Untold Stories Guide

The Desegregation of the Men's Basketball Team

The OSU men’s basketball program began in the 1901-1902 season and soon enjoyed many successful seasons. In 1928, Amory T “Slats” Gill became head coach. (1) In the last decade of Gill’s thirty-five year tenure as coach other sports on campus were becoming desegregated, including football and track and field. However, it was not until the 1960-1961 season that the men’s basketball team had its first African American walk-on player and not until 1964, with a new head coach, that the team had its first African American recruit. The team’s first two African American players were Norm Monroe and Charlie White. (2)

Norm Monroe, born and raised in Washington D.C., is OSU’s first male African American basketball player. After attending Compton Junior College in California, Monroe was recruited for OSU’s track and field team; however, he also liked playing basketball and joined the 1960-1961 basketball team as a walk-on player. In a 2011 interview, Monroe explained that he left the team half-way through the season because he was not used to playing with a college team and was no longer enjoying the game. Instead, he decided to focus on track and had a very successful record. (3) It would be another three years until another Black player joined the team.

In 1964, Charlie White became the second male African American player to compete for the Beavers and the first Black player to be recruited to the team on scholarship. White was born and raised in Detroit, Michigan. He played basketball overseas while in the military and afterwards attended junior college in Southern California. (4) White transferred to Oregon State as a junior to play for the Beavers; within his first year he won the team’s “Attitude and Leadership” trophy and was the second leading scorer for the team. During his senior season, White became team captain and led OSU to the Pacific-8 Conference Championship game; he was awarded the 1966 Ed Lewis Trophy for his leadership. That same year White also won the John Wagner Trophy for MVP at OSU as well as the All-Pacific-8 Conference honor. In 1967, he became the basketball team’s Assistant to the Freshman Coach. (5)

In a 2011 interview White explained that he was originally recruited by Coach Gill; however, he didn’t feel right about coming to OSU because he was told from a number of different coaches that if he played for Gill he wouldn’t get much playing time and would spend most of his time on his bench. Therefore, White decided not to come to Oregon State. However, the next year Paul Valenti was named head coach after Gill retired and he recruited White to OSU once again. This time White said he “felt it,” especially because of Valenti’s focus on his education and not just basketball, so he decided to attend. (6) Notably, Valenti himself, who was Coach Gill’s assistant coach for seventeen years, stated that the basketball program “had a reputation for being sort of prejudiced.” Signing White, not only changed that, but led to more African American recruits. (7)

In May 2011, OSU held a special event that included White, Monroe, and Valenti, alongside Craig Robinson, OSU Basketball Head Coach from 2009 to 2014, and Dr. Larry Griggs, Director of OSU’s Educational Opportunities Program from 1985 to 2008. As panelists they shared their stories and reflected on the significance of their achievements, both as athletes and as social activists leading the OSU men’s basketball team forward in the progress towards integration and equality. (8)

Photos and Sources Cited

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  1. Gill Coliseum, 2010
  2. Paul Valenti, Charlie White, Norm Monroe, Craig Robinson, and Larry Griggs, 2011
  3. Norm Monroe
  4. Charlie White