MATTOON — Eastern Illinois grad and current Loyola Marymount men's basketball director of operations Jeff Strohm summed it up best in a JG-TC story from May 2007.
"When you think of Lake Land you think of Jim Dudley," Strohm said. "That is what it's always going to be. That is a pretty good way to be thought of."
Jim Dudley died June 7, and a memorial service was held June 13 at the First Presbyterian Church of Mattoon. The first and winningest coach in Lake Land men's basketball history, Dudley is remembered fondly after spending 20 years as the head coach of the junior college. Dudley, the first school's first coach in 1967-68 when they played their home games at the Mattoon National Guard Armory, went 356-265 at Lake Land.
Strohm was the recruiting coordinator at Lake Land under Dudley from 1989-91. While a student at EIU he was an assistant coach at Casey-Westfield (1987-88), and after graduating in 1988 was an assistant at Sullivan (1988-89). He went on to be an assistant coach at Northern Illinois, Marquette, Utah, Western Kentucky and Tulane.
"For me personally, I've had some great opportunities in my life and it all started because of him," Strohm said of Dudley.
Lake Land assistant softball coach Denny Throneburg played under Dudley for four years, then was as an assistant under Dudley, then became Dudley's athletics director.
Throneburg, a Westfield grad, was recruited by Dudley to play basketball at Lake Land. After his first year, Dudley went to coach at SIU-Edwardsville and took Throneburg with him for his final three years.
"He was like a father figure to me," said Throneburg. "He became a really good friend. Over a 40 year span, I was the only one in that situation. He made a big mark on my life and my coaching. There are a lot of things I have done in coaching because of coach Dudley."
Throneburg went on to coach Casey and Casey-Westfield for 22 years, compiling a 647-56 record — 15th all-time in Illinois High School Association history in terms of wins — with six state championships. He was also the head coach at Lake Land from 2006-2009, going 153-42.
"He was hard on us, but taught us the value of hard work," Throneburg said. "He was intense and his expectations were high and he got the most out of the players. That is the way I always tried to coach — to get more out of a player then they can give. "
Dudley was honored in October of 2014 at the Laker Classic as players from all 20 years were invited to attend.
Dudley guided the 1967-68 team to a 20-1 record. The team that included Charleston grad Rex Morgan, who later went on to play on Jacksonville's national runner-up NCAA team, and a brief stint with the Boston Celtics. Dudley continued to coach the Lakers through the 1969-70 season. He was a coach at SIU-Edwardsville and was an assistant at Cincinnati under Tony Yates from 1983 through 1988 before returning to Lake Land after Yates was fired. He coached at Lake Land from the 1988-89 season through the 2006-07 season.
"The most influential people in my life have been my mother and father, but after that is would Jim Dudley," said Morgan in a JG-TC story in March of 2007. "He taught me so much in the one year I was there, not just about basketball but about life and being accountable. He made sure I graduated so I could go wherever I wanted after that."
Morgan died in January of 2016.
Dudley also coached at Port Byron Riverdale and Lake Park High schools, earning over 600 victories.
The 1994-95 Lake Land team, nicknamed "Laker Lightning," led the nation in scoring with an average of 112 points per game, scoring 165 in one game. Lake Land had 11 straight winning seasons from 1991-2002.
Jim Closson, who along with Brian Butler and Dave Purvis, started running the Lake Land scorer's table in 1993.
"The scorebook only goes up to 120 points, so I had to improvise on that 165 point game," said Closson. "They shot a ton of three-pointers. They were not getting a fastbreak for a layup, but sometimes to shoot three-pointers. Jim was great to work with. He had a little showmanship in him. We only missed maybe five games in 15 years and I got to know him really well. Occasionally we would go out for a 'Diet Coke' after the game."
Dudley is a member of the Lake Land Hall of Fame and the Illinois Basketball Coaches Association Hall of Fame.
"Dudley rarely used a time-out," said Closson. "He didn't want to give the other team a chance to regroup. At least once a game he would look over at me and ask how many time-outs do I have. I would say, 'Why are you asking? You never use them.' He would just shrug his shoulders and go on. He was a class guy and we really enjoyed being around him."
Throneburg recalled when Dudley put his high-scoring offense in.
"I think it was in the Kankakee Holiday Tournament and we scored 148 points," said Throneburg. "We looked at each other and coach Dudley said, 'I believe this is going to work.'
"It was a high time for Lake Land basketball. We had great athletes and people would come to see how many points we can score. Sometimes our defensive goal was just for opponents to score one less than we do."
Current Lake Land women's coach Dave Johnson, who arrived in 1998, said, "He (Dudley) would always tell me, joking, I spend too much time in practice on defense and not enough time on offense."
Johnson said he enjoyed watching Dudley's practices and the way they ran their fast break.
"They had it down to a science," said Johnson. "Everybody knew where they were going. They had 35 to 50 sets that they ran out of different looks. They were so good at scoring in transition you didn't see the half-court sets that they had."
Johnson credited Dudley and his first assistant coach, Bob Orr, for taking him under their wings.
"They really helped me and gave me a lot of guidance. They were instrumental in me wanting to stay here at Lake Land," said Johnson.
Dave Earp, who is beginning his 24th season as an assistant for the Lake Land men's basketball team, said, "I think one of the things that most people don't understand is that coach Dudley had a great basketball mind. He understood how sets work and would see things happen before they actually happened. I learned a lot from him as far as how to adjust your personnel to the style of the game. "
Earp coached with Dudley for 11 seasons.
Orr and Dudley were classmates at Lake Forest College.
"He played a little more than I did," said Orr. "He was a very good basketball and baseball player. He is the one that got me to come to Lake Land. I was living in the Chicago suburbs and had a decent job. We took a chance and I am very happy I am still there. He understood what needed to be done and in most cases he got it done."
Outside of the basketball court
"He was a great man, who loved his players and loved his family," said Earp. "One of the things I remember him saying was, 'My No. 1 recruit is my wife.'"
Dudley was married to Carol Jean (Loebach) Dudley on Aug. 22, 1971. They have two sons, Ted and Tad.
"Everything he talked about was basketball and family," said Earp. "He loved his family. He would bring the kids out and their friends to the gym. He also loved cars and towards the end had some really nice conversion vans he drove around in."
At the Lake Land Hall of Fame induction in 2007, Closson said a portrait was given to him of his family.
"I remember how touched he was," said Closson.
Aaron Justin, who played for Lake Land, said in a JG-TC article in 2014, "What I think about coach Dudley and my time at Lake Land is family. We were a basketball family. That is something we focused on. We scored a lot of points and had a lot of fun. It was just a good time."
Throneburg said, "There are a lot of great memories to have with Dudley."
David Kidwell, a member of the Eastern Illinois University Hall of Fame and former assistant athletics director for sports information, first met Dudley when he was a graduate assistant at Eastern back in the mid-1960s.
"I was a student assistant in sports information," Kidwell said. "After I got out of the service in 1972, Jim was coaching at SIU-E and he was kind enough to find some student 'work' money that helped me as I took some grad classes at Edwardsville. He didn't have to do that, but he gave me an opportunity to figure out my next step in life. So, I am indebted to his kindness. He cared about people around him, on and off the court, and lived life to the fullest."