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The Boston Globe

Obituaries

Dick Dukeshire, longtime Northeastern basketball coach

Mr. Dukeshire’s 38-year coaching career included a 204-100 record at Northeastern University from 1958 to 1971.

When Mike Jarvis was a junior point guard on Northeastern University’s basketball team in 1965, he started taking notes about the plays his coach, Dick Dukeshire, ran in practice.

“It became my coaching bible, and 90 percent of my defense I use today came right out of that notebook,’’ said Jarvis, a former assistant under Mr. Dukeshire at Northeastern and now head coach at Florida Atlantic University.

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“He was, without a doubt, the best teacher of basketball I ever knew,’’ said Jarvis, whose coaching career included trips to the NCAA Tournament while at Boston University, George Washington, and St. John’s.

“He taught you the fundamentals, how to think the game, and how to win, because he was a fierce competitor. I owe my coaching life and career to Dick Dukeshire.’’

Mr. Dukeshire, whose 38-year coaching career included a 204-100 record at Northeastern from 1958 to 1971, died of heart failure May 5 in Queen Anne Nursing Home in Hingham. He was 78 and had lived for many years in Framingham and South Yarmouth.

Only 23 when he became head coach at Northeastern, Mr. Dukeshire “was far ahead of his time,’’ said Jack Grinold, the university’s former sports information director and associate athletic director emeritus.

Mr. Dukeshire took Northeastern to the NCAA College Division national finals in Evansville, Ind., in 1962 and 1963.

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“Basketball emerged as a major sport at Northeastern because of him,’’ Grinold said.

A stellar athlete at Northampton High School, Monson Academy in Wilbraham, and American International College in Springfield, Mr. Dukeshire was inducted into the New England Basketball and American International halls of fame.

He was New England coach of the year in 1963 and 1967. His Northeastern teams made six appearances in the NCAA regionals. His .671 winning percentage is the best in program history.

Mr. Dukeshire also coached in Greece, at Hellenic College in Brookline; Salve Regina College in Newport, R.I.; and Wellesley High School.

“I was always impressed how all his players looked up to him through the years,’’ said his son, Curt of Hingham. “. . . He taught me the fundamentals of every sport he coached, and we had a lot of three-on-threes with my friends playing hoop against my dad and his coaches at Hellenic.’’

Rick Weitzman, who graduated from Brookline High School, became one Mr. Dukeshire’s captains at Northeastern. Weitzman was the university’s first player drafted by an NBA team, selected by the hometown Celtics, and was a member of their 1968 championship team.

“Dick was a great coach,’’ Weitzman said. “He made me into a complete basketball player, and I’m indebted to him for opening many doors for me. When I coached at Peabody High, I tailored my offense and defense right out of Duke’s playbook.’’

He learned he had been drafted by the Celtics when he “walked into Duke’s office’’ and found his coach on the phone with Celtics general manager Red Auerbach. “And that’s how I got the news,’’ Weitzman said.

Four of Mr. Dukeshire’s NU recruits coached against each other in the Suburban League in the 1980s: Jarvis at Cambridge Rindge & Latin School, Len Sorin at Waltham High School, Jerry Phillips at Newton North High School, and John Boutin at Brockton High School.

“I was in awe when I first met him, because Duke had a presence that demanded respect,’’ said Sorin, who received a congratulatory letter from Mr. Dukeshire in 1981 when Sorin was honored as the Globe’s Division 1 coach of the year.

Mr. Dukeshire, who also was an avid racquetball player, co-owned the popular Samoset basketball camp in Maine that attracted several future coaches as players and clinicians.

“After lights out,’’ Sorin recalled, “we’d all talk basketball until 2 in the morning and then take a dip in Lake Sebago before breakfast at 7.’’

An All-Western Massachusetts captain of three sports at Northampton High School, Mr. Dukeshire graduated in 1951 and attended Monson Academy, where he was high scorer on that school’s New England Prep champion basketball team.

When Monson’s coach, Bill Callahan, became head basketball coach at American International, he brought along his star player.

At AIC, from which he graduated in 1956 with a bachelor’s degree in history, Mr. Dukeshire starred in baseball and basketball and received the Mahoney Award as the school’s outstanding senior athlete.

He declined offers to play professional baseball and was hired as assistant basketball, football, and baseball coach at Northeastern in 1956. He was head coach of the Greek national team from 1971 to 1972 and from 1975 to 1980, and coached the championship Panathinaikos professional team in Greece.

Mr. Dukeshire coached at Hellenic College from 1980 to 1985, and at Salve Regina from 1985 to 1987. He founded the Commonwealth Coast Conference and was its commissioner from 1983 to 1987.

When Wellesley High advertised an opening for its head basketball position in 1991, he called the school’s athletic director, Ted Tripp, who had played football at Northeastern from 1961 to 1963.

“I was thrilled to hear from him,’’ said Tripp who retired in 2002. “His reputation preceded him. We needed to bring discipline to our program, and our players learned a lot about the game and played hard for him. He was with us for a couple of years before he decided to retire.’’

Mr. Dukeshire’s marriage to Ellen Mattsen ended in divorce. She died in 1998.

In addition to his son, Mr. Dukeshire leaves a daughter, Kim Vachon of Stoneham; a sister, Ruth Madsen of Southampton; and three grandchildren.

A gathering of relatives and friends to pay tribute to Mr. Dukeshire’s life and career will be held at 4 p.m. Saturday in Boyle Brothers Funeral Home in Framingham.

Jim Moxley played from 1968 to 1971 under Mr. Dukeshire and remained a lifelong friend.

“I saw him in the nursing home three weeks ago, and we enjoyed reminiscing as always,’’ Moxley said.

“He knew how to put a team together and get the best out of them.’’

Marvin Pave can be reached at marvin.pave@rcn.com.

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