With the recent passing via suicide of Junior Seau, I’m reminded of a former Tiger great who also took his own life. His career and achievements pre-date most Tiger fan’s memories, so I thought it a prudent to profile him today.
Letterman: 1943-44, 1946-47, 1947-48, 1948-49
Born: October 20th, 1926. Died: April 1st, 1965
(Dan with his sister Nancy in 1949)
Dan Pippin came to MU by way of Waynesville in 1943 at the age of 17 while the world was engaged in warfare. WWII had depleted the college ranks of players, and for the first time freshman were allowed eligibility on varsity squads. Being 17, Pippin was too young for the draft and as detailed in ‘True Sons’ the “wiry youngster was athletic enough to go toe-to-toe with much bigger players and skilled enough to dominate smaller ones.” He was 6’1 and played center for the Tigers, and possessed a deadly fade away jumper and great leaping skills that immediately made him the Tigers best rebounder. MU would finish 9-8 in his first season and in 3rd place in the Big 6. But when 1st and 2nd place finishers OU and ISU both declined NCAA tourney invitations out of fear they could not keep their team together that long during the wartime situation, MU accepted its first ever bid to the 8 team field. The Tigers were sent out West to face Utah, who was coming off a first round defeat in the NIT in which they also participated that season. MU would lose by 10, and Utah would go on to capture the NCAA title of 1944. However, in the consolation game the Tigers would defeat Pepperdine 61-46 for MU’s first ever NCAA tournament victory.
Pippin would be the Tiger’s second leading scorer in the game with 12, behind Charles Minx’s 21 (one half of pair of twins, he and his brother Beauford were pulled from the intramural ranks to fill out the squad that season). Pippin would earn First Team All Conference recognition on the season, becoming the first conference freshman ever to do so. The entire season recap from ‘True Sons’ can be found here:
And here is a team photo:
After the season, Pippin was no longer too young to be drafted, and it was off to war for him for the next two years. He returned to Columbia at the same time the Tigers brought in a new coach in Sparky Stalcup, the first non-MU graduate to coach the Tigers since Hall of Fame coach Walter Meanwell in 1920. He scored 17 in a 39-34 win over ku in Lawrence, the first Tiger victory there in 17 years. The game was heated, and ku coach Phog Allen would rush across the court during play and shove Stalcup as he argued with a referee. Stalcup would raise his fist and shout, “Get the hell back on your side of the court,” before being restrained. The rematch in Columbia featured one of the odder matchups in series history as a flu outbreak resulted in only reporters and radio announcers allowed inside the gymnasium to watch the teams play in front of an empty house. The Tigers would finish 15-10 and in 2nd place in the Big 6, their highest finish in 7 years. Pippin would again be named First Team All Conference.
As a junior the team embarked on a 3 game Eastern road trip featuring a Dec 12th matchup in Madison Square Garden with national powerhouse New York University. Per the Savitar, “The Missouri club was defeated, 70-63, at the hands of New York University on the first leg of its eastern invasion. Missouri, led by Dan Pippin again, overcame a half-time deficit to take the lead, 40-36. However, the attack faltered as NYU got hot from far out and pushed into the lead. Altogether on the trip, Pippin hit for 18 markers, bringing his total for the three road games to 51 points.” He scored 24 points, the most of any Tiger during the season, against KSU which the Savitar described as “Dan Pippin was the veritable human dynamo generating the spark that flashed the Bengals to a 48-46 victory over the league-leading Kansas State Wildcats.” In the second game of the series, Pippin hit a half court shot with 3 seconds remaining to tie the game…only to see KSU answer with a half court buzzer beater of their own to claim the victory. The Tigers again finished in 2nd place in the Big 6, this time with a 14-10 overall record. Here are the season stats for the year:
His senior season picked up right where he left off, leading the team in scoring. Unfortunately, the University Registrar ruled Pippin ineligible 15 games into the season and effectively ended his college career. The Tigers would manage only 4th in the Big 6. Despite cutting his season short Pippin finished with 802 career points as the program’s all-time leading scorer. Season stats for the year:
While it was the end of his college career, it was certainly not the end of his basketball career. After graduation, he went to work for the Caterpillar Tractor Company in Peoria, Illinois, and played for the National Industrial Basketball League team it sponsored. During 4 seasons with the Peoria Cats, Pippin would total 1,518 points scored for second on their all-time career list. 1952 was his finest season. He earned AAU All American recognition that year, and his team won the AAU national championship. As such they were entered into a 4 team playoff for the right to represent the United States at the 1952 Olympic games. The title game of this playoff matched Pippin’s Cats against the NCAA Champion kansas jayhawks, Pippin’s former rival and still coached by Phog Allen. Pippin would score 13 points in his team’s 62-60 victory that allowed him to not only represent the USA but he would be selected as Captain of the Olympic team. At the Olympic games, Pippin would score in double digits in 4 of the team’s 8 games and the US would go on to claim a Gold Medal in a victory over USSR.
After his basketball career, Pippin later moved to New Mexico and worked in the insurance business before returning to his native Missouri. He had 3 children: Dru, DeeAnn, and David. But 13 years after winning Olympic Gold, at the age of 37, he took his own life. Pippin mailed a letter to his wife letting her know where to find his body, in a parked automobile 8 miles from his home in a vacant garage. He had placed a hose from the exhaust through the car window, and died from the carbon monoxide fumes on April 1st, 1965.
He was the first Tiger to play 4 seasons of eligibility, and the rare NCAA player whose career spanned a total of 6 seasons. He was twice 1st team All Conference, finished as the program’s All Time Leading Scorer, led the Tigers to their first NCAA tournament berth and their first NCAA tourney win, won an AAU National Championship and was an AAU All American, and is the only Tiger to ever win an Olympic Gold and to captain the Olympic team.Edited by FIJItiger at 09:30:53 on 05/03/12