The 1959 Pan American Games, held from August 27 to September 6, 1959 in Chicago, United States was a chance to showcase Canadian basketball talent to our neighbours down south.
Instead, at least according to Canadian head coach Lance Hudson, the selection committee came up short, literally.
“We got no height to speak of. The selectors give me ten guys and eight of them are guards and little guards at that. Our one big guy is (6-foot-7) 18-year-old John “Stretch” McKibbon,” was Hudson’s observation prior to heading to Chicago.
“The hell of it is, that nine of the best basketball players in Canada aren’t on the team This is awful. The team we got here could not finish third in the Vancouver Senior League.”
Only three players from the Canadian Senior Men’s Basketball Finals — which saw the Southern Alberta Chinooks defeat the Ottawa Joe Fellers 70-63; 60-57; 59-77; 59-79; 81-72 – would make the roster heading to Chicago.
Glen Pettinger and Ed Laschuk of Ottawa Fellers and Jack Lilja of the Chinooks.
The rest of the team would be composed of Fred Ingaldson, Don McRae, John McKIbbon, Howie Triano of Tillsonburg Livingstones, Warren Reynolds from Toronto, and Logan Tait, Bob Pickel and Herb Olafson of Vancouver.
Livingstones’ players Mitch Czaja, Richard McKenzie and Ray Monnot arrived in the Windy City as fans but were quickly recruited to fill spots on the Canadian roster due to injuries. Injuries which included a broken foot by McKibbon in exhibition play.
Stan Mockford was the team manager.
August 24, 1959 exhibition
Canada 48 Cuba 40
August 25, 1959 exhibition
Canada 64 El Salvador 40
August 26 1959 exhibition
Canada 47 Brazil 67
Of note in this contest one of the Brazilian players “broke his neck.”
The U.S.A. did not take part in any of the exhibition games.
“The U.S. isn’t doing it. They don’t need to,” said Hudson. “They should win the tournament. I think their squad is better than the one that was unbeaten in the 1956 Olympics.”
1959 Pan American Games
August 28, 1959
Canada 73 USA 93
Led by then standout collegians and future NBA legends Oscar Robertson (21 points) and Jerry West (15 points) the U.S. earned a 93-73 over Canada at DePaul University Alumni Hall.
Canada deadlocked the game 26-26 on a basket by Fred Ingaldson with four minutes remaining until halftime. But baskets by Dan Swartz, Jack Adams and Bob Boozer gave the USA a 39-29 halftime lead.
Fred Ingaldson was tops for the Canadians with 27 points making 13-of-23 field goal attempts. Warren Reynolds added 13.
“When we played the USA we were in good spirits,” said Hudson. ”The first half was outstanding and we were leading 28-27 at one time but superior height and condition began to tell on our team. At halftime we were behind 38-29.
“I am proud we came so close. It was a moral victory by holding them under 20 points. I don’t think any team can bear the US but I think Canada will give a good count of itself even though we’ve been together only a week.”
The temperature on the gym floor was said to be measured at 105 degrees at tip-off. “It was the heat. It wasn’t going up-and-down the floor that bothered me… it was going up and down under the hoop,” said Pickel after the contest.
“See how small them poor Canadians are they don’t have a chance,” wrote sports columnist Dick Beddoes from press row.,
August 30, 1959
Canada 68 El Salvador 49
“For 10 minutes we played very poor and were behind 12 points at one time, however we kept playing a steady game and were ahead at halftime,” recalled Hudson..
Canada led 33-27 at the half. Fred Ingaldson paced Canada with 18. Ray Monnot added 11 and Herb Olafsson 11.
September 1, 1959
Canada 53 Brazil 60
““Brazil. All of its players are lean and good jumpers,” said Hudson. “They work at basketball all year long. They like to run and jump and are good at it.
“How Canada lost I will never know. Once again our shooting was poor and we missed 11 foul shots and many more easy field goals. We had all the breaks a team could want but just could not score or take advantage of them.”
Bob Pickel paced Canada with 17. Fred Ingaldson added 15.
September 2, 1959
Canada 66 Puerto Rico 83
Baez scored 30. Bob Pickell paced Canada with 21. Ray Monnot added 14 and Mitch Czaja 10.
