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    Then & Now: Norman Coufal

    Then & Now: Norman Coufal

    Compiled By Dave Brandon


    Coufal played for Nebraska from 1955-1956, and was a

    Husker during the Jerry Bush era (1955-1963, 81-132).

    A 6’1”

    shooting guard from David City, Coufal is our latest

    guest in this Sunday's version of "Then & Now."

    HHC: Nice to

    speak with you. Do you keep up with Nebraska basketball

    these days at all?

    NC: I don’t follow them near as much as I

    used to. I don’t know anyone there anymore. The coaches

    are all gone and they are all different, so I don’t

    follow it quite as closely, but I do keep an eye on it,

    and I’ve got all kinds of friends back there.


    thinking of having a get together, actually, us

    old-timers, from both the basketball and baseball teams.

    We did it back in 1983 and again in 1993, and it was a

    great time. All these guys that left don’t get to see

    each other.


    thinking about doing it again for Bus Whitehead and Bob


    HHC: Very cool. You were a shooting guard

    at David City High School. What was that experience


    NC: It was great. We won the state title

    my junior year, the Class B State Championship.

    HHC: And what made you decide to play

    basketball at Nebraska?

    NC: Well I don’t know, I grew up there,

    and everything was there. I had a chance to go there,

    and had a chance to play basketball and baseball both. I

    had a couple of other places to go, such as Kansas State

    and Oklahoma State, but I wasn’t interested. It was 50

    miles from home and nice and close.

    HHC: What did the recruiting process

    consist of back then?

    NC: They’d come and see you, and then

    you’d visit. Nothing too different. They didn’t have to

    worry about me, though, because that’s where I wanted to

    go and I didn’t have that problem (of being persuaded


    HHC: Your first year on varsity was Jerry

    Bush's first year at Nebraska. Before we talk about that

    though, tell us about Coach Harry Good (1947-1954,

    86-99), whom you played for on the JV team. How well did

    you know him, and what was he like as a man?

    NC: I knew him, for sure. My sophomore

    year he was there. I don’t want you to print anything

    that I’d say about him, though (Laughs). But he was a

    fine man.

    HHC: Fair enough. Do you know what

    happened to him?

    NC: He stuck around there and he worked

    there in the Phys Ed department for a while, as long as

    I can remember. We had Jerry Bush the last two years, so

    I don’t know.

    HHC: Talk about Bush, and describe what he

    was like as a man?

    NC: Jerry Bush was enthusiastic and

    excited. He was the best player we had. If he got out

    and played with you, he could play. Hell, I don’t know

    how old he was then, but he could still play the game

    (Laughs). He knew it, and could play probably as good as

    he could coach.

    HHC: Really?


    Yes, and that’s incredible, because he could get out

    there and do things none of the rest of us could do. And

    we had Rex Ekwall, Bill Johnson, Fred Seger, just some

    pretty dang good players that Bush could get out there

    and play with.

    I liked

    him a lot.

    HHC: What do

    you know about his basketball background?

    NC: He played at Toledo, and then he

    played with the Pistons, I think. He was big and he was

    probably 6’4” or 6’5”; he was a pretty good-sized guy.

    He could play at 40 whatever years old, I’ll say that


    HHC: What kind of coach was he?


    Same old stuff. We played a lot of man-to-man defense,

    not too much zone, just played whatever we had. But it

    was a big improvement over what we had my sophomore


    HHC: Was he well liked by the players?

    NC: I think everybody liked him. I don’t

    think anyone disliked him. He was enthusiastic and

    excited about life; he was a neat guy.

    HHC: What was the atmosphere like in the

    old Coliseum, and what kind of home court advantage did

    it create?

    NC: I don’t know if we had all that much,

    honestly, as far as an advantage. It was what we had and

    it’s where we played.

    When we

    were playing, all the places were the same, and then

    they got a new place at the University of Kansas, and

    Kansas State was always nicer, but they were a lot

    newer. Oklahoma, Iowa State, and Colorado were like what

    we had though, or maybe not quite as good.

    Then we

    played Iowa, and played all over the country. Our arena

    was just about as good as anybody’s with the exception

    of the new arenas.

    HHC: Right on.

    Your first season on varsity was 1954-1955, which was

    also Jerry Bush's first year. You guys went 9-12 (6-6,

    T-3rd) and were led by Willard Fagler (13.6 PPG) and Rex

    Ekwall (11.5 RPG). Talk about those guys, and what kind

    of players they were?

    NC: Both of those were not only good guys,

    but they were great players. Everybody loved them; they

    were just neat guys, and they could play.

    HHC: Your last year on varsity was

    1955-1956, and the team went 7-16 (3-9, 6th). The

    biggest moment of that season was beating UCLA and John

    Wooden (Home, 71-65), who went on to win the Pac-8

    Conference. What do you remember about that game?

    NC: (Laughs) Well, us and the clock and

    the referees, we didn’t do too bad, huh? (Laughs).

    HHC: (Laughs) What do you mean by that?

    NC: What I mean is we got a few breaks

    that night. Actually, we got a bunch of them. It was no

    contest, but we had a referee and everything else that

    was pretty good there in Lincoln, and we gave it to them

    pretty good, I thought, and everybody else thought the

    same (Laughs).

