Remembering Larry Dassie

Joe Penno
DCCC Sports Information Director
Dodge City Community College remembers basketball great Larry Dassie, who died 34 years ago. SUBMITTED PHOTO

Today marks the 34th anniversary of the passing of who many believe is the greatest Conquistador to ever lace up a pair of basketball shoes.

A kid from Georgia made his way to Dodge City, and never looked back. He's been likened to a "junior college Magic Johnson" by those who watched him most, with the way he led the Conquistadors offensive attack, ultimately, to the NJCAA National Tournament in 1974.

No story quite encompasses how beloved Larry Dassie was, quite like the one surrounding the last junior college game of his career.After two illustrious seasons as a Conquistador, Dassie's final junior college game ever was set to be played at Hutchinson Arena against the vaunted Blue Dragons.

People from all over the state came to watch him play, not knowing he'd remain in the state as a Wildcat for the next two years. The game played out and the Blue Dragons were set to win when Dassie fouled out.

As he made his way to the bench, it wasn't just the purple and gold showing their admiration.

The entirety of the sold-out crowd in Hutchinson Arena was on their feet in a show of appreciation for having gotten to witness Dassie play for the last two years.Through the course of his career, Dassie set and has maintained countless records for Conquistador basketball. He is first in points in a career by over 300, first in field goals made in a career by over 200, and he's first in rebounds in a career by over 600.

He led the Conquistadors to the national tournament and a final four berth in 1974. In the national semifinal against Hill College, Dassie set a still-NJCAA record with 28 rebounds in the contest.

All of this led to a NJCAA First Team Honors that season and a nomination into the NJCAA Basketball Hall of Fame in 1996.Clearly Dassie was a talented basketball player, but it was the joy that he played with that engrained him into the community.

"I feel so blessed and grateful to have had the pleasure to watch Larry play for two years," said tearfully by long time Conquistador supporter Greg Goff. "What made him such a joy was his attitude. People loved playing with him. He'd draw a charge and get up with a big smile on his face. He had the ability to recognize his own greatness and have fun with it."

That's the mark of any story you hear about Dassie. He understood how incredible of a talent he was and he was certainly never going to let that go to waste for a second.After his time at Dodge City, Dassie opted to stay in the state of Kansas and go play at Kansas State for then coach Jack Hartman. Dassie continued his infectiously winning ways as he was a part of the only Kansas State team to win both the regular season and conference championships in 1977.

That season, Dassie averaged nearly 13 points and 9 rebounds as he and two-time Big 8 Player of the Year selection Mike Evans led the Wildcats to an NCAA tournament berth before losing to the eventual champions in Al McGuire's Marquette team. It's important to note that while at Kansas State, Dassie studied Fashion Design and Tailoring. The man could absolutely do it all.While many believe Dassie could have been an NBA player, he took his carefree spirit and pure talent over to the United Kingdom where he is often credited with revolutionizing British basketball at the time.

He came to Crystal Palace in 1977, after his NCAA tournament run, and immediately began showcasing his carefree style of play. He led the squad to the League and Wembley Playoff championship in his first season with the squad.

He would go on to play professionally in Austria for a few seasons before returning to the United Kingdom playing for Hemel, Kingston, and Portsmouth.Dassie passed away in an automobile accident on Nov. 25, 1986 in Wimbledon.

While the world lost a fantastic basketball player and an even better person, the impact Larry Dassie made is quite evident. It's evident in not only the stories you hear about him, but also with the emotion those stories are delivered.

As soon as you met Dassie, it's evident that you became a more jubilant person because he didn't give you any other choice.While this generation of Conquistadors won't get to know Larry Dassie, it's important they at least know who he was.

If more people play and live their lives like Dassie, then his legend will withstand the test of time.