Quotations - The 1942-43 Wyoming Cowboys’ Basketball Team

The 1942-1943 Wyoming Cowboys’ basketball season was arguably the best in the history of the University’s basketball program.  The Cowboys had a 31-2 record - playing only nine games at home and winning all of those.  Wyoming won the NCAA championship over Georgetown on March 30, 1943 and then defeated the NIT champions, St. John’s, in overtime on April 1 in a wartime benefit game for the American Red Cross for what was universally considered the mythical national championship that season.  Both games were played in Madison Square Garden, New York City.

In newspapers from West to East much was written about the Cowboys during that season, and especially about their team captain Kenny Sailors – who received many individual honors that year.  Following are some quotations from sportswriters, coaches, and players about the Cowboys and Kenny from that season:

The NCAA championship trophy is presented to the Wyoming Cowboys in Madison Square Garden, New York City, after their victory vs. Georgetown on March 30, 1943.  Kenny Sailors stands to the right of the trophy. First Row (left to right): Don Waite, Earl "Shadow" Ray and Jim Reese. Back Row (left to right): Jim Collins, Floyd Volker, Milo Komenich, Coach Ev Shelton, Lou Roney, Kenny Sailors, Jim Weir, and Professor Philip O. Badger, President of the NCAA


“ . . . it is impossible that both Sailors and Komenich will be lassoed in the same game.”

by Chet Nelson, Rock Mountain News

“I always look for a little fellow with speed and coordination, and train him for the driving spot.”  Coach Everett Shelton speaking about Kenny Sailors, following the victory over Georgetown

by Lawrence Robinson, New York Times

“Wyoming height controlled the airlanes and Kenny Sailors’ stutter-dribble took care of the ground attack in a one-man blitzkrieg.  This Sailors, already being boomed for All-America, shakes off defensive men like Rommel outrunning Il Duce’s dupes on the Tripoli highway.”

by Kingsley Childs, New York Times, December 31, 1942, following Wyoming’s rout of previously unbeaten St. Francis (NY) in Madison Square Garden the previous day

“Ken Sailors . . . is one of the speediest and classiest dribblers in the business . . . .”

by sportswriter Joe Lipper, prior to the January 1, 1943 game vs. Rochester

“Kenny Sailors, Wyoming’s candidate for top basketball honors, has a dribble technique reminding one of a stutterer trying to say, ‘She sells sea shells . . . .’  His stop and go dribbling would make a traffic engineer go crazy or an ‘A’ ration book holder insane.”

by Johnny Mooney, Salt Lake City Telegram, March 6, 1943

“Jack Rabbit – Ken Sailors, Wyomin’s razzle dazzle dribbler and phenomenal playmaker . . . .”

Caption under a photo from the game vs. Poudre Valley on March 18, 1943,
Rocky Mountain News photo

“He’s the best youngster in the tournament . . . . hand the prize to Master Kenneth Sailors, one of the handiest hardwood artists ever to trod the boards in the National AAU Tournament . . . . what he lacks in size he makes up for in masterful cleverness, a blazing competitive spirit and the knack of making a minimum of mistakes . . . . His dribble is a sight to behold . . . . He can leap with a mighty spring and get off that dazzling one-handed shot. . . . But scoring isn’t his more valuable asset to the . . . Cowpokes . . . . It’s his teamwork and passing off, particularly to Milo Komenich . . . .”

by Chet Nelson, Rocky Mountain News, March 19, 1943

“Sailors Sailed the Court – and wasn’t that Ken Sailors, the Wyoming midget, a basketball player?  Did you ever see a better one?  Better passer, better dribbler, better shot, as much speed, so much annoyance to the man with the ball when on defense, all in one little 145-pounder?  If so, who was it?  Ernest Mehl, who covered the run of 14 successive AAU tournaments . . . was thrilled by the dauntless spirit and the swift, nonstop play of Sailors.  ‘He’s the best basketball player I ever saw,’ Mehl said.”

Written by the Sports Editor (unnamed)  of the Kansas City Star, following Wyoming’s victory vs. Texas in the West Regional of the NCAA tournament.  The game was played on March 27, 1943

“Wyoming’s Ken Sailors Steals Show”

Headline in New York Post, March 31, 1943,
following Wyoming’s win vs. Georgetown


Kenny Sailors is about to score a basket despite the defensive efforts of Georgetown guard, No. 14, Billy Hassett in the NCAA title game in Madison Square Garden, New York City, on March 30, 1943.  Also in the photo are Cowboys Jim Weir, behind Hassett, Milo Komenich, No. 17, and Floyd Volker, No. 5.  The referee is Pat Kennedy.  Photo by: UPI/Bettmann, United Press New York Bureau

“He’s the fastest man I ever tried to guard . . . . I was told to guard him close but he was like an eel in there.  He’s the best I’ve been up against all year.”

Billy Hassett, Georgetown guard, speaking about Kenny Sailors
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“That Sailors is the fastest man I’ve ever tried to guard . . . . I played him close when he came in but then I had to give him room because you can’t tell if he’s going around you or going to shoot.  He’s great, that’s all.”

Billy Hassett, Georgetown guard, speaking about Kenny Sailors
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“He’s one of the best I’ve ever seen . . . and I mean in playmaking above all.  He’s the boy who sets everything up.”