    You play

    the game and you win a few and lose a few, and sometimes

    we got a lot of help, and we got plenty of help that

    night. I mean, that was no contest (Laughs). 

    HHC: (Laughs)

    What else sticks out about that senior year?


    I had a great time that year, and we had a great bunch

    of guys, and traveled all of the country. You know, it’s

    a great deal for any young man that’s fortunate enough

    to do it. It’s a blessing.

    I ended

    up down here in Texas when I got out of school in ’56,

    and I would have never come to Texas if I didn’t come

    down here every year when it was 20 below zero up there

    (in Nebraska) when we were getting on the bus to leave

    for our Texas and southern trip.

    We’d get

    down here and it’d be 70 during the Easter Holidays. And

    then I came down on June 6, 1956, when I got out of

    school, and there was a whole bunch of different heat

    that day. I came down in wool suits and hell, I thought

    I was going to burn up (Laughs).

    But you

    know, I grew to like it, and it’s a great place here.


    every place is great in this country. Every place you go

    is better than what our service men and women are going

    through overseas to protect us everyday, so I value


    HHC: Very good point. Here’s a good question; if

    you had to pick the biggest play or shot that you made

    during your two years on varsity, what would it be?

    NC: I made one from the opposite free

    throw line at Colorado right before the half one time.

    It was off to the right a bit on the other side, and I

    let it fly, and it went right through.

    And the

    worst disappointment I had was when I was guarding the

    little guy from Oklahoma… I forget his name… But we were

    tied, and he stood out there in the middle, and he came

    over across the free throw line and hit a jump shot to

    beat us with 2 seconds left (78-76 Oklahoma, February 21st,

    1955). Lester Lane was his name.

    HHC: Who were

    some of the other great players you guarded?

    NC: Kansas had some good guys, and a guard

    in particular, but I forget his name. BH Born was there.

    Man, it’s been so long… Norman Stewart, we competed

    against him in basketball and baseball at Missouri.

    HHC: “The”

    Norman Stewart?


    Yes, “the” Norman Stewart (Laughs). He was a baseball

    pitcher, so I saw him two or three times a year.

    HHC: Yeah,

    that’s right, I forgot to ask you about that earlier.

    Talk more about your baseball career at Nebraska?


    Well, I played shortstop and played the last two years.

    Don Brown was an All-American on our team at 3rd,

    Murray Bachus was the catcher, and was from Millard.

    Bill Giles played, Cedar Gall… Dirx Ralston was the

    second baseman my junior year, and Tony Sharpe was the


    We played

    right there behind the Coliseum, kind of by the track,

    where they now have the new Osborne Center, if I’m not


    HHC: What are your favorite off the court

    and field memories of UNL?

    NC: I had a great time there. I met a

    bunch of great guys, I traveled all over the country… I

    mean, I was blessed.

    Here’s a

    kid from David City, who traveled all over the west

    coast, all down south, and in the Midwest… Chicago,

    Michigan, where it was 25 below zero and the wind was

    blowing about 400 MPH, and the gym was about 350 years

    old, and we wore short pants in that sucker (Laughs). We

    about froze to death, and I’m telling you, you didn’t

    want to play that game, you just wanted to get your wool

    underwear on (Laughs).

    I’d never

    been that cold as our trip to play Michigan (in

    1955-1956, a 77-71 Nebraska loss); we were cold at

    Nebraska, but nothing like that, brother.

    HHC: (Laughs)

    And have you stayed in touch with any of your old

    teammates or coaches, and if so, what are they up to

    these days?

    NC: I’ve seen them from time to time, and

    then at those parties in ’83 and ’93, and we think we’re

    going to do it again, but that’s about the only way to

    keep everybody together.

    HHC: Do you

    know of any deaths of former teammates?

    NC: In baseball, Jim Cedardog passed on

    some time ago… Bob Giles is gone. But I think pretty

    much everyone with the basketball team is in pretty good

    shape, as far as I know.

    HHC: Finally,

    what have you been doing the past fifty years, and where

    will we find you today?

    NC: I’ve been in business for myself, and

    I’m retired. I’m going to be 72 years old soon; I’m

    getting old, brother (Laughs).

    And I’m

    going to play basketball tonight at Second Baptist with

    my brother and friends, and we’ve been playing for about

    25 years once a week. Can you believe that?

    HHC: No, I

    can’t! You’re probably in better shape than I am


    NC: I don’t know about that (Laughs). I

    don’t think I am, because I’ve had prostate cancer and a

    heart bypass, so I don’t know about that, but I’m out

    there. My brother comes and picks me up, he’s five years

    younger than me, and I’m the old guy in the bunch.

    It’s a

    long ways from being any kind of good basketball, but

    it’s a good time.

    HHC: Well

    thanks a lot for taking the time to do this. Do you know

    how to access the Internet and would you be interested

    in taking some e-mails from our readers?


    My wife knows how to do that, but I don’t.

    But I’d

    like to let you know that I appreciate you doing this

    and sorry if I didn’t help you out much. It’s been a

    long time.

    But bless

    your heart for doing this, and thank you.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

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