STEUBENVILLE – Every basketball season, the Franciscan athletic department celebrates "Kuzma Community Day" and this season is no different. The Barons will honor the memory of the late Henry "Hank" Kuzma prior to the men's and women's basketball games on Saturday while celebrating the 60th anniversary of the 1958 National Championship Baron basketball team.
The 1958 National Championship Team
The 1958 Barons were hailed as the top small college team in the nation by the United Press International's coaches' poll. The team included Jim Smith, Jack Cibulka, John Clark, John Blanda, Bob Zak, John Nese, Bob Maher, Bill Rahuba, Fred Burda, Ron Saxe, Rich Quiring, Fred Parr, Dan Kerr, Roger Duffy, and was coached by Hank Kuzma.
The College of Steubenville basketball team had the greatest season in their 11-year history climaxed by their selection as the number one small-college basketball team by the United Press Board of 45 small college coaches.
The Barons, after dropping the second game of the season to Mt. St. Mary's by a single point, went on to an improbable 23-straight game win streak to close out the season to attain this lofty position. The 24-1 record propelled the Barons to sixth place among Catholic Colleges and 33rd nationally in the final Dunkle Rankings, ahead of such national powers as Ohio State, St. Louis, St. Francis of Loretto, Marshall, Fordham and Butler.
In Honor of Coach Hank Kuzma
Henry J. Kuzma gathered the College of Steubenville Barons for their first practice as their head coach in 1954.
A pencil-thin, young man, Hank was so enthusiastic he barely recognized the challenge of not having a home gym in which to practice.
Ambitious but humble, Hank couldn't have foreseen how that same school would honor him decades later. Not the championship banner that now hangs in Franciscan University's Finnegan Fieldhouse. Not the bronze relief of Coach Kuzma and his wife, Kay, that overlooks the fieldhouse lobby. And certainly not the name given to the Baron's home gym—Hank Kuzma Court.
"I would never have dreamed of this," Hank said about his most cherished recognition at the 2011 naming ceremony. "I've seen other coaches get the floor, but I never expected it."
In truth, none of the trophies and honors can properly pay tribute to the life of Coach Hank who died September 13 at the age of 86 following a brief illness.
As a legendary coach, dedicated athletic administrator, and tireless Baron supporter, Hank had a bigger influence on Baron athletics than any other single individual. The impact of his personal character on the hundreds of people he touched goes much further.
He is best known as the record-setting Baron's basketball coach. From 1954-59 he had a stunning 95-17 record, including a 47 home-game winning streak.
His 1958-59 team is the stuff of Baron lore. They went 24-1 en route to being named the No. 1 Small College Team in the Nation by the UPI Board of Coaches, becoming the only team in school history to finish a season with a No. 1 ranking. Kuzma was named "Small College Coach of the Year" for his efforts.
During that stretch, Hank put the College of Steubenville on the map, so much so, that decades later his grandson, Thomas J. Kuzma '06, remembers going to the Final Four with his grandfather and seeing coaching greats like Georgetown's John Thompson and Duke's Mike Krzyzewski visit Hank in the stands.
After leaving the College, Kuzma extended his legend with a 152-20 record as the basketball coach at Midland High School in Midland, Pa. His Leopards won five section titles in seven years, including a state title in 1965.
After then serving as principal at Hershey High School in Hershey, Pa., Hank returned to Franciscan in 1979 to take over as director of Athletics and again as coach of the basketball team.
Kuzma Community Day Sponsors
Kuzma Community Day is also chance for the Franciscan athletic department to thank its many sponsors throughout the year. The department would like to thank Gus' Goodies, the Best Western, Naples, SVRTA (EM Media), Hausers, 33 Degree Shakery, McBane Insurance, Enterprise, and Froehlich's Classic Corner for their continued support of Baron Athletics!
Franciscan will honor the 1958 National Championship Team prior to the start of the men's basketball game against Hilbert on Saturday, February 3 at 2:00 pm. The women's game will follow at 4:00 pm.