Thursday, February 5th, 2009
Dahlinghaus looks back fondly on memories from hardwood
By Robb Hemmelgarn
For Rory Dahlinghaus, basketball has provided more than just an outlet to keep him busy in the frigid winter months.
Over the course of the past three-plus decades, his steady relationship with the sport earned him a college education, allowed him the opportunity to travel the country, opened up the door to meet his future wife, forged lifelong friendships, and today provides an avenue to bond with his children.
It all began in a farm yard in rural Mercer County.
Standing at 6-1 as an eighth-grader, Dahlinghaus predicted his future would be on the hardwood, a decision that paid great dividends.
"I remember as a young kid going to basketball games and thinking how exciting it was to see the big kids play," he reminisced. "The gym was so packed full of fans - what kid wouldn't want to be a part of that tradition when he got older?"
Within a couple of years, his vision became reality, as he split time on Jack Albers' Marion Local varsity squad as a sophomore before finding himself in a starting role for the Flyers during a very special junior season.
"As a sophomore I played both junior varsity and varsity, but the next year I was on varsity full time," he remarked. "I averaged around 10 points per game, but that season (1980-81) we won 25 straight games and didn't lose until the regional tournament to eventual state champion Kalida."
As a senior, Dahlinghaus hit for 17 points per game, but the Flyers struggled to a 14-7 overall record. Within a few months of his final high school game, the two-time First Team All-Midwest Athletic Conference honoree elected to continue his basketball career at the University of Dayton for Coach Don Donoher - selecting the Flyers over Kent State, Akron, and UNC-Wilmington.
Pairing up with Donoher was an instant hit with Dahlinghaus, as he likened the legendary coach to his former high school mentor.
"There were so many things that I learned from Coach Albers about working hard and having high expectations for yourself," he complimented. "He was such a positive influence in my life both athletically and academically. Many people remember his intensity during basketball games, but what I think was even more important was his intensity for academics. If you were in his class, you couldn't help but learn."
Dahlinghaus added, "In many ways, coach Donoher had a similar style, as he taught about working hard and playing fundamental basketball. Both coaches wanted what was best for their players on and off the court and I was very fortunate to have played for each of them."
While at Dayton, Dahlinghaus had the opportunity to suit up with some of the biggest names in the school's storied basketball history - Sedric Toney, Dave Colbert, Negele Knight, Ed Young, Damon Goodwin, and Roosevelt Chapman - an experience he still treasures.
"Fortunately, I was able to play with some outstanding players," he explained. "Playing with and against those guys in practice really brought out the best in me as a player, and I hope those daily battles also helped them become better players and bring us together as a team."
Along with sharing a locker room with some of Dayton's brightest stars, he also played in one of the biggest games in the program's history, the Flyers' 1983-84 Elite Eight showdown against the Patrick Ewing-led Georgetown Hoyas.
"As I recall, we didn't really prepare all that different for Georgetown," he admitted. "Our plan was to continue to run the offense the same way we had in previous games, but we had to recognize that some inside shots would be more difficult to shoot. When this occurred, we needed to kick the ball out to the perimeter for an outside shot. Unfortunately, Ewing was able to block a few of those as well."
The Flyers ended up falling to Georgetown and although they made the NCAA field again in Dahlinghaus' junior year, they fell to Villanova, which eventually won the championship.
Dahlinghaus closed his career the next season as the Flyers finished 17-13, losing in the National Invitational Tournament.
"I'm proud to have played on some very good basketball teams and with some of the best players to have ever played at the school," he proclaimed. "My playing time at Dayton was rather limited, but following my senior season, my teammates voted me as the winner of the Dr. George C. Rau Spirit Award, an award I was very honored to receive."
In 1983, Dahlinghaus strolled into the campus bookstore and took interest in a worker - Beth Imwalle - whose parents were both Marion Local graduates. The two began to date, and have now been married for 19 years and have two children, ages 11 and 14. Following graduation, he began working for Cargill Incorporated and remained there for 15 years. Three and a half years ago, he returned to campus to work for the university as the Director of Development in the University Advancement office.
Although he played competitively in recreation leagues following college, Dahlinghaus hung it up completely approximately five years ago.
"Right now, I still watch a lot of basketball and I coach for my children's teams, which we all enjoy. One thing that I learned early on in basketball, which I have carried with me in all areas of my life, is the concept of teamwork. Teams can be loaded with talent, but if they don't play well together, they won't win. On the other hand, teams can be a little short on individual talent, but if they work well together, they can certainly overachieve and be extremely successful."
Beginning today, The Daily Standard will introduce a weekly series entitled, "Passport to History" in which correspondent Robb Hemmelgarn will reflect on various athletic-related events from the rich history of the Grand Lake area. The weekly feature will include stories pertaining to players, games, and seasons from history in relation to the current sports season. It will run on Thursdays from now until the summer and will start up again in the fall. If you would like to submit story ideas, please contact Hemmelgarn at firstname.lastname@example.org.