Photo courtesy University of Wyoming Athletics
Stan Dodds poses for a photo while he was a player for the University of Wyoming, from 1967-1970.
BIG PINEY – The year was 1970. Stan Dodds, LaBarge Elementary and Big Piney Middle School’s principal, was wearing Wyoming brown and gold on the basketball court and the Cowboys were taking on their Western Athletic Conference rival, Arizona State.
Dodds was one of the finest pure-shooting wings in Cowboy basketball history, according to UW’s hall of fame website, and his shooting skills were on full display that night. The 6-foot 5-inch forward took 31 shots from the field and made 19 of them. His 45 points, which are still among the most ever scored by a Cowboy in a game, led Wyoming to a 112-94 victory.
Back then, however, there wasn’t a 3-point line in college basketball or else Dodd might have scored 60 points that night.
About 10 years after the game, after the NCAA added the 3-point line in 1979, Dodds said Wyoming’s Sports Information Director had reviewed the game and told him that as many as 15 of his field goals would have been beyond the arch.
In addition to not having a 3-point line, there wasn’t a shot clock and players weren’t allowed to slam dunk the ball. Not being able to dunk is part of the reason why Kareem Abdul Jabbar developed his famous sky-hook.
Lew Alcindor, as Abdul-Jabbar was known back then, played for UCLA when it was the nation’s most dominate basketball team. Wyoming played UCLA twice when Dodds was there. At the 1968 UCLA Basketball Classic, Wyoming beat USC and Iowa to meet up with the Bruins in the championship game. Dodds said they had a good game plan to stop Alcindor: double team him and try to stay in front of him. The game plan worked, but Lynn Shackelford stepped up for the Bruins and scored 32 to help them beat Wyoming. The tournament, however, still helped Wyoming bump up from No. 12 to No. 8 in the national rankings.
Two years later, when Dodds was a senior, Wyoming played “a better overall team” from UCLA without Alcindor, Dodds said. “Defensively there awesome and their high-low (offense) was difficult to stop.”
The Cowboys won the WAC twice with Dodds on the court, qualifying for the National Invitational Tournament (NIT). “That was the big tournament back then,” Dodds said.
Dodds’ sophomore year, Wyoming fell to Villanova, this year’s national champion, at the NIT, 77-66.
The next year, Wyoming took on an Army squad coached by Bobby Knight, before he went to Indiana, with Mike Kryzewski, who’s now Duke’s head coa playing. Army won the game, 51-49.
As a senior, Wyoming fell to conference rival BYU in a playoff and didn’t qualify for the NIT
Dodds, however, wasn’t done with basketball. He was drafted by the Phoenix Suns in the 15th round of the NBA draft and by the Utah Stars in the fifth round in the American Basketball Association (ABA) draft. Big names played in both leagues before they merged, with Jabbar going to the NBA while Julius Erving, A.K.A Dr. J, began his career in the ABA.
Dodds chose to sign with the ABA’s Utah Stars. “I was drafted higher, and it was close to home,” Dodds said about the decision. Dodds grew up just two hours away from Salt Lake City, in Granger, Wyoming.
The ABA, which used a red, white and blue basketball, also had a 3-point line, which played to Dodds’ strength as a shooter.
The Stars, however, also wanted Dodds to change positions and become a shooting guard.
As college forward, and high school center, Dodds didn’t have much experience dribbling up court under pressure.
“I didn’t make the pro ranks because I couldn’t handle the basketball,” Dodds said. “I feel that’s what got me cut.”
The Stars gave Dodds a chance to play in the Continental League, on the East Coast, while Zelmo Beaty and Willie Wise led the Stars to the ABA title that year.
Dodds, however, decided to pursue a career in education. “If I didn’t get to play with the big boys, I figured I’d go with what I went to college for,” Dodds said.
By going into education, Dodds followed in the footsteps of his coach at Green River High School, Don Nelson – a man who once benched Dodds for two games because, after a school dance, he got home two minutes after the coach’s 10:30 p.m. curfew.
“That’s the impact he had on me,” Dodds said.
Dodds has been an educator for 46 years now, including the last six in Big Piney.
He taught math for 20 years, coached basketball for 20 years and also coached track and volleyball for 10 years apiece.
From his early years playing and coaching, at Arapahoe High School in Denver, to now, Dodds said he thinks the biggest difference in the game is the shot clock.
“It has taken a lot of the coaching out,” Dodds said. “Our offense was designed to get certain shots and we ran it until we got (those shots). Versus UCLA, we ran our offense for one-and a-half minutes to two minutes. The game now uses individual talents to shoot and score quicker. The kids are not as fundamentally sound (today), but are more talented in certain aspects.”
For the last six years, Dodds has been the principal of Big Piney Middle School while also serving as the district’s athletic director for two years and as LaBarge Elementary School’s principal the last two years.
The students are why Dodds has stayed in education for so long.
“My favorite part is the students all the way around,” Dodds said. “That’s why I stayed in it for 46 years.”
Dodds will be leaving Big Piney at the end year, moving north to Missoula while his granddaughter pursues her interests in theater. Dodds, however, said he isn’t quite ready to retire.
“I’ll have to stay active somehow,” Dodds said. “Maybe the best things would be to go to a middle school or junior high and just coach (basketball) for the fun of it.”
The former All-WAC player certainly has some lessons to teach that he’s learned on the court and in the classroom.
“If you want to get better at anything, you have to self reflect,” Dodds said. “You have to find your own way to get it done.”