Jump to content
  • hhc_news_bot

    Then & Now: Randy Cipriano on

    Then & Now: Randy Cipriano on

    Joe Cipriano

    Compiled By Dave Brandon

    (Photo Courtesy NU Media Relations)


    Cipriano was an Assistant Coach at Nebraska from

    1982-1986, and saw his teams go a combined 91-57 (.615)

    while serving under Coach Moe Iba.


    is the son of the late Joe Cipriano (Head Coach,

    1964-1980), who is second on the all-time victories

    list at Nebraska (253-197, .562).


    is our latest guest in this special two-part/two-week

    edition of "Then & Now."  Today’s edition will focus on

    his father (pictured at left). Make sure to check back

    next week when we talk about his life and coaching

    career at Nebraska.

    HHC: Thanks

    for joining us. For the first part of the interview this

    week, we'd like to talk about and honor your Dad. Talk

    about his childhood, and what got him so interested in

    basketball at such a young age?

    RC: Well, he grew up 9 miles from the

    Canadian border in a small town called Nooksac. His Dad

    worked for the railroad and was an immigrant. I think

    his Dad came over on a ship when he was 12.

    The town

    he grew up in was a town of about 10,000, and he was a

    high school All-American (Class of 1949) and then went

    on to the University of Washington on a scholarship,

    where he played for Tippy Dye, a former Athletic

    Director at Nebraska.


    recruited my Dad and he went there. They had some really

    good teams, and I don’t know if it was his junior or

    senior year, but they went to the Final 4 before losing

    to Kansas.

    So, he

    had a real strong college career.

    HHC: Yeah, I’d

    say. His teams went a combined 79-15, won the Pacific

    Coast title all three years, and finished third in the

    NCAA Tournament in 1953. Anyway, after graduating from

    Washington, your Dad spent three years as a player on

    the AAU Buchan Bakers of Seattle, where he served as a

    player-coach on one of the European trips. Are those the

    days when he decided to pursue coaching?

    RC: I couldn’t tell you, but I know that

    his basketball knowledge started at a very young age

    since he played all the time. Whether he made a decision

    that he wanted to coach in high school, university, or

    when he was playing semi-pro, I don’t know.

    HHC: His first coaching job was as a high

    school coach, which he did for one year. Do you recall

    where that was at or hearing anything about that year?

    RC: Yes, it was at Mercer Island High

    School (Washington). I don’t remember anything specific

    because I wasn’t around, but after he did that for a

    year, he went back to Washington under Tippy Dye and was

    the freshman coach.

    At that

    time, there were a lot of young coaches coming up

    through the ranks, and he learned a lot at that level.

    Every Division One School had a freshman team and they

    competed against each other and played just like they do

    at the varsity level now. 

    HHC: After serving as freshman coach for

    three years at Washington, your Dad went on to the

    University of Idaho in 1959-1960. Do you remember

    anything about that? 

    RC: Yeah, I was born in Seattle and I

    remember Idaho. He had some great teams there, and a kid

    that played in the pro’s named Gus Johnson. Johnson

    played for the Baltimore Bullets, and had a gold-star in

    his front tooth. He was 6’8”, and a kid that was just a

    great athlete; he could really rebound and play. 


    was a friend of our family, and so that’s how my Dad got

    him. He used to come to Nebraska after his NBA career to

    help with my Dad’s camps and we’d go fishing.

    HHC: Your Dad was extremely successful

    during his times at Idaho. In fact, his three years

    there, he led the team to records of 10-16, 13-13, and

    20-6, before leaving for Nebraska in the fall of 1963.

    He was asked at the time why he left a program with 20

    wins for a school without a winning season in 13 years,

    and a school that had finished above the .500 mark only

    twice in the previous 26, and he said, "Because it was a

    helluva challenge. There was only one way for the

    program to go, and that was up." Does that quote sum up

    your Dad pretty well?

    RC: Yeah, but I think it was more

    relationship driven than that. I think he was all about

    relationships and loyalty, and Tippy Dye, his earlier

    coach, was pretty persuasive and influenced him probably

    more so than you just told me.

