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KIRK, Walton (Walt)
KIRK, Walton (Walt) (Mt. Vernon, IL, Sept. 3, 1924--Dubuque, IA, Dec. 12, 2012). Kirk, retired assistant principal at STEPHEN HEMPSTEAD HIGH SCHOOL, led the Fighting Illini in scoring with 10.6 points per game in 1944-1945 while earning all-Big Ten Conference and consensus all-American honors for the "Whiz Kids" who won back-to-back Big Ten championships. He missed the following season to serve in the Army during WORLD WAR II and graduated in 1947. (1)
Kirk played in the Olympics prior to playing in the National Basketball Association from 1947 through 1952. His team, the Fort Wayne (Indiana) Zollner Pistons (now the Detroit Pistons) had the largest payroll in the league--$100,000. He also played for the Indianapolis Jets, Anderson Indiana Packers, Tri-City Black Hawks, Kansas City Hightops and Milwaukee Hawks. In 1949 he first appeared in a regional telecast from St. Louis. (2)
In 1959 Kirk replaced Johnny Orr as head basketball coach at DUBUQUE SENIOR HIGH SCHOOL. He had previously coached for eight years in Salem, Illinois and one year Harvard, Illinois. (3) Kirk's team made an unexpected state tournament trip during the 1962-1963 season despite a 2-16 regular season. His 1967-1968 team won the school's first Mississippi Valley Conference title since 1932.
Kirk moved to Hempstead at the beginning of the 1969-1970 school year. He coached the Mustang's basketball team until 1973. (4) He then became assistant principal at Hempstead, a position he held from 1974-1986.
Walt Kirk was inducted into the Dubuque Senior Hall of Fame in 2000. In an emotional ceremony at Champaign, Illinois on September 13, 2008 Illinois named Kirk to its all-century team and retired his No. 14 jersey. (5)
1. Leitner, Jim. "Legendary Kirk Dies at Age 88," Telegraph Herald, Dec. 13, 2012, p. 1B
3. Lagerstrom, Hal, "Kirk Ends 22-Year Coaching Career," Telegraph Herald, March 26, 1973 p. 6