Jim Loscutoff: an Oregon Star and NBA Enforcer

Jim Maloney History 24 Comments

Few Oregon fans have heard of Jim Loscutoff and even fewer know much about him, yet in his first season at Oregon he averaged 10.3 points per game and 12.8 rebounds per game. That rebound average is still 4th on the all-time list for the Ducks, holding strong since the 1950-1951 season.  Of course, this was before many of the greybeards on this site were born, and Loscutoff’s remarkable story remains an important but relatively unknown entry in the annals of Oregon basketball.

Loscutoff was born in San Francisco in 1930 and played basketball for Palo Alto High School. After graduating, Loscutoff played for Grant Technical College for two seasons and then transferred to Oregon before the 1950-51 season. In Loscutoff’s era, players would often play several sports—his teammates that first year at Oregon included two baseball players, Mel Krause and Curt Barclay. Barclay would go on to pitch for the New York and San Francisco Giants while Krause would later become Oregon’s head baseball coach.

When Loscutoff enrolled at Oregon the Korean War was raging, and, like many athletes of that era, he was called to military service. Loscutoff avoided going to Korea when the Army assigned him to Fort Ord, where he was able to continue playing basketball. After missing three college seasons for military service, Loscutoff returned to Oregon in 1954 for his final season of eligibility. During the 1954-1955 season, Loscutoff averaged 19.4 points per game, leading the Pacific Coast Conference Northern Division in scoring.

Oregon Library Special Collections

1954-1955 Oregon Basketball team with Jim Loscutoff.

Despite his scoring prowess, it was Loscutoff’s rebounding that gained him greater notice. Loscutoff led the Ducks that season with an average of 17.2 rebounds per game, good for 2nd on the all-time Oregon list. His 32 rebounds against BYU remains the all-time Oregon record for a single game! His career rebounding average of 14.8 remains the fifth-best average for any Duck. Loscutoff’s rebounding numbers are especially impressive considering teams in that era generally shot fewer shots per game than they do now, limiting opportunities to snag rebounds.

Following the 1954-55 season, legendary coach Red Auerbach and the Boston Celtics drafted Loscutoff as the third overall pick in the NBA draft in the hopes he could strengthen the team’s admittedly weak defense. Loscutoff would end up playing nine seasons for the Celtics, primarily as a designated hatchet man or enforcer. One of his main duties was to protect the Celts’ star guard Bob Cousy. As Loscutoff recalled in a 1985 interview, he was brought in to instill fear in opposing players. He is reported to have said that “if somebody stood in my way, I’d knock them down.” Loscutoff further observed that, while he had not played the tough guy at Oregon, once deployed by the Celtics in that role he “quickly got the reputation as a guy not to mess with.”

In his rookie season, Jungle Jim (one of his nicknames) set a Celtic team record for rebounds in a game with 27. During his second season, the Celtics made their first of what would become many trips to the NBA finals. With the championship series against the St. Louis (Atlanta) Hawks knotted at 3-3, Loscutoff sank two free throws at the end of a double-overtime, 125-123 thriller of a Game 7 and sealed the historic win.

YouTube Video

Red Auerbach and Jim Loscutoff celebrate a title in Boston.

All told, Loscutoff would wind up winning seven championships in his nine years with the Celtics, helping establish them as an NBA dynasty. While Loscutoff was never a big scorer or rebounder in the NBA (6.2 PPG/ 5.6 RPG), the Celtics thought so highly of his defensive contributions that they later wanted to retire his number. Jim declined the honor, wanting his number “18” available for future players. Undeterred by his humility, the Celtics honored him with a unique banner in The Garden’s rafters that reads “Loscy,” another of his nicknames.

Following his playing career, Jim became head basketball coach at what was then known as Boston State College (now University of Massachusetts Boston), where he was regarded as a players’ coach, making sure his charges attended class and stayed out of trouble. In 1964, Loscutoff and his wife Lynn founded Camp Evergreen, a day camp for children, and his son “Little” Jim Loscutoff and wife Debby still operate the camp today.

Loscy passed away in 2015, but his fans in Oregon and Boston will remember and miss him and his considerable impact as one of the first “role” players in the NBA.

Jim Maloney
Ellensburg, Washington
Top Photo from YouTube Video

Brad Nye, the FishDuck.com volunteer editor for this article, conserves land for Deschutes Land Trust in Central Oregon.

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MaiTaiDuck

That is so cool to read this about the Man! I have to admit his rebounding at Oregon was pretty darn good and I hadn’t realized that Oregon ever had guys that rebounded that good. Different era but for sure to me the best because now if you just touch another player barely the ref’s whistle a foul. Honestly I hate the NBA now and never watch it because it is made for the Big Market teams as usual. The Blazers are a clear “JOKE ” in my mind and until PA’s sister sale’s the team I won’t waste time ever watching them.

David Marsh

I love how this article also subtly shows how much the game of basketball has changed over the years. With shooting percentages and scoring going up I don’t know how many rebounds are available each game. I do know that 17.2 rebounds per game is a very high stat even now.

I am just interested now to know what the shooting percentages were now and then.