    HHC: In just his third year at Nebraska

    (1965-1966), your Dad took the Huskers to a record of

    20-5, along with a #11 ranking in the final national

    poll, and won the award of Conference Coach of the Year.

    Was that one of his favorite years, and did he feel that

    was his best team?

    RC: Yeah, I’m sure it was one of his

    favorites, and I remember that year. They had a great


    My Dad

    had several teams that were really talented and won a

    lot of games, but at that time, I think they took 8

    teams to the NCAA Tournament, and then one year, they

    took 16, so that was it. If you weren’t in the Top 8 or

    16, you weren’t going to the NCAA Tournament. So, that

    had an impact on the exposure that you got.

    But the

    team that you’re talking about had Stu Lantz, Nate

    Branch, Coley Webb, Willie Campbell… Those kids really

    had a lot of personality. They were intelligent with a

    lot of class, and it would have been a good bunch if

    they had won 10 games, let alone 20.

    They all

    got along and they competed, and had a handful of kids

    that were really good.

    HHC: The following year (1966-1967) was

    highly successful as well, as the team captured the

    schools first ever NIT bid. And, a key season of your

    Dad’s times at Nebraska was 1970-1971 when Moe Iba

    joined the staff, as Iba would later succeed your Dad.

    Talk about what their relationship was like and how well

    they complemented each other?

    RC: Well, I think that my Dad had a lot of

    respect for Hank Iba, as they were friends and talked a

    lot of basketball. So when Moe was looking to make a

    move, my Dad’s relationship with Hank was really the

    factor that got Moe to come to Nebraska.


    obviously grew up around basketball and was a great

    basketball mind. I think they complemented each other in

    a number of ways. My Dad had a lot of energy,

    personality, people skills, and was a great offensive

    mind. And Moe was a great defensive mind.

    HHC: Your Dad

    and Iba were definitely a dynamic duo, as Nebraska

    finished under .500 only once in the 1970's (1972-1973),

    and had its best season ever (at the time) by going 19-8

    in 1975-1976. What are your favorite memories of those

    teams and times?

    RC: Well, at one time Nebraska had one of

    the longest winning streaks, as far as finishing above

    .500, in the country. I think they had like the second

    or third longest.

    HHC: Really?

    RC: Yeah. But I remember the players, the

    relationships, and all that, but I was in high school at

    that time (the 1970’s). Jerry Fort and I were really

    good friends, and I became close with a lot of my Dad’s

    players. A lot of my friends even to this day are via

    basketball and either played for my Dad or at Nebraska.

    HHC: Talk about some of the great players

    that your Dad coached at Nebraska, and who were some of

    his favorites?

    RC: Jerry Fort was a great player. Brian

    Banks was a great player. Steve Willis, who played guard

    with Jerry Fort, was one of the best guards to come

    through the basketball program at Nebraska as well.

    Those two guards were awesome, and just really good, and

    they roomed together. They also had a kid from New York

    named Rickey Marsh who came in for a year before he got

    homesick and went home. There are just too many good

    players to name.

    HHC: Your Dad

    is described as a character who would do things from

    firing off the gun at the scorers table during a game to

    telling players to run over the Jayhawk logo at center

    court in Allen Fieldhouse during warmups to rile up the

    fans. What are some of your favorite colorful stories?

    RC: My Dad thoroughly enjoyed life; it wasn’t

    just at the basketball arena. I remember a lot of things

    growing up, and how he liked to have fun and was a

    practical joker. He had a lot of friends, a lot of

    personality, and there was a lot more depth to him than


    HHC: Did he

    hate Kansas as much as we hear?

    RC: Oh, that’s a competitive thing Dave,

    and you can use the word hate in a competitive way, but

    as far as really hating them, absolutely not. He had the

    utmost respect, but you have to remember that Kansas was

    the team that beat him when he was in the Final 4, so he

    probably got tired of getting beat by them. He got beat

    by them when he was playing, and he got beat by them

    when he was coaching.


