Bill Strannigan’s short tenure as the
Strannigan, who was born in Dalry, Scotland, in 1918 and raised in Rock Springs, Wyo., started his college coaching career at Colorado State in 1951 after earning All-America honors in basketball at the University of Wyoming. After leading the Rams to the Skyline Conference Championship in 1954, he was hired by
Strannigan, a personable and effervescent personality who was considered a “public relations genius,” immediately showed his basketball brilliance, leading ISU to its first winning season in seven years with an 11-10 record. The Cyclones were led by senior Chuck Duncan and a sophomore guard named Gary Thompson, who would become the leader of Strannigan’s hard-nosed teams for the next two seasons. Strannigan made a statement in just his second season with the Cyclones, helping ISU become one of the biggest surprises of the 1955-56 campaign. Led by first-team all-Big Seven guard Thompson, the Cyclones broke the school-record for wins in a season (18-5) and finished tied for second (8-4) in the Big Seven, one game behind
With virtually all of his top players returning, expectations were riding high in Strannigan’s third season (1956-57). Thompson was heralded as one of the best players in all of college basketball and junior forward John Crawford was returning after an outstanding sophomore season in which he averaged 13.5 points and 9.7 rebounds. Crawford was the first African-American basketball player in
The win helped ISU achieve its highest ranking in school history (No. 3) and put the ISU basketball program in the national spotlight. ISU ended the season at 16-7 and finished third in the Big Seven (6-6), as Thompson earned first-team All-America honors and Big Seven Player of the Year accolades after averaging 20.7 points per game. Strannigan was picked to coach the West team in the East-West Shrine All-Star game at the conclusion of the 1957 season, where his star pupil Thompson helped his West squad come away with a 64-60 victory.
Strannigan’s fourth year (1957-58) with ISU was yet another outstanding season for the Cyclones, as attendance records and sellout crowds were the norm in the Armory. Crawford paced ISU with a 14.1 ppg average, as the Cyclones finished 16-7 overall and 8-4 in the Big Seven, tying for second place for the second time in three seasons. ISU was once again ranked in the top 20 during the season, marking the third-straight year under Strannigan’s watch where the Cyclones achieved top-20 status. Crawford was named first-team all-Big Seven for his performance in 1958.
Strannigan had been courted by a number of top schools for his coaching services throughout his five years in
Strannigan’s three-year run at ISU from 1956-58 still ranks as one of the greatest periods in the history of Cyclone basketball, amassing a 50-19 overall mark, a 22-14 Big Seven record and finishing second, third and second in the tough Big Seven Conference.