posttrib
ADMIRABLE 
Weather Updates

MUTKA: Lindner recalls high-octane days with Bartow

storyidforme: 61183930
tmspicid: 22135078
fileheaderid: 10503941
Article Extras
Story Image

Updated: February 28, 2014 6:29AM



In Bruce Lindner’s senior year at Valparaiso University, basketball coach Gene Bartow asked him to shoot more. Lindner was only too happy to oblige.

Being a gunner paid off. Lindner averaged 27.8 points in the 1969-70 season, a school record that has withstood the test of time. Bartow’s unusual request boosted Lindner’s career average to 19.5, also a school record.

Pretty terrific for someone who didn’t even start at Portage High School until his senior season and didn’t have the benefit of the 3-point shot. A nudge from his parents helped him pick VU over Evansville, Miami and Duke.

“I was an anomaly, kind of a late bloomer,” said Lindner. “Most of the high school kids being recruited put up their numbers over two or three years.”

It was a different story at VU, where the points piled up fast and furiously. Taking more than 500 shots in his senior year, Lindner boosted his career total to 1,539 points, good for sixth place until he was passed by Ryan Broekhoff last year.

“Probably half of my shots were from 3-point range,” said Lindner, whose No. 24 will be retired Wednesday at the Green Bay game. “Scores were much higher back then.”

Conservatively, treys might have added another 400 points to his career total, which would move him up to second place all-time. Of course, it was a much less physical game. Three-pointers were supposed to open up play, but it still evolved from casual contact to collision course.

“I’m amazed at how physically strong kids are now in their upper bodies,” said Lindner, who partnered up in the back court with Highland’s Rhett Tauber. “My long shots were pretty much uncontested. The game has changed dramatically. Half the time the shooter’s getting whacked going up for the shot.”

In the late ’60s, VU didn’t need treys to ring up eye-popping scores in the entertaining Indiana Collegiate Conference. During Lindner’s three years, the Crusaders topped 100 eight times and reached the 90s 17 times.

Playing for Bartow, who also coached at Memphis State, Illinois, UCLA and Alabama-Birmingham, was a memorable experience.

“He was always so positive,” said Lindner. “He would encourage us, saying things like ‘I think you can do better.’ I never heard him curse. He was a gentleman.”

The ICC was a small college conference its members included Ball State, St. Joseph’s, Evansville and Indiana State. Bartow also spiced up the schedule with nonconference heavies like Niagara, Purdue, Marquette, Houston, Drake, Notre Dame, Mississippi and Kansas before leaving for Memphis State in 1970.

Niagara’s Calvin Murphy and Purdue’s Rick Mount put up astronomical numbers. So did future NBA stars Austin Carr of Notre Dame, Elvis Hayes and Don Chaney of Houston and Drake’s Willie McCarter, a Roosevelt alum whose college number was retired in 2009.

Valparaiso took its share of lumps, one of them being a 158-81 loss to Houston in his sophomore season. Lindner also remembers guarding Murphy, which inspired an incidental brush with fame. Going into his junior season Bartow told Lindner he made the cover of Sporting News.

“Being a little puffed up I said ‘geez I didn’t think I had that good of a year.’ Coach said, ‘you didn’t, Murphy was featured. You were guarding him.’

Lindner laughed. “I was falling down as Murphy was blowing by me.”

In February of his senior season, Lindner deserved his own cover shot. During one four-game stretch, he racked up 46 points against Butler, 51 against DePauw and 50 at Evansville.

“I was really stroking,” said Lindner, who set a Roberts Arena record against the Aces. “Don Buse (a 12-year pro) guarded me.”

Coincidentally, Harold Cox had tried to swing a scholarship for Lindner to Evansville, the Portage coach’s alma mater. Afterward, Lindner received a clipping from the Evansville paper in the mail.

“My assistant principal Dick Wilson in high school sent it to me. It said ‘Lindner wasn’t good enough for Evansville, but he scored 50.’ I got a kick out of that.”

Years later Lindner took time out to reveal the secret of his success. He credited Larry Casbon, former athletic director at Portage.

“Larry was a freshman coach just out of college and he’d stay after practice for hours and shoot with me or play one-on-one. He was a single guy and didn’t have anything else to do. He played a big part in my development.”

At Valparaiso, Lindner also starred in baseball. He was an all-conference infielder for two years. He starred for VU’s undefeated (12-0 in the ICC) team in 1968 along with catcher Skip Coley, who came out of Gary Wirt.

That team, which played in the NCAA Tournament, was enshrined in VU’s Hall of Fame. Two future Baseball Hall of Famers collaborated to eliminate the Crusaders in their first postseason appearance.

“Minnesota beat us in 12 innings,” Lindner recalled. “Dave Winfield stole home. In the consolation game we lost to Ohio on a home run by Mike Schmidt.”

Having his number retired alongside VU coach Bryce Drew, VU’s all-time scoring (2,142 points) and assist (626) leader, makes the honor even more meaningful for the executive director of the Porter County Aging & Community Service.

“Bryce was a great player, a complete player,” Lindner said. “Sometimes I was even more impressed with his ability to pass the ball. To be honored with him makes it even more special.”

Unlike Drew, who played in the NBA, Lindner never reached that level. He was invited to a rookie camp by the New York Nets, where he made a good first impression, but couldn’t convince legendary coach Lou Carnesecca, who went from the Nets to a Hall of Fame career at St. John’s.

“In scrimmages I averaged 14-15 points,” recalls Lindner, “but I couldn’t dunk when I had a steal for a breakaway. Coach blew his whistle and asked me why I didn’t dunk. I said, ‘Coach, I can’t.’ That was the end of my run.”

Lindner was also invited to a camp in Atlanta, but decided to pass. Going up against players like Pete Maravich, who had just signed a multi-year, $6 million contract, Walter Hazzard and Lou Hudson made his decision an easy one..



© 2014 Sun-Times Media, LLC. All rights reserved. This material may not be copied or distributed without permission. For more information about reprints and permissions, visit www.suntimesreprints.com. To order a reprint of this article, click here.