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          Front Page




Ex-WNMU Basketball Mentor Taught Life's Lessons on and Off Court

By Rick Wright
Journal Staff Writer
    Dick Drangmeister was an ultratough disciplinarian who never handed his players— or his own kids— anything.
    "He made you earn it," said his son Tim.
    Yet, to those willing to take what "Drag" dished out, he gave so much.
    Drangmeister, a Land of Enchantment basketball coaching icon best remembered for his stellar career at Western New Mexico University, died Friday in Farmington after a long battle with cancer. He was 70.
    "He was a drill sergeant, but at the end of it all he was there when you needed him," Tim Drangmeister said. "He definitely was a guy you'd want in your foxhole."
    Tough? Drangmeister's son recalled an early 1980s WNMU player who used to throw up before practices— not the games; the practices.
    "There were many guys who hated him, hated to play for him, hated to be around him," Tim Drangmeister said. "And those are the same guys who'll write him a letter or call him on the phone eight or 10 years after the fact and say, 'Now I know why you did what you did.' ''
    Woody Drumm knows.
    "I was fortunate enough to be blessed with a lot of God-given physical talent," said Drumm, a star at Manzano before playing for Drangmeister at Western. "Until I met coach Drangmeister, I didn't realize that (physical talent) didn't matter that much when it came to playing ball, especially at the college level— that mental toughness was 70 to 80 percent of what was involved and that the physical aspect was way in the minority compared to that.
    "That's one of the biggest lessons I've ever learned in my life, and I learned it from Coach Drag."
    Drangmeister taught the same lessons at home, Tim Drangmeister said, and taught them the same way he did on the practice court.
    "If I messed up or one of my brothers messed up or my sister messed up, discipline was done by the team," he said. "If my brother Cooper got a 'C' in school, then we all ran (or whatever the penalty might have been)."
    Yet, says former Mustangs player Ray Kantowski, who also is the coach's nephew, life and basketball with Drag wasn't all blood, sweat and tears. There were lots of laughs, too.
    "As tough as he was on the court, he was that much better a guy off it," Kantowski said. "Most people didn't get to see that side of him.
    "He had a great personality and was kind of a prankster. I've got so many stories from when I was a kid, but I'm going to save them for the funeral."
    In 21 years as head coach at Western, Colorado State University-Pueblo and Adams State College in Alamosa, Colo., Drangmeister compiled a 365-233 record.
    During two stints at WNMU (1969-82 and 1992-94), he went 272-152. His Mustangs teams won six Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference titles and two NAIA District 7 championships.
    Drangmeister took three teams to the NAIA national tournament and was named district coach of the year five teams. He served as Western's athletic director from 1992-97.
    Born in Calumet City, Ill., on Jan. 8, 1935— the same day as Elvis, his son Tim notes— Drangmeister came to New Mexico as a student-athlete at WNMU. He graduated from Western in 1961, then coached at Deming Junior High and Alamogordo High School before returning to his alma mater.
    Funeral services are scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday at the Brewer, Lee & Larkin Funeral Home in Farmington.