The Lakers and Red congratulate Big George.
The Lakers and Red congratulate Big George.

The war had already begun and both young men left college to serve their country after a year and a half at Wabash. Jr. went into the Navy and while serving on a mine-sweeper continued to play a lot of basketball in China. His duties with the Shore Patrol still left him time to play ball. After his enlistment was up, the Navy sent him home to enroll at DePauw University and join the V12 program to become a naval officer. While at DePauw, Jr. Gardner played on the great DePauw teams of 1946-47, and 1947-48 when the Tigers were 16-3 and 14-6 respectively. Members of those DePauw teams were Stan Landon, Bill Walton, Wally Etchison, and Deac Freeland. Led by his efforts, the Tigers qualified for the NAIB (National Association of Intercollegiate Basketball) tournament after the 1946-47 season. He was the leading scorer for all three of his years at DePauw scoring 683 points, a record that placed him in the top ten Tiger scorers well into the 70’s. They also beat the Little Giants six straight times during the Gardner era at DePauw. He was named All-State and Little All-American in his junior and senior years and was recommended by Chuck Taylor of Converse shoes to the NBA, then drafted by the Minneapolis Lakers. He played in 50 games in 1948-49 and scored 89 points. After the championship season of 1948-49, Red was traded to the St. Louis Hawks for Slater Martin. He reported to the Hawks, but began to experience some physical problems that would bother him for the rest of his life and decided to leave the NBA ranks and continue his passion for basketball as a coach.
He went to Indiana University to complete a degree in Health and PE and then went to Oakwood High School outside Dayton, Ohio, where he stayed for 33 years and coached against many great Ohio teams including Middletown where the great Jerry Lucas played. Red Gardner was the head coach at Oakwood from 1952 to 1975 and had winning records for all but two seasons. His 1970-71 basketball team won the District title, which would be comparable to an Indiana regional title. His teams won the Southwest Buckeye League championships in 1964 and 1971. He was the coach in the Ohio North-South All Star game in 1971 and was named Coach of the Year for District 15, Class AA that year. Red was also the assistant coach in the Mid-Western All American Classic in 1975. He also coached golf for 18 years at Oakwood. Gardner became a member of numerous Halls of Fame including the DePauw University Hall of Fame, the Sam Andrews Educational Hall of Fame in Ohio, the Montgomery County Basketball Hall of Fame, and finally the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in New Castle.
More next week!