Posted by: John Moss, Tulsa's Channel 8 Sports - email
Robert A. (Bob) Kurland, the most celebrated player in Oklahoma State Basketball history, passed away in his sleep Sunday morning at his home in south Florida after a long illness, his family confirmed today. He was 88 years old. He is survived by his wife of 62 years, Barbara, four children and seven grandchildren.
Kurland, a pioneering big man, was one of the first seven-footers in college basketball history. He is one of three former representatives from Oklahoma State (Oklahoma A&M) in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame (Kurland, Don Haskins, Henry Iba) and one of four in the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame (Kurland, Haskins, Iba, Eddie Sutton).
He was a consensus first-team All-American for OSU for three-straight seasons (1944, '45 and '46), and led the then-Aggies to back-to-back national championships in 1945 and '46, making OSU the first program in NCAA history to win consecutive national titles in the sport. Kurland was voted the Outstanding Player of the NCAA tournament in both 1945 and '46, one of just five players in Division I history who can claim that accomplishment. He was named the national Player of the Year by the Helms Foundation in 1946.
Kurland was named to Grantland Rice's All-Time All-Star squad as well as the Helms Foundation All-Time All-America team. Despite leading the nation with his 643 points in 1946, he was considered more valuable as a defensive player under the master of defensive basketball, Mr. Henry Iba. As a freshman, Kurland developed goal tending to a degree that none had been able to do up until that time, although Mr. Iba disliked the maneuver and seldom allowed Kurland to practice it. He was instrumental in the rule against goal tending due to his ability to grab opposing shots from mid-air before they reached the rim.
Kurland continued his basketball playing career with the Phillips 66ers of the Amateur Athletic Union, opting for a career with Phillips Petroleum rather than the fledgling world of professional basketball. He was a six-time AAU All-American for the Bartlesville-based team and led them to four AAU championships in a five-year span. As an amateur, Kurland also competed in both the 1948 London Games and the 1952 Helsinki Games, leading the U.S. to two Olympic gold medals.
"We are deeply saddened by the passing of one of the greatest college basketball players to ever play the game," said OSU head coach Travis Ford. "Bob Kurland was instrumental in putting Oklahoma State on the college basketball map, and was someone who greatly affected this University and the Cowboy Basketball program, an impact that is still felt today. Our condolences go out to his family, friends and former teammates."
Funeral arrangements and other pertinent information will be provided as it is made available.
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