The 1965 Winthrop boys’ basketball team was hungry for a title.
A year before, Winthrop was undefeated heading to the Class L Championship game against Ellsworth, but the run for perfection came up short with a 55-52 loss. A year later, Winthrop found redemption as it capped off a 16-2 season with the Class L Title — what would be Class B today — with a 71-61 victory over Bucksport.
Fifty years later, the team that brought the school its first Maine Principles’ Association state basketball championship was inducted into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in Worcester, Mass. on Aug. 8. A plaque recognizing that accomplishment is now at the high school.
“It’s one of those things, it sounds corny, but if you are state champions, you are state champions forever,” said Charlie Gordon, who was one of the team’s starters. “It’s hard to the only one out of those teams to be the best one. It made us hungry. We had a real hard taskmaster as a coach in Roy Chipman. He went on to coach in the Big East. He went on to coach the University of Pittsburgh. He was real hard on us.”
The Ramblers were an offensive juggernaut that season and were led by Denis Clark who averaged 22.5 points per game. Four other players reached double figures. Austin Farrar, Jeff DeBlois and George House joined Clark and Gordon in the starting lineup. They also reached 100 points five times and had a couple of games they reached the 90s in era where there was no three-point line.
Clark, who scored over 1,500 points in his career, also went to Springfield where he also scored 1,500-plus points. He was drafted in the 15th round by the Detroit Pistons in the 1970 but didn’t play in the NBA. Gordon and DeBlois both played for the University of Southern Maine. Gordon was an assistant coach for the Bowdoin College men’s basketball team from 1984-2002, while House coached the Mt. Abram boys’ basketball teams in the 70s.
Winthrop was blessed with a lot of depth in the mid 1960s.
“At the time, Winthrop had a lot of talent in basketball,” Denis Clark said. “It was apart of the cycle I think. There was a lot of guys that didn’t make the team that should have. We just wanted to win you know. We came close to getting the title in my junior year (1964) before my senior year. We just had a good team. Every guy had a certain roles and they all played them well.”
Clark said Winthrop played good defense and had a good transition game.
Winthrop was Roy Chipman’s first coaching gig before getting his doctorate in physical education from Springfield College in 1968. He moved onto the college game where he coached Harwick College in Oneida, N.Y. from 1969-77. He moved onto his first Division I coaching job in Lafayette out of Easton, Penn., where he coached from 1977-1980 before moving to Pittsburgh from 1980-86 where he won two Eastern Athletic Association championships before the Panthers moved to the Big East conference in 1982.
His eye for coaching didn’t go unnoticed at Winthrop.
“He was very thorough. He always scouted teams and he really dedicated his life to coaching,” Clark said. “He had all the basketball knowledge anybody could have. He was a very good coach.”
As young man growing up, Gordon said he didn’t think about if his coach would go on to coach at the highest level of college basketball.
People have told me it was his first job at Winthrop. He went on and after four years he got his PHD at Springfield College,” Gordon said. “He became Dr. Chipman, but looking back on it, I am not surprised at it at all. As a young man at 17, you were worried about your next pair of jeans and who you are taking out that weekend.”