Former Arizona athletic director Strack dies at 90

TUCSON, Ariz. (AP) — Dave Strack, the former University of Arizona athletic director who hired the first black basketball coach at a major university, has died. He was 90.

Arizona said Sunday that Strack died Saturday.

Before going into athletic administration work, Strack coached basketball from 1960 to 1868 at Michigan, where his teams compiled a 113-89 record. His 1965 team, which featured Cazzie Russell, went 24-4 and lost the NCAA championship game to John Wooden’s UCLA squad, 91-80.

Strack was Arizona AD from 1972-82. Shortly after taking the job, he hired Fred Snowden as the first black basketball coach at an NCAA Division I school.

Strack spoke about the hiring in an interview with the Tucson Citizen at Snowden’s funeral in 1994. He said he and then-university President John Schaefer spoke about the issue at length and decided Tucson "was ready" and basketball "was ready" to have a black head coach.

"Fred fit the bill and didn’t disappoint anyone," Strack said.

Strack told Arizona Daily Star columnist Greg Hansen last year that he had been under pressure to bring in Jerry Tarkanian as McKale Center opened.

"But I hired Fred Snowden," Strack said. "It wasn’t about breaking the color barrier, it was because I believed Fred could rebuild our basketball program faster than Tark could. And he did, too. … He got (Eric) Money and Coniel (Norman), and it was built, almost overnight."

Strack left the Arizona AD job to become a physical education professor several months after it was disclosed the athletic department had operated a slush fund for employees. Existence of the fund was disclosed at a trial of former Arizona football coach Tony Mason on allegations he defrauded the school by submitting false expense accounts. Mason was acquitted on all charges.

Strack’s accomplishments at Arizona included the opening of McKale Center and the move from the Western Athletic Conference to the then-Pac-10 in 1978.

Current Arizona athletic director Greg Byrne called Strack "a forward-looking administrator."

Strack grew up in Indiana but played basketball at Michigan from 1943 to 1946 and twice was named the team’s MVP.

He was an assistant basketball coach for the Wolverines from 1948 to 1959. He left in 1960 to become head coach at Idaho, then left after one season to take the Michigan head coaching job.

Strack was named associate athletic director at Michigan in 1970, then two years later took the Arizona AD job.

He was preceded in death in 2011 by wife Ruth Ann Stark. They met as Michigan students and were married 64 years.