“This team was fast and in wonderful condition probably the best conditioned team of the tournament. We were completely out played by a good team. Baez, a guard for Puerto Rico scored 30 points against us and was by far the best playmaker and dribbler in the game.
Pickel led Canada with 21 points. Pickel at 18.7 points per game was third in tournament average.
September 6, 1959
Canada 74 Cuba 51
“Against Cuba we finally started to look like a team. Our team work was very good and the scoring spread it amongst various players.”
“The backboard work and close-in sharpshooting of Canada’s two big men, Bob Pickel of Vancouver and Ray Monnet, made the big difference,” read one report.
Ray Monnot scored 21, Warren Reynolds 12 and Mitch Czaja 11.
September 7, 1959
Canada 64 Mexico 68
Ingaldson had a game high 26 points for Canada in a losing cause.
Al Almanza, who played three years of NCAA hoops at Texas, had 24 for Mexico who led 34-29 at the half.
“There are so many other players we should have had. Walter Birtles of Vancouver, Doug Brinham of Alberni, Ed Lucht of Edmonton or Jon-Lee Kootnekoff of Mission,” surmised Hudson.
“It’s a lot of nonsense the way we’ve prepared this basketball team. We had 10 guys together for 8 days. Brazil who we got to beat for second place had had their players in a camp for seven months with one night a week off to see their wives.”
Laija echoed his coaches’ remarks: “We had two more players from (Lethbridge Chinooks) invited (Larry West and Tom Karren) and I believe if they had come that Canada would have won four of the six games.”
Overall Canada finished 5th in the seven team event.
USA captured gold with a perfect 6-0 slate
Canada women climb up a spot
With no wins at the 1955 Pan Am Games, Canada’s women’s basketball team went one better in Chicago winning one of their eight matches to place fourth overall.
Canada 39 USA 53, Canada 28 USA 65, Canada 50 Brazil 78, Canada 43 Brazil 57, Canada 28 Chile 57, Canada 30 Chile 47, Canada 35 Mexico 37 and Canada 45 Mexico 43.
Team members were Audrey Campbell, Darlene Currie, Judy Holt, Lena Fior, Judy Jenkin, Pat Lawson, Mary MacDonald, Nora McDermott, Zoe Shepherd, Shirley Topley, and Heather Waddel. The team was coached by Bob Stayner and Jack Adilman with Ruth Wilson as manager
Nora McDermott was one of the main stars for Canada as she had played for the University of British Columbia (UBC) Thunderettes varsity basketball team from 1945 to 1946 and again from 1948 to 1949 with victories in two senior “B” championships. McDermott won nine Dominion basketball titles with the Vancouver Eilers throughout the 1950s and played for the Canada team in three editions of the Pan American Games from 1955 to 1963
She coached the bronze medal winning women’s basketball squad at the 1967 Pan American Games.
Patricia Lawson, who passed away in 2019, was a Canadian multi-sport athlete and coach who played basketball, golf, speed skating, swimming, tennis and track and field. She won provincial championships in all six sports and claimed two national basketball titles in 1955 with the Vancouver Eilers and in 1959 with the Saskatoon Adilman Aces. Lawson took five Saskatchewan Senior Women’s golf titles and two Canadian Senior Women’s golf championships.
At the 1955 Pan Am Games held in Mexico City, Canada’s women’s basketball team finished fifth in the five-nation field, losing all eight games.
Canada’s scores were: Canada 25 USA 46, Canada 39 USA 61, Canada 48 Chile 52, Canada 33 Chile 42, Canada 43 Brazil 66, Canada 43 Brazil 58, Canada 41 Mexico 58 and Canada 36 Mexico 45.
Team members were: Louise McDermott, Nora McDermott, Edith McDonald, Peggy Milner, Joan Mitchell, Zoe Robinson, Beverly Slater, Patricia Smith, Shirley Topley, Heather Walker and head coach Gordon McDonald.
According to the website “Naismith to Nash” Canada claimed “they had trouble adjusting to the use of a smaller ball and the altitude of Mexico City.”