Coach Ray Meyer, DePaul University,
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“It was Ken Sailors, a great little player, who saved the situation because he is enough of an individual player to carry the load . . . . Play Sailors close, and he has the speed and dribble to go by you with a great change of pace.  Play him out, and he dribbles up to you, steps back and sets – and he can hit.”

Coach Clair Bee, Long Island University,
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“As far as the NCAA basketball tournament is concerned, the Sailors has landed and has the situation well in hand . . . . This Sailors can do everything with a basketball but tie a seaman’s knot and, given time and a chance to dribble two steps, he’d probably be able to do that.  Sailors was the hand who held the S.S. Wyoming together . . . . In closing, I wonder if Georgetown has ever heard of that old sea chanty entitled, ‘Sailors Beware’?”

by Joe Cummiskey, New York PM,
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“ . . . a slim, blond youngster by the name of Ken Sailors took up the slack and made everybody forget Komenich and Weir.  Our town’s best basketball minds all agreed that here was one of the top players ever to show on the Garden boards.  Joe Daher, Manhattan mentor, said he was, ‘as good a player as ever walked on the Garden floor.’   Joe Lapchick, whose blood pressure was sent to unnatural heights by Sailors’ brilliance, agreed, ‘He’s one of the best ever to show in the Garden,’ he said.”

by Arch Murray, sportswriter,
following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“Only Sailors’ guidance and coolness in the fading moments turned it into a rout before the final gun.”

United Press International, New York, March 31, 1943,
reporting on Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown

“His ability to dribble through and around any type of defense was uncanny, just as was his electrifying one-handed shot.”

by Louis Effrat, New York Times, March 31, 1943, speaking of Kenny Sailors, following Wyoming’s victory over Georgetown.  This quote provided by Tom Yantz, The Hartford Courant, November 26, 1993

“When it was over the Cowboys claimed the national collegiate championship, and none in the crowd could disput (sic) their right to the crown.  Winner of twenty-seven games, king of the National Collegiate A.A., this crew of rip-roaring, swashbuckling big men merited every honor, every handshake and every backslap that came their way.  And there were plenty on all sides.”

by Louis Effrat, New York Times,
following Wyoming’s victory over St. John’s

“They called on Kenny Sailors, the dribbling fool, . . . . Big Boy Harry Boykoff met more than his match . . . . Big Milo Komenich . . . made him look like he was still in high school . . . .”

by sportswriter Joe Cummiskey, New York PM,
writing about Wyoming’s victory over St. John’s

“Let’s close with a long cheer for Wyoming: They earned it the hard way.  I know now why someone once said, ‘Go West, young man, go West.’  He must have meant you might end up being a great basketball player.”

by sportswriter Joe Cummiskey, New York PM,
following Wyoming’s victory over St. John’s

“Dribbling, dodging and dashing as only this snaky athlete can . . . .”

by sportswriter Jim Jennings,
describing Kenny Sailors in the victory over St. John’s

“This quintet operate from a campus in Laramie that has an altitude of 7,200 feet – an altitude which given most visitors a nose bleed . . . . Afterwards, the Wyoming coach – bespectacled Everett Shelton – admitted that the Wyoming triumph was due largely to altitude, not to the heights that could be measured by engineers, but rather to the heights attained psychologically by a team that was determined to win.”

by Jack Cuddy, United Press International, New York, April 2, 1943,
following the win over St. John’s

“Sailors was the darling of the Garden gallery.  He put on a two-night display that was a combination of Sonja Henie in an ice ballet, Sid Luckman quarterbacking and forward-passing and Leopold Stokowski directing a symphony orchestra . . . .”

by Cy Kritzer, The Sporting News, April 8, 1943,
writing about the games vs. Georgetown and St. John’s

“Sailors has thin legs, wide shoulders and biceps and long arms of a heavy-weight wrestler.  He dribbled up the floor with one hand, using the other to direct his teammates.  If it can be said a man has beautiful hands, Sailors has them.  Once at quarter-court, he used those hands like a virtuoso, and the Wyoming team responded to every move.  Sailors was like a coach in action . . . . It was a great duel between two superbly-trained teams and Sailors was the difference.”

by Cy Kritzer, The Sporting News,
reporting again on the Cowboy’s win vs. St. John’s

“Captain Ken Sailors of the victors was again the best player on the floor, probably the handiest little fellow seen in the Garden all year.  And . . . . Harry Boykoff was only the third best tall man on the floor . . . . Two Cowboys, Komenich and Weir, exceeded him.”

by sportswriter Lawrence Robinson,
following the Cowboys’ win vs. St. John’s

“ . . . Kenny Sailors, the Wyoming cap pistol with the kick of a 75-millimeter, who perhaps was the best cager in the land last year.”

by sports columnist Abraham Krash, in a column called,
“The Dope Bucket” (newspaper unknown)


Kenny Sailors drives for the basket defended by St. John's star guard Hy Gotkin during the Cowboys overtime victory for the national championship on April 1, 1943 in Madison Square Garden.  Also pictured is the Cowboys' center Milo Komenich, No. 17."  Photo provided by the University of Wyoming


“My Dad did say . . . Kenny was a ‘great’ player.  My dad always said . . . Kenny was a tough opponent to play against . . . .”

Mark Gotkin, son of St. John’s Hall of Fame guard, Hy Gotkin, in an Email to Kenny Sailors on December 3, 2008.  Hy Gotkin played against Kenny in the 1943 national championship game