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.”
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% (455 wins and 86 losses) remains the highest among all Oregon high school boys basketball coaches with more than 200 wins. He’s now #26 on the Oregon All-Time Boys Basketball Coaching Records list kept by Doug Calvert and linked to the Oregon School Activities Association’s website.
Cleghorn’s dominance in La Salle’s gym inspired many Falcon fans to begin referring to their home court as “Cleghorn Court.” School officials are now eager to make the moniker official by having it painted onto the new hardwood floor.
“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.”
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.”