La Salle is raising $150,000 to replace the gym’s original hardwood court and rename it after longtime Falcon teacher and basketball coach Jack Cleghorn.
Known for his animated coaching style, “The Legend” – as Cleghorn was known by his players – coached basketball at La Salle for 19 seasons between 1977 and 2001. The full-court press and sideline fast break he drilled into his teams served them well; the Falcon boys teams won state titles in 1981, 1983, 1984, and 1986.
In addition to building the teams, the coach created a culture of excellence and pride around the program and school. No matter what your role was with the team – scorekeeper, statistician, or starter – you were important. Falcon fans became so loyal – and rambunctious – they were nicknamed the “zoo.”
“Everyone wanted to be part of this program,” said Mark McLaughlin '82, who played for Cleghorn in the early ‘80s. “The legend had been born.”
A winning tradition
The coach’s reputation reached beyond La Salle. Before arriving in Milwaukie, Cleghorn had led Scappoose High School’s boys basketball teams to state titles in 1972 and 1973, earning him induction into the Scappoose Boosters’ Hall of Fame in 1999.
Cleghorn’s varsity boys basketball career win percentage of 84% (456 wins and 85 losses) remains the highest among all Oregon high school boys basketball coaches with more than 200 wins. Between 1976 and 1991, his teams went 334-49, earning an 87% winning percentage and the distinction of the best 15-year record of any high school varsity boys basketball team ever in Oregon, according to historian Tom Rohlffs, who wrote the book “Cutting Down the Nets.”
Cleghorn’s now #26 on the Oregon All-Time Boys Basketball Coaching Records list kept by Doug Calvert and linked to the Oregon School Activities website.
“Jack Cleghorn is an important part of our story and one that we are proud to celebrate with him and his former players,” said Matthew Winningham, La Salle’s Executive Director/CFO.
Cleghorn shares the glory with his athletes.
“My name wouldn’t be going on there if I didn’t have good kids at La Salle,” Cleghorn said. “They made me want to be a better coach every year.”
Recipe for success: Hard work, heart
Cleghorn said he got results because he taught his athletes to work hard, “not play lazy,” and “play with a toughness people can respect.” Decades later, his former players still remember exhausting practices, where the coach would have them run, over and over again, 10 lengths of the court at full speed in less than a minute.
“I pushed my kids extremely hard,” said Cleghorn, “but they know how much I loved them.”
McLaughlin, who was on the 1981 state championship team, wrote that “the genius of Jack” was his ability to adjust his coaching to the needs of his teams and players.
“Some athletes he could ride extremely hard, and others he may say very little or offer more words of encouragement,” he said. “That’s why he was so successful: He could coach all different ways. He always got the best out of ALL his players.”
La Salle’s gym renovations are part of an effort to raise $5 million to upgrade, expand, and revamp the school’s athletic facilities. The new facility, which will be called the Saalfeld Athletic Center, will include a new health and physical education classroom, completely renovated fitness center, training room, and locker room facilities, as well as other much-needed improvements. Thanks to lead gifts from Jim ’77 and Linda Pliska and the family of Gene and Betty Feltz, the school has already raised more than $3.5 million and is on pace to break ground on the project in March.
To honor Cleghorn with a gift, visit lsprep.org or contact Andrea Burns ’97 at (503) 353-1424.