    Kansas fans always liked him, and I’ll never forget when

    my Dad got sick, and all of a sudden the UPS truck comes

    up, and here comes the UPS guys with what looked like a

    rug, but it was a roll of paper rolled up with 20,000

    signatures from all the KU fans saying, “Get well,

    thoughts and prayers.”

    HHC: That’s

    awesome, I never knew that.

    RC: Most

    don’t, we didn’t tell it all.

    HHC: Since you

    are a former coach yourself, talk about what your Dad

    liked to have his teams do on offense and defense, as

    far as sets and beliefs?

    RC: Well, he was one of the guys who really

    believed in the passing game. He learned a lot from Pete

    Newell and Hank Iba. Actually, there were several people

    who really influenced his offensive philosophies. And, I

    think he was one of the guys that helped Bobby Knight go

    to the passing game like he has.

    But I

    know my Dad believed in the passing play more than maybe

    the true passing game, meaning that he wanted to set up

    a play to get a shot for a certain player, and if it

    broke down, then you go into your passing game.

    HHC: And did

    he believe in hard-nosed man-to-man defense like Moe Iba?

    RC: Oh, I think all coaches believe in

    that, but he did a lot more pressing with that team when

    he had Lantz and (Nate) Branch, and they pressed most of

    the time, and I mean full court. They scored a lot of


    HHC: You

    mention that your Dad played a big role in the

    development of Coach Knight. Talk more about that.

    RC: Well, Hank Iba hired my Dad to come in and

    help with the selection of the Olympic team in Colorado

    Springs, and Bobby Knight was one of the coaches that

    came in with him. So they spent a lot of time together

    and they were tight.


    remember going with his sons (Coach Knight) and him up

    to Montana and trout fishing for a week. And I remember

    growing up listening to my Dad talk basketball with Hank

    Iba, Bobby Knight, Norm Stewart, Pete Newell, Don

    Haskins, and a lot of other great guys that he was

    friends with.

    HHC: Describe

    and talk about Mrs. Cipriano and your brothers and

    sisters, and what are they up to today?

    RC: I have two sisters, and we all grew up

    in Lincoln and went to Southeast. My youngest sister

    lives in Seattle, and my oldest lives in New Mexico. My

    Mother lives in Seattle.

    HHC: After

    being diagnosed with cancer in 1979, your Dad's last

    couple of years at Nebraska were both inspirational and

    courageous, but also sad, as he fought with every ounce

    of energy he had to stay with the team until the end of

    his life in 1980. What were his spirits like at the end?

    RC: Well… brave. He had an opportunity to

    get things in order, which he appreciated. He had time

    to spend with his close friends that meant so much to

    him, which he appreciated.

    HHC: Did your Dad teach you more about

    life and battling in his last year than ever before?

    RC: No, that’s something that he taught me

    while I grew up, and we knew that was there when it

    happened. He traveled everyday of his life that way,

    ever since I knew him, so that wasn’t something we were

    surprised to see at all.

    HHC: Finally,

    how would you describe your Dad, in your own words?

    RC: He had a

    lot of passion for life, in everything he did. There was

    always passion and competitiveness.

    He had a will to succeed in not just basketball, but he

    also wanted to be a solid person in all aspects of his

    life. Unfortunately with coaching, it consumes people.

    Just like when you see these coaches that say they are

    going to retire to spend time with their family, and

    then don’t do it, I’m just left sort of shaking my head.<script type="text/javascript" language="javascript">

    User Feedback

    Recommended Comments

    There are no comments to display.

    Join the conversation

    You can post now and register later. If you have an account, sign in now to post with your account.

    Add a comment...

    ×   Pasted as rich text.   Paste as plain text instead

      Only 75 emoji are allowed.

    ×   Your link has been automatically embedded.   Display as a link instead

    ×   Your previous content has been restored.   Clear editor

    ×   You cannot paste images directly. Upload or insert images from URL.

  • Create New...