The driving force on the team, Stu Lantz, won’t be in attendance because of a prior commitment, but he will be there in spirit.
“It is a great honor for that team to be inducted,” Lantz said. “It is a great honor for me to be associated with that team and for all of those that are in attendance, give them my best and tell them that I’m sorry that I couldn’t be there. I was honored to be on that 1964 basketball team.”
Not only is this team considered one of the greatest in WPIAL history, but one of the greatest in state history. Coached by the legendary Abe Everhart, Uniontown finished with a 28-0 record.
“That really says something,” Lantz stated. “I got a real good sense of that from longtime coach Tim Grgurich, who hails from Pittsburgh. He still says the way we ran and pressed, and the way we did things, he took that into his coaching philosophy. He felt we were one of the best teams that he had ever seen.
“The famed Uniontown press was unbelievable and we did it from start to finish and we just wore you down. There was really nothing you could do about it, because we were one of the only teams to run the press that way.
“There were other teams that had certain presses they put on, but we had a full court, a half court, three-quarter court, we had all kinds of different traps we would run and obviously it paid off.”
Red Raider stalwart Ray Parson looks back at the great Uniontown teams and marvels at the 1964 PIAA basketball champs.
"That group of guys was probably the most talented bunch of people I've ever been affiliated with in sports," Parson recalled. "We had a great coach and we had great ballplayers, we trusted each other and we played for each other.
“We were 28-0 that year – it was a team that couldn't be conquered – it was a great team. There was Stu Lantz, Pat Yates, Ben Gregory, Ray Stephens and Chuck Beckwith, it was just a great collection of athletes."
“That year was a highlight,” Raider guard Chuck Beckwith offered. “I played a lot and I was the sixth man. I took Ben Gregory's place all the time and we got to play a lot and our second team was pretty good.
“We got to Harrisburg and we were so excited to be there. We were 27-0 going into the championship game and the biggest thing for us, we weren't going to lose that last game. Stu Lantz played great and Doc Yates played great. I look back and think where did the years go.”
Coach Everhart was the architect of those great Red Raider teams of the 1960's.
“He was just a great man who really cared,” Beckwith said of Everhart. “He was tough, but we had fun, he let us have fun. He was such a gentle man, but he was forceful. We also had assistant John Kruper and he was tough, he didn't let you make dumb mistakes. They were a great pair.”
Uniontown's run to the state championship in 1964 was a bit of a surprise to Everhart. It figured to be a rebuilding year with four regulars gone.
“I didn’t have any idea at the start of the season I would be where I am tonight. No idea at all,” That’s what Everhart said after winning the championship.
Along the way the Red Raiders got by an outstanding Midland team in the WPIAL Class A title game. Some call it the "dream game." In front of a capacity crowd at the Civic Arena, Uniontown prevails, 46-43, as Pat Yates scores 13 points for the Raiders. Simmie Hill scores 26 for Midland, but star guard Norm Van Lier was held to three points.
In the 62-51 win over Plymouth-Whitemarsh in the state title game, the Raiders got 19 points from Pat Yates, 16 points from Ben Gregory, 13 from Jim Rae and 12 Stu Lantz in cruising to the win.
“I couldn’t single out any one boy. I thought they all did a good job,” Everhart said after the game. Yates and Rae played their best ball of the tournament and Gregory was a steadying influence. Lantz is a better shooter than you saw tonight, but he got the ball off the board and hit two key tipins for us when we needed them.”
“The Midland game was the toughest game we had,” Raider Jim Rae offered. “That game stands out and the game with Plymouth-Whitemarsh, I was never so far up for a game in my entire life. We used the full court press.
“I remember in practice we knew our job, this is what you were supposed to do and if you didn’t do it Coach Everhart would put someone in who would do the job.
“The championship game was one of my best when I scored 13 points. We thought we might have problems with big Ed Szczesny, what loomed in my mind was John Naponick from the year before. Szczesny was 6-8 and was a big guy on the court. Our quickness was the determining factor.”