Athletics & Recreation
In living what he calls a blessed life, Art Musselman says he has needed just two things — good friends and a basketball. From playing pickup games in Huntington County barns with his buddies as a teenager to the day he was inducted into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014, these two necessities have served him well.
Known as “Butch” growing up, Musselman got his first taste of organized basketball playing for Dean Stephan at Lincoln Middle School. He moved to rural Clear Creek in eighth grade when his family swapped houses with the Hammel family. History would show it to be a legendary swap, as the Hammel household included two future Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers — the sportswriter Bob Hammel and top Huntington High player and long-time Indiana high school coach Jim Hammel.
For Musselman, the move out of town and into a class of just 20 students proved to be critical in his development. Musselman got the opportunity to play varsity basketball as a freshman under coach Phil Lahr, a chance he might not have gotten at the larger Huntington High School.
When he moved back into town two years later, the now 6-foot-3 Musselman benefitted from the coaching of two future Indiana Basketball Hall of Famers. His first coach at Huntington was Lou Watson, who later coached at Indiana University. Watson left at the end of that season, replaced by Ivan “Kaiser” Wilhelm, who had been a standout player at Huntington in the 1940s.
As a senior in 1956, Musselman put together one of the best seasons in Viking history. He scored a record 436 points, and for the first time ever Huntington defeated Fort Wayne’s “Big Three” schools — Central, North Side and South Side. By the end of the year, Musselman was considered by many as the finest player to ever come from Huntington County.
But his final season came to an abrupt end at the hands of his former Clear Creek team, which was led by his friend and former teammate Lowell Stouder. In the sectional final, Clear Creek knocked off the Vikings 78-76, with Stouder finishing with 36 points and Musselman hitting for 30. The result brought tears to the eyes of Musselman, not so much because of the loss, but because he would never again play a game in his beloved Community Gym. Musselman and Stouder remained friends until Stouder’s death in 2014.
Despite his standout senior season, Musselman did not earn All-State honors in basketball, instead earning an All-State nod in football. An all-around athlete who lettered in four sports, Musselman had reluctantly joined the Viking football team when asked by coach Bill Williams and played well enough as an offensive end to earn second-team All-State recognition.
Musselman also did not receive much attention from college coaches. Norm Sloan, coach at The Citadel military academy in South Carolina, provided the only scholarship offer. Sloan was a fellow Hoosier who kept an eye on Indiana talent, and Musselman had made an impression. While he had no idea of life at a military school, Musselman found needed structure.
Sloan’s starting Citadel lineup in 1957 included four freshmen and a sophomore. The young squad finished 12-13 that first year, but the “Blitz Kids,” as they were dubbed, followed with three straight winning seasons.
Musselman’s best collegiate game was a 36-point effort against rival Furman in his junior season. As a senior, Musselman averaged nearly 18 points a game. He earned first-team all-conference three times and was named 1957 South Carolina Collegiate Player of the Year. He finished with a school-record 1,504 points, a mark that would stand for 25 years. Musselman joined The Citadel’s Hall of Fame in 1981. In 2009, his No. 33 jersey was retired, the first to be retired in the school’s 108-year history of basketball.
Musselman joined the Marines after graduation, playing for the corps’ all-star team in 1962 as well as in exhibition games against the Russian national team as part of the United States All-Star Team. He entered the coaching ranks in 1963, spending five seasons as head coach at Presbyterian College in South Carolina and two years as an assistant at Clemson University. Sloan, now head coach at North Carolina State and a future Indiana Basketball Hall of Famer, asked his former player to come aboard as an assistant for the Wolfpack freshman team. Musselman’s duties also included recruiting, making him instrumental in building a roster that defeated the mighty UCLA team for the 1974 NCAA championship and ending a run of nine straight titles for the Bruins.
Musselman left after that championship season to coach high school for two years in North Carolina, followed by one year back in Indiana at Madison-Grant. He returned to North Carolina to run an educational program at a local prison. Musselman went on to earn a master’s degree and worked throughout the state as a special education teacher. After retiring, he and his wife Carol settled in Raleigh, N.C. He stayed active by working with the local parks department.
In the leadup to his 2014 induction into the Indiana Basketball Hall of Fame, Musselman was reflective about what Huntington had meant to him. His successes as a player and a coach included earning an NCAA Championship ring, but he said he would gladly trade it to play just one more game at Community Gym.