Friday, March 14, 2014

"There are Bright Prospects" at Newton High: the Success of Frank Lindley

by Kristine Schmucker, HCHM Curator

There is a legend around Kansas 
that a baby boy in Newton never is given a rattle, 
but a miniature basketball.
This story never has been substantiated,
but it is true in substance if not to the letter.
For the male child in Newton grows up with one ambition,
and that ambitions is 10 feet tall;
the  height of a basket rim from the floor.
(Buller, vi)

"Kansas was a basketball hotbed by the turn of the century" and Newton, Kansas was in the middle.  Several teams had been established and had a record of success.  Click here for part 1.

The first basketball team at Newton High School 1906.

NHS  Basketball team, 1906
lt-rt: Claude Griffith, John Utterback, Ervin Hiebert,
Vane Shambaugh, Ben ?, Cliff Rousell sitting on the floor.

In 1910 the Arkansas Valley League was formed and by 1926 league members were Hutchinson, Kingman, Newton, Wichita, Winfield, Wellington and Arkansas City.  For many years the Ark Valley was extremely competitive, and Newton was the team to beat. 

With the completion of a new high school in 1914, Newton High had "one of the best gymnasiums and basket-ball courts in Kansas."  (Newtone, 1914) The 1914 Newtone noted that there were "bright prospects" at Newton High for students to develop mentally and physically.  At the same time a young man by the name of Frank Lindley was hired as a teacher of athletics and all around coach. 
Frank Lindley, 1914

Frank Lindley came to Newton High School at the age of 22. He had played college basketball at Southwestern College and as a sophomore he scored 40 point in a game against Fairmount College (later Wichita State University).  He graduated from the University of Chicago in 1913.

NHS Basketball Squad, 1914
Lindley brought a strong work ethic and an emphasis on fundamentals.  He began experimenting with the new zone defense and is credited with being the first to use it in Kansas.  A fast break offense was used to complement the zone defense.   His teams at Newton High became known for their "hard-nosed zone defense."

Competition for a spot on the high school varsity was fierce.  Boys in elementary school would dream of playing for Coach Lindley. Only those "with talent, and more importantly, devotion to Coach Lindley's principles made the team."  If a player failed, "others could fill their position with little loss of quality." 

Lindley had high expectations of his players. Turnovers were inexcusable.  Practices could be grueling.  Clay Hedrick was on the 1942 Championship team and he recalled: 
"It didn't matter how long it took.  We ran plays until somebody got a layup or a wide-open set shot.  If the man you were guarding made a basket, you heard about it." (Clay Hedrick, 1942 Championship team)
The Newton High teams were noted for the way they played as a team.  In the early years of the game communication between the coach and players was forbidden during the game.  

1926 Championship State Team
HCHM Photo Archives
This did not seem to affect the Newton team because "they were so well drilled in a minimal variety of effective set plays that coaching from the bench was not needed." In 1926, a Newton Evening-Republican reporter noted:
"anyone who is acquainted with Mr. Lindley, knows that he will sit thru an entire game, scarcely showing any signs of emotion, let alone any signs which a player might interpret as signals for certain plays." 

NHS Basketball Team 1931, Undefeated.
Carl Grimm, Russell "Sticker"Briar, Coach Frank Lindley
Coach J. Birch Stuart, Bill Walters, Charles O'Brien, Eddie Sattler
Red Royer, Elton Henry, Naaman Brown, Johnnie Edwards, Bond "Tarzan"Tourtillot
A reporter who watched the 1931 NHS team noted:
 "the two post system was perfected.  This crew had a lot of close calls but could turn on the heat anytime the occasion demanded. . . .The team is well balanced with three smart veterans, Brown, Edwards, Tourtilott, as a backbone.  Brown is a sharpshooter and a sparkplug.  Tourtillot is the pivotal man on offense, and Edwards directs the offense - using a clever and deceptive passing ability. . . . The best of all teams ever produced by Frank Lindley and Birch Stuart." (Buller, 271-272) 
The 1931 NHS Team finished the year undefeated.

Six other teams finished with only one loss during the season.   
1935 Team 17-4
Back Row: John Ravenscroft, Leason "Pete" McCloud, Coach Frank Lindley,
Delbert McDonnough, Coach Gus Haury, Tom Luellen, Sid Hovart, Clare Dunlap
Front Row: Walt Claassen, Gilbert Quinton, Gene Grove,
Loren Hickerson, Louis Turner, James Jones, Fletcher Chaffee

Lindley's last  state championship was in 1942. Player, Clay Hedrick later recalled the atmosphere of the town.
"Newton shut down in 1942 when we played in Topeka. We didn't talk about anything but winning a state championship that year.  The town expected, and the years when we didn't win a title we were right there."

Lindley retired from coaching basketball in 1945 with a career record of 594-118. His one losing year was in 1939.  While at Newton, in addition to coaching, Lindley served as principal from 1923 through 1951.

Under Frank Lindley, Newton High teams appeared in the state championships 16 times from 1914-1945.  Of those 16 appearances, they won 8 state championships; in 1916, 1917, 1921, 1926, 1931, 1936, 1937, 1942. The team also won 18 Ark Valley League titles. They often competed against larger schools, like Wichita East, Wichita North, Wyandotte and Topeka teams.  

A former NHS player, John Ravenscroft, was Lindley's successor. 

Stan Dunbar, Salina State Journal sports reporter and one of Lindley's fiercest critics, summed up Lindley's long, successful career as a basketball coach on at the time of Lindley's retirement:

"Kansas basketball owes a salute to Frank Lindley, the man who knew it best, taught it best,and without whom the games' progress would have been far slower." (Buller, p. 12)
Frank Lindley died on April 28, 1968 at the age of 78 in Texas.  He was survived by his wife, Betty.  He was inducted into the Kansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1975 and "is considered by many to be one of the greatest high school coaches in Kansas history." (Kansas Sports Hall of Fame - Lindley, Frank)

Next week we will conclude this series with the Ravenscroft years.

  • The Newtone, 1914
  • HCHM Photo Archives
  • "Frank Lindley, Retired Local High School Principal, Coach, Dies" Newton Kansan 29 April 1968, p.1.
  • Kansas Sports Hall of Fame - Lindley, Frank at http://www/
  • Buller, Curtis.  Can't You Hear the Whistle Blowing?  Hesston, Ks:  Prestige Printing, 1997
  • Elliott, Chris.  "Newton Was Basketball Royalty" at
  • Kansas Prep Basketball History, Pt 3 - 5:  Kansas High School Association Consolidation, 1916-1920.
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  1. In the 1931 team picture, my grandfather Naaman Brown is misidentified as "Norman." Naaman Brown was captain of the 1931 team and was inducted into the NHS Sports Hall of Fame in 2009. Thanks for an otherwise interesting article. -Kim (Brown) Hamel, NHS Class of 1984.

    1. Thank you Kim for the correction and the additional info on your grandfather!

      I made the correction under the photo above and will make the correction in our photo archives. Thank you! -Kris Schmucker, HCHM Curator