James C. Knierim                 Inducted 1986 - Class of 1944

In his playing days, Jim Knierim made his mark in three sports - football, basketball, and baseball--and at two schools-Woodward High and Bowling Green State University. In football, he was an end and halfback; in baseball, an infielder; in basketball, a guard , one of the best. A story in The Blade in 1958, ten years after his graduation from Bowling Green, said he was still considered then the best defensive player in that school's history.

In his coaching days, Mr. Knierim brought his proficiency to bear in the same two schools -- Woodward and BGSU -- but mostly at Woodward where, for a total of 18 years in two stretches, he was varsity basketball coach. When he was first appointed to that post at Woodward in 1950, he was 24 years old and the youngest varsity basketball coach in Toledo scholastic history; when he retired in 1972, he was the dean of the City League's coaches.


At Woodward, from where he was graduated in 1944, he was a member of the1943-44 team that is

still being called the finest basketball team ever to represent a Toledo high school. That team went to the state finals, losing it overtime in the championship game. Another member of that team Paul Seymour, is also being honored with selection this year to the Woodward High School Hall of Fame. A third member of that team, John Payak, was a Hall of Fame inductee in 1983, and their coach, Homer Hanham, was a 1984 selection.

At Bowling Green, Mr. Knierim won 11 letters in football, basketball, and baseball, and only a leg injury that kept him off the baseball team in his senior year prevented his being a 12-letter winner. In basketball, he starred on three teams which played in the National Invitational Tournament. In football, he won all-Ohio honors as a sophomore and was team co-captain in his senior year. A courteous athlete both on and off the field, he came to be known as "Gentleman Jim."

Mr. Knierim went directly into coaching at Woodward after his graduation in1948, starting as freshman basketball coach and being elevated to varsity coach two years later. In 1958, he left Woodward to accept a position at Bowling Green, coaching freshman basketball, assisting in varsity football and baseball coaching, and teaching in the health and physical education department.

Mr. Knierim spent two years at Bowling Green. It was time, he thought then, to decide whether he wanted to continue in college coaching or return to the high school field. He opted for a return to Woodward. From 1960 until his retirement in 1972, he again was Woodward's varsity basketball coach. In his total of 18 years as coach of the Woodward varsity, his teams recorded 198 wins, 168 losses. He guided the Polar Bears to two City League titles and to the regional tournament in 1953 and again in 1971.

©2020 Woodward Alumni Hall of Fame

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