After more than 30 years away from his coaching success at Kokomo High School, four-time Hall of Famer, Carl McNulty, took a look back at the success of his playing and coaching career.
Before he was known as a prolific coach that was highly successful as a Wildcat, McNulty made a name for himself on the basketball court as a center. Coming from a small school, Washington Township, now a part of Lewis Cass, McNulty was shocked the day he was invited to attend Purdue University.
His success was well-known at Purdue, as he set a program record at the time for most points scored in a game: 36. He still possesses the record for most rebounds in a game: 27. Still, McNulty was surprised that he even made it to Purdue. Recently, McNulty had his jersey hung from Mackey Arena’s rafters, placed right next to Terry Dischinger's.
“I came from a small high school, and people just took care of me, I guess. It was awful nice to have coaches that played me. Every coach that I played for and liked, I thought they were the best coach in the world. I guess I liked them because they played me. How I got to Purdue, I hardly know. When people ask me how I went there, I tell them I really don’t know. A freshman coach saw me play one game, and they invited me over. So I went. Of course back then I washed floors and worked in a fraternity house and paid my tuition. That satisfied me completely,” said McNulty.
When asked about his untouched 27 rebound record, McNulty said he has “no idea” how it’s lasted as long as it has. For a record that was set Feb. 19, 1951, 67 years ago, it is remarkable it’s not been touched.
“I had no idea it’d last this long. (Caleb) Swanigan would have probably broken it if he had stayed in school. If Painter hadn’t have taken him out of a couple of games last year, he would’ve broken it. Swanigan was a horse. He went after every rebound, and he’d run over his own players to get it. I think it’ll stand for a while just because of the way that they break them up. (Isaac) Haas, he gets seven or eight rebounds a game, and his replacement gets five or six,” said McNulty.
In his time at Purdue, McNulty earned high honors, such as two-time Purdue MVP, All Big Ten his senior year, and the Gimlet Award for outstanding athlete. Following his career at Purdue, McNulty went on to travel on an All-Star team that competed against the Harlem Globetrotters.
“Back then it was pretty big. I played for the All-Americans, and we played 16 games against the Harlem Globetrotters throughout the United States. I was fortunate enough – or unfortunate enough in a lot of ways – to guard Goose Tatum, the legendary goofy guy,” said McNulty.
With his basketball career taking him places, McNulty was drafted in the 1952 NBA Draft as the 96th overall pick in a 97-man draft in the 11th round. He was selected by the Minneapolis Lakers. With a child being born around the same time, the low-paying NBA was not his priority at the time.
“Back then there was maybe eight teams in the league, and there were no contracts or deals. You either made it or you didn’t. At the time I was 6-foot, 3-inches and played center. That wouldn’t have been big enough to play professional ball as a center. I would have had to dribble the ball, and it wasn’t exactly one of my hobbies. I wasn’t too good at it, either. I played two games, and they traded me to the Milwaukee Bucks. I played two games professionally and scored two points,” said McNulty.
After choosing not to pursue a professional career, McNulty took a head coaching position at Rochester where, over the course of 14 years, he ultimately would coach at Elwood, La Porte, and Warren Central before spending 18 years with Kokomo High School. In his time at Kokomo (1968-1986), he saw 13 Sectional titles.
To this day, coaching at Kokomo High School for him is still his number one achievement.
“Sports have been my life. I still follow Kokomo, and I follow Purdue basketball. I have had a great time since retiring from Kokomo. That was the highlight of my life. Coaching at Kokomo, Ind., for 18 years,” said McNulty.
McNulty gave the credit of his success to the boys he coached and the friendship of his assistant coach, Ron Barsh. Barsh and McNulty worked as friends and coaches for 16 years.
“The backbone to my coaching career at Kokomo was my assistant coach, Ron Barsh. He was just a great, great coach and friend. In 16 years we never argued or disagreed on any decision that we made. That’s kind of unusual. You just don’t find those kinds of relationships. He was offered several head coaching positions in our time, and for him to stay on my staff meant the world to me,” said McNulty.
When McNulty is not looking back at what was, he is soaking up the sun in Naples, Fla., where he and his wife spend time with a former player of his, Charlie Hall, and his wife. The two couples share time at the dog racetrack twice a week and go for a nine-hole round of golf once a week.
“I’ve had an interesting career. I told Charlie Hall this afternoon, ‘You know, we’ve had really good lives.’ To live to be 88 years old and have a wife that followed me to every single game is a true blessing. Now, to be relaxing and enjoying life every day is an honor,” said McNulty.