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It is like 1954 all over again...we hope!
How could he leave us after the great season we had last year? He
built our basketball program from nothing and brought us to the
NCAA tournament this year! He dumped us for a bigger Midwestern
school with more money! Rams basketball will never be the same
without him!

Those words are what many Rams fans might be saying about the
sudden departure of Tim Miles as he becomes the new head coach
of Nebraska basketball. However, they are the words of Colorado
A&M basketball fans after the May 6, 1954 announcement that
Rams head coach Bill Strannigan had taken the head coaching job
at Iowa State University and ran out of Fort Collins following the
school’s first conference championship and appearance in the
NCAA tournament.

Strannigan arrived at Colorado A&M in the fall of 1950 following the
one season of Coach H.B. “Bebe” Lee’s 7-23  year in 1950. In all
reality, basketball was never much of anything during the Colorado
Aggies’ first 45 years of playing the game on the campus. Only
Harry Hughes and John “Sap” Davis had ever finished in second
place during that time and winning seasons were few and far
between.

When Strannigan arrived on the campus, he came with a winning
background as an All-American at the University of Wyoming where
he helped lead some of the greatest Cowboys teams in that school’s
history. He helped change the attitude of the Rams and brought in
talented athletes to play basketball in the old field house on College
Avenue.

One of those talented athletes was Hal Kinard, a CSU hall of fame
inductee and legend of the game in Fort Collins who turned the
eyes of his Skyline Conference basketball foes. Strannigan also
coached another CSU hall of famer named Dennis Stuehm. When
he concluded his basketball career at Colorado A&M, Stuehm led
every major category. Stuehm’s feats still show up in Rams
basketball records to this day.
Consider History as Rams search for a new coach
Bill Strannigan built Rams basketball as their head
coach from 1950 to 1954. He guided the school to its
first conference championship and NCAA Tournament
in 1954, but left for Iowa State shortly after his first
successful season at Colorado A&M.
Bill Strannigan (in hat and tie) guided the 1954 Colorado
A&M team to their first championship in school history. He
also took his team to Corvallis, Oregon to play in the 1954
NCAA Tournament; the first time in school history.
Dennis Stuehm and Hal Kinard, members of the CSU Athletic Hall
of Fame, helped guide the 1954 Rams to the Skyline Conference
Championship under Strannigan.
Strannigan had to work to build his teams to championship
status. In his second season, the Rams went 3-11 in
conference play. Although not the 0-16 conference record
that Tim Miles had in 2007-2008, Strannigan’s last place
finish in the Skyline conference was just as dismal to the
fans in Fort Collins during the final year of the Truman
administration.

Then the team started to work together and find their way.
They tied for fifth place in 1952-1953 and returned many
of their players including Kinard and Stuehm. Something
happened and in the 1953-1954 season the Rams went
12-2 in the conference and 22-7 overall. A far cry from that
1949-1950 season of 7-23; Strannigan’s four-year
turnaround was amazing!

Colorado A&M won their first conference championship in
basketball and for the first time in the history of the school,
people actually cared about the sport. The first showing in
the NCAA Tournament yielded a loss to Santa Clara, but
hope ran high for the next season with Strannigan at the
helm.

Then it happened!
Bill Strannigan announced in May of 1954, less than two months
after the season ended, that he wanted to be released from his
position as head coach at Colorado A&M so he could take a new
position with Iowa State College.

Fans were upset to say the least. As the Collegian stated, “Along
with being the doormat for the other schools of the league, A&M
had another problem – a psychological matter dealing in the fact
that never before in the school’s 74-year history had an Aggie
team ever come out on top – as far as the game of basketball
was concerned.”

The Collegian article, written by Assistant Sports Editor J. R.
Davis went on to say, “Through four years of sweat, toil, tears
and all of the other emotions connected in building the 1953-54
championship team, Bill Strannigan never once faltered.”

On March 24, 2012, Ram fans felt similar sentiments when Tim
Miles, who had rebuilt the Rams in five years, left them behind.
Just as it was in 1954, it is in 2012; the question of who will carry
on what Miles started in men’s basketball at CSU.

History tells us what happened when Strannigan left and it is the
greatest period in CSU basketball. Strannigan, who was 35 when
he left the Rams, was replaced by 39-year-old Jim Williams in the
fall of 1954. Williams came from Snow Junior College in Utah
where he led his team to the 1954 Junior College National
Tournament.

As they say, the rest is history. Williams guided the Rams to
conference championships in 1960 and 1961 along with NCAA
Tournament appearances in 1963, 1965, 1966 and 1969. In
1969 he took CSU to the Elite Eight in the tournament and he
coached legendary basketball players Eddie Hughes, Lonnie
Wright and 1963 All-American Bill Green. His 352 wins as a Rams
head coach is the most for any men’s sport at CSU and in the
middle of his coaching career he even served as the athletic
director guiding the construction of Moby Arena and Hughes
Stadium.

Now as current Athletic Director Jack Graham works to replace
Tim Miles, maybe history can repeat itself on the basketball court
in Fort Collins. Although times are different, the goal is still the
same; to win championships, go to the tournament and produce
the finest basketball players possible at CSU.
Tim Miles rebuilt a dismal CSU men's basketball program
from 2007 to 2012, taking them to the 2012 NCAA
Tournament. Just like Bill Strannigan, Miles bolted out of
Fort Collins for another school that he feels will bring him
fame.
In the fall of 1954, new Colorado A&M head basketball
coach Jim Williams (at right) took over as the mentor of
Rams basketball. Here he is pictured with two of his players
and the 1954 Skyline Conference Championship trophy.
Jim Williams coached 26 seasons at CSU
and took the Rams to four NCAA
Tournaments winning 352 games in a
career that still makes him the greatest
basketball coach in school history.
Hirn Collection
CSU photo
CSU photo
Hirn Collection
Andrew Quirk
CSU photo
CSU photo