Basketball Wiki

Wyoming Cowboys
Wyoming Cowboys.jpg
School Name: University of Wyoming
Location: Laramie, Wyoming
Arena: Arena-Auditorium
Capacity: 15,000
Conference: Mountain West
Head coach: {{{head_coach}}}

The University of Wyoming men's basketball program, which currently competes in the Mountain West Conference, has a lengthy tradition dating back to 1905. Cowboys fans can claim something that few other teams' fans can: an NCAA Championship, won in 1943 under Hall of Fame coach Everett Shelton and behind star guard Ken Sailors, who pioneered the jump shot that is now the standard in basketball. Wyoming has made a total of 14 appearances in the NCAA Tournament, though the closest it has come to the lofty heights of the 1943 team was a Sweet 16 appearance in 1987. Since the Mountain West was formed in 1999, Wyoming has won two conference titles, including an outright championship in 2002. Prior to that, Wyoming won five championships in the Western Athletic Conference, eight championships in the Skyline Conference, and one championship in the Rocky Mountain Athletic Conference.


The Wyoming basketball program began in 1904 when a group known as the "Laramie Town Team" challenged a team from the university to a basketball game; Wyoming won that game by a score of 17-5.[1] The team became a powerhouse in the 1930s under coach Willard "Dutch" Witte, who led the 1934 Cowboy team to a 26-3 record. In those days before the NCAA Tournament had begun, college basketball's national champion was determined by a set of poll voters for the Helms Foundation, which selected Wyoming as its national champion. Witte coached a total of nine seasons in Laramie and compiled a 134-51 record.

After Witte stepped down in 1939, Everett Shelton took over the team and went on to become the winningest coach in Wyoming history in his 19 years in Laramie. Although Shelton went just 6-10 in his first season, his teams would win 20 or more games seven times during his career. In 1943, the Cowboys went 31-2 and won the NCAA Tournament. That team was led by Ken Sailors, who scored 16 points in the championship game victory over Georgetown on his way to being named the tournament's Most Outstanding Player. In addition, Sailors was named college basketball's Player of the Year in 1943 and again in 1946 after returning from fighting in World War II. In all, the Cowboys made eight NCAA tournament appearances under Shelton, though they only won one game aside from the three-game run in 1943.

After Shelton retired in 1959, Wyoming basketball lay dormant for some time. Including Shelton's last four campaigns as head coach, the Cowboys endured nine consecutive losing seasons from 1956 to 1964. Coach Bill Strannigan, who succeeded Shelton, had just six winning seasons in fourteen years as head coach and made one NCAA Tournament appearance in 1967 in which the Cowboys were handed a lopsided loss at the hands of eventual national champion UCLA and its All-American center Lew Alcindor, who later changed his name to Kareem Abdul-Jabbar. Again from 1971 through 1978, the Cowboys had one winning season, a 17-10 campaign under Don DeVoe in 1976-77.

In 1978, Jim Brandenburg became the Cowboys' head coach and the program experienced a resurgence. In his nine seasons, Wyoming did not have a single losing season and made four NCAA Tournament appearances. In 1981, the Cowboys were 24-6 and reached the second round of the NCAA Tournament. In addition to being the Cowboys' first tournament appearance since 1967, it was their first 20-win season since 1952-53 and first NCAA Tournament victory since 1952. After guiding the Cowboys to the Sweet 16 in 1987, however, Brandenburg left the Cowboys to become the coach at conference rival San Diego State.[2] He was replaced by Benny Dees, who went 26-6 in his first year with the Cowboys and returned them to the NCAA Tournament where they lost in the first round of the 1988 NCAAs to Loyola-Marymount.

Larry Shyatt went 19-9 in 1997-98, his only season in Laramie before becoming the head coach at Clemson University. After his departure, Steve McClain took over the head coaching job and had three consecutive 20-win seasons from 2001-03, including conference titles in 2001 and 2002 and an NCAA Tournament appearance in 2002. On March 22, 2007, Wyoming hired former Portland State head coach Heath Schroyer to become its next head coach. Theo Ratliff played here. [3]

Coaching records

Coach Seasons Record
John Corbett 1916-24 37-41
Stewart Clark 1925-28 43-24
George McLaren 1929-30 28-10
Willard Witte 1931-39 134-51
Everett Shelton 1940-59 328-201
Bill Strannigan 1960-73 179-187
George Radovich 1974-76 24-55
Don DeVoe 1977-78 29-25
Jim Brandenburg 1979-87 176-97
Benny Dees 1988-93 104-77
Joby Wright 1994-97 53-60
Larry Shyatt 1998 19-9
Steve McClain 1999-2007 157-115
Heath Schroyer 2008-2011 31-32

Post-Season Tournaments

Year Finish Coach
2002 Second Round Steve McClain
1988 First Round Benny Dees
1987 Sweet 16 Jim Brandenburg
1982 Second Round Jim Brandenburg
1981 Second Round Jim Brandenburg
1967 First Round Bill Strannigan
1958 First Round Everett Shelton
1953 First Round Everett Shelton
1952 Elite Eight Everett Shelton
1949 First Round Everett Shelton
1948 First Round Everett Shelton
1947 First Round Everett Shelton
1943 Champions Everett Shelton
1941 First Round Everett Shelton


The Arena-Auditorium, which seats 15,000, serves as the home court for the Cowboy basketball team. Since its opening in 1982, the Cowboys have enjoyed a strong homecourt advantage at the AA.

Wyoming's first home court was a small, red brick building known as the "Little Red Gym." That was followed by the Half Acre Gym, which served as the Cowboys' home from 1925 to 1951 and seated just over 4,000; the Cowboys had a record of 222-44 in the building. The Cowboys moved into War Memorial Fieldhouse in 1951 and remained there until the Arena-Auditorium opened in 1982.[1]


External Links