Only coach to take Washington to NCAA Final Four, he also led, as athletic director, the football renaissance at Nebraska.
William Henry Harrison “Tippy” Dye, who directed the University of Washington basketball team from 1951 through 1959 and is the only coach in school history to take the Huskies to the Final Four (1953), died Wednesday at his home in Camptonville, CA. A member of the Husky Hall of Fame, Dye turned 97 April 1.
Dye’s niece, Lindsey Ein, disclosed the news.
Dye became the UW’s 10th head basketball coach in 1951 and took the Huskies to the NCAA Tournament in his first season, posting a 24-6 record. Two years later, with a team led by All-America Bob Houbregs (see Bob Houbregs & The ’53 Final Four) the Huskies (28-3), reached the Final Four in Kansas City, finishing third in the tournament after losing to Kansas and defeating Louisiana State.
During his nine seasons at Washington, Dye won 20 or more games three times and 156 contests overall. He had a .632 winning percentage.
Born April 1, 1915, in Harrisonville, OH., Dye starred in football and basketball at Ohio State University, famously leading the football Buckeyes to back-to-back wins over Michigan. An All-Big Ten performer in both sports, Dye played professional football with the original Cincinnati Bengals (1937) before launching his coaching career.
Dye coached basketball at Brown University and football for the Navy during World War II, teaching future Pro Football Hall of Famer Otto Graham the T-formation.
Following the war, Dye returned to Ohio State, first as an assistant football coach under Paul Brown (future Pro Football Hall of Famer), and then as head basketball coach, a position Dye held from 1947-50. Dye’s 1950 team went 22-4 and won the conference championship.
Dye left Ohio State after the 1950 season with the aim of one day becoming an athletic director. He became UW basketball coach June 2, 1950, when athletic director Harvey Cassill, then trying to build Washington into a national athletic power, offered him $12,500 per year (Ohio States best counter offer was $7,500). Dye walked into a terrific situation.
His upperclassmen included All-Coast forward Frank Guisness and Doug McClary and a marvelous sophomore crop featured Joe Cipriano, Mike McCutcheon and Houbregs. With this group, the Huskies went 24-6 and reached the NCAA Tournament for the first time since 1948 (the Huskies lost those six games by an average of 4.5 points).
UW finished the season ranked No. 15 by the Associated Press (Washingtons first-ever top-20 finish), making Dye the first coach in college basketball history to produce a top-20 team at different schools in back-to-back years (his 1950 Ohio State team finished No. 2 in the rankings).
The 1952 Huskies went 25-6, finished No. 6 in the national polls, and may have been Dyes best, although the Huskies failed to prove it by losing to UCLA in the Pacific Coast Conference playoffs and failing to reach the NCAA Tournament.
Led by Houbregs, who had mastered the famous hook shot Dye taught him, the Huskies went 28-3 in 1953 and reached the Final Four in Kansas City ranked No. 4 nationally and favored to win it all. But the Huskies fell to Kansas in the national semifinals when Houbregs fouled out early in the second half on several questionable officiating calls.
Dye had an eye on becoming the UW’s athletic director after the school fired Cassill in the wake of a slush fund scandal, but the job went to head football coach Jim Owens, prompting Dye to seek opportunities elsewhere.
Dye resigned in order to become athletic director at Wichita State for a salary of $13,000 per year, about what he made at UW.
Dye, enshrined in the Husky Hall of Fame in 1996, stayed at Wichita State for two years, then accepted one of the biggest challenges of his career turning around a moribund University of Nebraska football program.
Dye promised publicly upon accepting the position that he would turn Nebraska into a national football powerhouse, and went about it by plucking out of the University of Wyoming a 42-year-old head coach named Bob Devaney, who had gone 35-10-5 (.750) in his five seasons leading the Cowboys.
Dye made the perfect hire. Devaney went 101-20-2 during his tenure, won eight conference and two national championships (1970-71) before turning the program over to Tom Osborne.
Dye remained at Nebraska until 1967, then served as Northwestern’s athletic director until 1974, when he retired. Dye spent the last several years living with his family in Camptonville, a small town 70 miles northeast of Sacramento.
Dye’s death leaves 94-year-old Marv Harshman, who directed Husky basketball from 1972-85, as the oldest-living former University of Washington athletic coach.