Titan Men's Basketball
It was Dec. 29, 1934, when the Westminster College Titans made national basketball history not only by playing in the first collegiate doubleheader at Madison Square Garden, but also by upsetting highly-touted St. John's University, 37-33.
For many, that win has come to represent perhaps the biggest victory in Titan roundball history. But, for those who would beg to differ, there are a lot of other choices to pick from through the years.
Indeed, just recently, the NAIA began to ask its affiliated and former members for the first time about schools with 1,000 career basketball victories. Not many were able to respond, but of the eight that did report reaching the 1,000-win milestone, Westminster was able to document the most victories. Prior to Westminster's inaugural season in the NCAA in 1998-99, the Titans were the all-time winningest program in NAIA history with 1,299 wins.
Westminster College began playing basketball in 1897, but managed only a 109-135 record until John Lawther took over in 1926 and began to lay the groundwork for more than six decades of winning hoops. Lawther coached through the 1935-36 season, stepping down from the helm with a career record of 164-44 -- including that win over St. John's at Madison Square Garden.
George Roark then stepped in for a season and led the Titans to a 14-7 campaign before the next great Westminster mentor, Grover Washabaugh, signed on for a 19-season stint. Under his guidance, Titan basketball continued to flourish, compiling a 297-129 record. The team even earned an invitation to the NIT in 1941, where it put up quite a scrap before succumbing to Clair Bee's Long Island University team, 48-36.
The captain of that NIT team, C.G. "Buzz" Ridl, succeeded Washabaugh as coach in 1956 and, like his two predecessors, kept Titan basketball near the top of the small-college heap. Ridl's Titans posted a 216-91 record, advancing twice to the NAIA championship game, and twice to the semifinals. Overall, Ridl, who was selected as one of five coaches on the NAIA Golden Anniversary All-Star basketball team in 1986, took his team to the national tournament six times. And, in 1962, Ridl saw his Titans honored by both wire services as the nation's top small-college basketball team.
In 1968, however, Ridl moved on to the University of Pittsburgh and a two-time All-American from Ridl's '62 squad, C. Ronald Galbreath, took over the reins.
Initially, Galbreath coached for only one season before moving on to Clarion for five years. But when he returned again in 1974, the Titan program began its final assault on the 1,000-win mark, crossing that plateau in 1983.
In the 1996-97 season, Galbreath posted his 500th career victory, becoming just the 36th active coach at that time at any level to reach that mark. Counting his five seasons at Clarion, he concluded his Titan men's basketball coaching career with 523 career wins, and is the all-time leader in wins at Westminster with 448.
Now, as the owner of 23 seasons with 20 or more victories, the Titans expect to continue to record victories to remain one of the winningest college basketball programs in any division or at any level in the nation.