The Story of U of D’s 1972 Catholic League Champs

Once a Cub- Always a Cub. A story about achievement, memories, and brotherhood.


Noah Cahill, Sports Editor

This past Tuesday, U of D brought back its first basketball team to win a Catholic League Championship for a celebration of its 50th Anniversary. The event brought together former teammates for a dinner followed by a brief ceremony on the court at halftime of the Cubs’ third regular-season basketball game against John Glenn, which ended in a resounding victory.

It’s important to understand what this team achieved. Coming off of a measly 5-11 record where the team went winless in the Catholic League, the Cubs entered the next season with a vengeance. They put together a historic 18-game win streak in “the greatest season in the school’s 96-year history” according to the Detroit Free Press. Along the way, there were a number of marquee wins. The Cubs destroyed De La Salle in both of their matchups. They were also able to grind out a tough one in overtime against Austin and win against Catholic Central on a game-winner courtesy of captain Dan Hoff. However, the crown jewel came in the game, when the Cubs routed bitter rivals Brother Rice in the championship. This completed their greatest-ever season. They were described as the “biggest basketball surprise of the season.”

Unfortunately, the state playoff run was cut short by a gut-wrenching loss on the last shot against Cooley, but it takes nothing away from the immense success. 

This success led to a story on coach Bill Thibodeaux, who burst onto the scene as the unanimous Catholic League Coach of the Year choice despite a slow start in previous seasons at U of D. While he would never say it, Walter Jones was the best player on this team, averaging 20 points and 13 rebounds on the season and providing versatile shooting and slashing ability at 6’4. That said, Dan Hoff was the emotional leader of this team. As Coach Thibodeaux said, “He was our take-charge guy” and he made every clutch play throughout the season. While these two are highlighted, the unity of this group is what made it so great. That fact is evident in what I saw during their reunion dinner: memories were shared and songs were sung before the ceremony. After this dinner, editor-in-chief Graham Barker and I were able to interview Hoff and Jones and we learned a lot about what the team meant to them.

When asked what they remember about the ‘72 team, Hoff stated how, if anyone was asked “who the best player was he would point to somebody else. Nobody thought that he was indispensable.” Every player was valued equally for their contribution and nobody was above the team. The two were honored to be brought back and interested in seeing the changes to the facilities, which had been upgraded since their time. Looking back on his time at U of D, Jones described how the school “was pivotal in terms of who I am today. Team was pivotal. What it taught us about ‘all for one, one for all’ those kinds of seemingly cliches were so dramatically true.” The values instilled in the players off the court were a big contribution to their chemistry and success on the court. 

When asked for advice they had for the current team, Jones stressed the importance of enjoying “each other. Realize that these are lifelong relationships that you’re going to have, no matter what the outcome is.” Hoff followed, saying that “We just loved to be with each other. We loved playing for the school, and we weren’t concerned with anything that came our way via scholarships was just we’re enjoying this experience with our friends.” This was despite the potential distractions of D1 football and basketball scholarships that were offered to many players on the team. They were focused on the team and the team only, not the personal gain that resulted from it.

This is outstanding advice for a young and talented team full of players with interest from different colleges. We hope that they will use this guidance to follow in the footsteps of this all-time great Cub team.