Good article and a fun read.

Last edited 1 month ago by David Marsh
Jon Joseph

The ‘Splash Brothers’ were the “Layup Brothers.’ Sam and KC Jones. But the best guard back then was the Big O, Oscar Robinson.

duckcardinal

Great insights into the ethos of an oft overlooked time (Korean War): get pulled out college by the draft; serve 3 years; back to school to put up impressive numbers and move on to a great pro career.

Jim/Jon J: did Loscy’s rebounding acumen benefit Bill Russell as well by keeping teams from over committing on the big guy?

Jon Joseph

dc – think Kurt Rambis with the Lakers and Kareem for the role Jungle Jim played.

Jon Joseph

Backing up Russel? Future Georgetown coach, John Thompson.

30Duck

http://www.celticstats.com/pic/numbers2.jpg

Thanks for this Jim, the Celtics did end up retiring #18, for another of their great players, Dave Cowens. Being the 3rd pick in the NBA draft I believe is still the highest for a male Oregon basketball player.

Jon Joseph

Dave played at FL ST and definitely danced to a different drummer. 1 year in the off-season he worked as a cabbie in Boston.

Jon Joseph

Growing up in Boston, when the Celtics was the only decent sports franchise in town, I know all about Jungle Jim. A name hung on Loscutoff by Celtics radio announcer, Johnny Most.

‘You are high above courtside with Johnny Most,’ was his opening intro. A 3 pack a day man, Johnny’s voice shouldn’t like someone using a steel rake as they raked gravel..

His most famous call: ‘Havlicik stole the ball, he stole the ball!’

In a hockey loving town, Jungle Jim’s playing style was welcome and very much appreciated. ‘

Decades before the Sox, Bruins and Patriots all became winners, the Celtics, with Cousy, Bill Russel, Sam Jones, KC Jones, Bill Sherman, et al, was Boston’s shining light.

Back in the day, you knew it was another Celtic win when, on the bench, Red lit up his victory cigar. Today? Red would likely be arrested.

Thanks for the blast from the past,

Charles Fischer

Thanks Jim, Loscutoff has quite a following among Greybeards in Boston, and most would not have known he came from Oregon.

Those rebounding numbers would like averaging 20 a game nowadays with the scoring much higher!

Last edited 1 month ago by Charles Fischer
Jon Joseph

Good call on scoring stats. When Jim played, there was no 3 point line and a ‘longer’ shot clock.

The game went through the big men.

Bill Russell, Wilt, etc.

Annie

Nice article about about a player unfamiliar to me. I didn’t realize that players lost their years of eligibility due to time in the military.

Annie

Ah, okay. I misunderstood.

duckcardinal

He may not have lost any eligibility, having played two years before @ Grant. At that time, I believe schools in the “University” Division of the NCAAs (loosely the D1 group) ran separate freshmen teams and varsity teams, while the non-scholarship teams (the former DIII classification) allowed true freshmen to play. So he may have only had 3 years total of eligibility. Missing 3 years to the military only meant that his playing time was deferred, not lost, similar to the Mormon missions we see these days.

A simpler explanation may be that after 3 years of service he was pretty focused on getting his degree and moving on to an income generating phase of his life?!

Jon Joseph

Being a Boston boy and seeing as how it is a somewhat ‘Boston’ article, I note that Ted Williams’ service as a pilot in the Korean War significantly limited his overall number of at bats and hits.

If he had not lost these At Bats, Williams would have finished with the most hits of any player before the modern era. Likely the greatest hitter of all time?

Before 1968, the champ of the American League played the champ of the National League in the World Series. You won the pennant or you did not play for a title.

In 1967 I was at the 7th game of the World Series where, unfortunately for Sox fans, Bob Gibson, the Cardinals great pitcher, defeated the Sox for the 3rd time in the series as the Cards won the title.

This was the season the Sox went from worst the prior year, to first. Carl Yastrzemski, Yaz, won the triple crown; BA .326. HR 44; RBIs 121.

Pitching was so dominant back then that the next season, MLB lowered the pitcher’s mound.

Sorry for going Boston on you.

Annie

I grew up in CT, so that’s okay. I was a Dodgers fan until the tender age of 9 or so, when they moved to LA. I was thinking of Loscutoff’s eligibility at Oregon. A guy I grew up with played soccer when he was in the Marines. Twice he was in line to get on a plane to go to Viet Nam and both times his soccer coach pulled him out of line before he could board!

Last edited 1 month ago by Annie
Jon Joseph

Now that’s capitalizing on your athletic skills.

Amazing, Horace Stoneham and the Giants had first dibs on CA and choose San Francisco, and played in the Candlestick ice box.

30Duck

No question about Teddy Ballgame. Even with the missed time it looks like his stats make him the greatest hitter of all time. He should have won the MVP in ’41, had better stats overall than did DiMaggio, including, .406. But, Joltin’ Joe had the 56 game hitting streak that season.

Jon Joseph

One thing for certain, Teddy hated the Boston press and got little love while playing from the media.

Scary good hand/eye coordination .He must of been a heck of a fighter pilot.

It’s too bad he played on such crummy teams.