It was a golden year of high school basketball in Omaha, the 1962-1963 season.
Tech High was the best of the best, winning 22 of 24 games and cruising through the state tournament by an average of 21 points a game.
Coach Neal Mosser's all-senior starting five consisted of All-Nebraska forwards Fred Hare and Joe Williams, center Rich Lerdahl and guards Harold Crowe and Jerry Mosser, the coach's son.
“That season seemed to be magical. Everything seemed to go our way,” Lerdahl said.
Now it's the golden anniversary year for those Trojans. They already were planning to assemble for their 50-year class reunion in July when the team was voted into the Omaha Sports Hall of Fame.
They are to be honored Thursday night at the hall's induction dinner at the Scott Conference Center.
Coach Mosser built the Trojans to run and score. Hare's season total was 641 points, 26.7 a game, and the third-team Parade All-American hit 30 points 10 times. Williams averaged 20.7, and the Trojans' team norm was 71.5 points a night.
“That's why they called us the 'Go-Go Trojans,'” Lerdahl said.
Hare was a pure shooter, Williams “a rebounder extraordinaire,” Lerdahl said. “Joe was an offensive player, but defense was his forté.
“Harold ran the offense out front. Between Harold and Jerry, they were the engines to the team.”
It seemed that in every game, someone stepped up to help, Jerry Mosser said.
“Most of the time Fred and Joe did things they had to do to make us good,” Mosser said. “Dad used to say it would take the other three guys to score eight or 10 points apiece for us to win, that 25 from Fred and 25 from Joe wouldn't be enough.”
The teams they played provided stout competition.
Tech took three of four games from Creighton Prep (21-3). The Junior Jays had two players who went on to Creighton careers: all-stater Wally Anderzunas and Tim Pugh, father of former Kansas player T.J. Pugh.
Asked what stood out about the season, Lerdahl first responded: “We beat Prep three out of four times. The only time they beat us was in the final at the Christmas tournament at the (Civic) Auditorium.
“Neal didn't want to play in the tournament, but he didn't have a lot of choice.”
Tech took two of three from Central and all-stater John Armstrong, who outscored Hare in every meeting. The loss, which ended the regular season, was a one-pointer with Tech missing three shots in the final eight seconds.
Elsewhere, Marlin Briscoe was at South, Bob Churchich at North. Bill Olson (not the former Omaha Northwest baseball coach) was an All-Intercity player at Westside.
Seven of the eight Nebraska teams in the Intercity League were ranked by World-Herald prep rater Gregg McBride at season's end — Benson in eighth and South in ninth were included with 7-13 records.
“A lot of people we played against made us better,” Jerry Mosser said. “There were a lot of good, good players in that 1963 group. Every game was a challenge, somebody trying to knock us off.”
The Packers also faced strong competition in practice. Tech's bench included a future NBA player in Ron Boone and a future All-Nebraska player in John Mackey.
“Dad would say it was our second team that made us better,” said Mosser, who coached and was athletic director at Bellevue University. “It came out every practice and tried to beat us. Mackey, Bozer Starks, Ron Boone, the second team probably could have gone into our league and played pretty well.
“The next year, Dad won the (holiday) tournament with that second group.”
It could have been back-to-back state titles for the 1963 team. The year before, the Packers had lost to Lincoln Northeast in a disputed Class A final. Tech officials unsuccessfully protested the outcome in a rare hearing by the Nebraska School Activities Association.
“We went back to Lincoln and took care of business,” Lerdahl said. “We made amends for being ripped off when we should have been state champions in 1962.”
Mosser said he was sitting the the stands at the old NU Coliseum for the 1962 final. He was at Holy Name, since closed, for his first three years before joining his father's team for his final season.
He and Lerdahl said the 1962-63 team wasn't driven by revenge.
“We never brought it up, and Dad never brought it up or said much about it,” Mosser said. “The big thing my dad tried to make us do was try the best we could. We'd be shooting free throws in the gym at 7:30 every morning. He never brought up that it was like a grudge deal. Just play as good as we could.”
Neal Mosser, who died in 2010 at 90, coached Tech from 1949 to 1967. Among his greats, besides Hare, Williams and Boone, were Bob Gibson and Bob Boozer earlier in his tenure. But the 1963 team was his only state championship squad.
“He was driven that year, as he always was,” Lerdahl said. “He gave everybody a fair shot.”
After graduation, the players went their own ways. Off to college, off to the military, off to jobs that took them away from town.
“We've never gotten together since then,” said Lerdahl, who recently moved back to Omaha.
He said no one seems to know the whereabouts of Williams. World-Herald archives show in the 1970s that he was a communications supervisor with Northwestern Bell. Hare lives in Denton, Texas.
Lerdahl said he's been trying to find film of the 91-73 win over Prep in the 1963 final. Mosser said he has a copy only because his dad had a school custodian slip into the upper rafters at the Coliseum at a time when schools were banned from filming their games.
“I haven't looked at it in years,” Mosser said.
While the larger celebration of their championship team will come at the July 19 and 20 reunion, Lerdahl and Mosser are planning to attend Thursday's dinner.
“I wish my dad was alive to be here,” Mosser said. “I know he would have been thrilled by this.”
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