Dees in good company

Dees in good company

Former Hoosier All-American shared stage with Baylor, Chamberlain and Robertson

By Lynn Houser, Herald-Times Sports Writer

December 5, 2006

Archie Dees poses with his Big Ten Most Valuable Player trophies from 1957 and 1958. Dees was a two-time All-American for the Hoosiers. David Snodgress | Herald-Times
From the Dec. 5, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

If you visit the new French Lick casino in the near future, you might be greeted by a big man with a big smile and a big handshake.

And when he introduces himself as Archie Dees, the name might sound familiar to you.

He is the same Archie Dees who was a two-time All-American at Indiana University from 1957-58, the same Archie Dees who led the Big Ten in scoring those years and was named the league’s most valuable player.

At 6-foot-8 and possessing a feathery jump shot, Dees was pretty much unstoppable. He was the first Hoosier to average a double-double for his three-year career, 22.7 points and 13.4 rebounds. That 22.7 career scoring average he fashioned at IU is third, trailing only George McGinnis (29.9) and the man he succeeded in the post, Don Schlundt (23.3).

“My best weapon was the jump shot,” Dees said during a day off from his duties as a casino host. “I guess you could say I never saw a shot I didn’t like.”

Dees played for Branch McCracken’s Hurryin’ Hoosiers and helped them win the 1957 and ’58 Big Ten titles.

“Playing for Branch was like playing for Bob Knight, only he wasn’t as fierce as Knight,” Dees said. “Branch was tough, a lot like Knight in a lot of ways. He just didn’t have the voracity Knight had.”

Dees prides himself in being the first player in Big Ten history to be named league MVP in consecutive years. Only five other players have done it since — Jerry Lucas, Cazzie Russell, Rick Mount, Jim Jackson and Mateen Cleaves.

1958 All-Americans: (clockwise from left) Guy Rodgers, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson, Wilt Chamberlain and IU’s Archie Dees. NEA graphic
From the Dec. 5, 2006 Bloomington Herald-Times

Dees shared the ’57 and ’58 All-American teams with some pretty distinguished company — Wilt Chamberlain, Elgin Baylor, Oscar Robertson and Guy Rodgers.

He wound up playing against each of them during a four-year NBA career shortened by a knee injury. The Cincinnati Royals made him the No. 2 pick in the ’58 draft. The only man drafted ahead of him was Baylor, a future Hall of Famer.

Dees has a scrapbook full of those memories including a box score showing him scoring 22 points against Chamberlain.

“I had some of my best games against Wilt,” Dees said. “I played against a lot of the great ones — Elgin Baylor, Bob Pettit, Bob Cousy, Bill Sharman, Oscar … “

An honor equally important to Dees was being named to IU’s All-Century Team in 2000.

After professional basketball, Dees sold insurance for 40 years before retiring in 1998. He came out of retirement this year to work the new casino.

“I’m the tallest casino host in southern Indiana,” he joked. “It’s been a real pleasant experience. I just look after people, make sure they have everything they need. The casino is wonderful and the hotel is fabulous. It’s as neat as anything you will find in Las Vegas.”

Dees still has a strong interest in IU basketball. When Kelvin Sampson was hired last spring, Dees was one of the first to pay the new coach a visit.

“I really like Sampson,” he said. “He is honest and straight-forward. He is a tough guy, which is what we need. You’ve got to be tough to coach in this community because Knight spoiled us.”

Archie Dees

Age: 70.

Hometown: Mount Carmel, Ill.

Residence: Bloomington.

Present occupation: Casino host, French Lick (retired from insurance business, 1998.)

Indiana career

• A 6-foot-8 center for Branch McCracken from 1955 to ’58.

• Leading scorer on two Big Ten champions, 1957, 1958.

• Led Big Ten in scoring, 1957 (25.0), 1958 (25.5).

• Named Big Ten MVP, 1958.

• Named All-American, 1957, 1958.

• First Hoosier to average a career double-double (22.7 points, 13.4 rebounds).

• 22.7 career average, 3rd all-time at IU.

• No. 2 pick in 1958 NBA draft (Cincinnati Royals).

• Averaged 8.1 points, 4.8 rebounds in four-year pro career.

• Named to IU All-Century Team in 2000.