, he led what is considered one of the greatest Penn and Philadelphia basketball teams of all time. The 1970-71 Quakers squad, formed in part by current Penn Athletic Director Steve Bilsky, Corky Calhoun and Dave Wohl, went on to win 28 straight games and earn a No. 3 national ranking.
Over his Penn coaching career, Harter won two Ivy titles, two Big 5 titles and two NCAA tournaments, including a trip to the East Regional Finals. He is a member of the Big 5 and Penn Halls of Fame.
“I was shocked to learn of the passing of Coach Harter,” Bilsky said. “More than anyone else, he is the person most responsible for creating the great legacy of Penn basketball. He will be greatly missed. Our condolences go out to Mary and Coach Harter’s children.”
After Penn, Harter coached at Oregon, where he is best known for his 1976 Ducks team that ended UCLA’s 98-game home winning streak at Pauley Pavilion. He also coached at Penn State before moving to the NBA, where he was an assistant for a half-dozen teams, under prominent coaches like Larry Brown, Chuck Daly and Pat Riley. Harter was also the New Orleans’ Hornets first head coach.
-Sushaan Modi contributed to the reporting of this story._
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