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Terre Haute and ISU legend Klueh dead at 98

Tribune-Star - 6/3/2024

If you knew him in the 1930s, you knew him as a near north side kid who had a paper route and a dream to be an athlete.

If you knew him in the 1940s, you knew him as a standout athlete at State High, a World War II combat veteran, and a star at Indiana State.

If you knew him in the 1950s and 1960s, you knew him as “coach” as he led ISU basketball to winning ways in both decades.

If you knew him in the 1970s and 1980s, you also knew him as “coach”, but with his attention devoted to his beloved game of tennis.

If you knew him afterwards, or really in any era, you knew him as a very kind man who represented Terre Haute and ISU with distinction.

This was Duane Klueh, one of Terre Haute’s greatest athletes and personalities. On XXXX, Klueh died at the age at 98, a life lived almost entirely in Terre Haute. A life lived in a way that reflected the best of what Klueh’s hometown can be.

Born in Bottineau, North Dakota, the Klueh family relocated to Terre Haute when Klueh was a child.

A star at Indiana State Lab School in the early 1940s, Klueh is almost certainly the most famous basketball alum to have played for the high school Sycamores.

He served in the Navy from 1942-46 and served on the U.S.S. Wasp, among other deployments.

Klueh played for legendary coach John Wooden and was ISU's best player during Wooden' stint and his star continued to shine when John Longfellow took over as coach. Klueh was an All-American and was named National Player of the Year by the Helms Foundation in 1948.

“I think my first meeting [with Wooden] was when I started going up to the gym when I could get in to shoot baskets. One day he was out there and I got to meet him and told him I was going to come out for basketball,” Klueh recalled in a Down In The Valley Tribune-Star podcast interview in 2020.

“He didn’t know me and I didn’t really know him, except I did know him because he was a very well-known person to any young kid who wanted to play basketball,” Klueh recalled.

Klueh was the first player to have his number retired at ISU as his No. 54 was in the rafters with Larry Bird’s famous No. 33.

Klueh later played 113 games over two seasons in the early days of the NBA in 1950-51. He played for the original Denver Nuggets and the Fort Wayne Pistons. Klueh had been the oldest surviving player who played for the Pistons franchise.

"That's almost in another life," said Klueh of his playing days in 2017. "I don't think about it a whole lot. I enjoyed it, but it's so far in the past. I did meet a whole lot of people and had great teammates and coaches I remember who were good people."

He spent a brief time as a high school coach in Fowler before he took over as ISU coach in 1954. As ISU coach, Klueh coached the Sycamores to a still-standing school record of 182 victories and had a .602 winning percentage.

Klueh didn’t fixate on his own era of basketball. He enjoyed the modern game and was a semi-frequent visitor at Hulman Center well into his 90s.

"The game is so, so, so much different than it was with the addition of the 3-point line and the shot clock. I didn't coach when those things were used. Talk about two big changes and for the better I think," Klueh said.

Klueh is also the ISU all-time coaching win leader in the other sport he excelled at — men's tennis — with 278 wins in 26 seasons running the ISU men's tennis program.

Klueh spent many years as a presence in the community and an unofficial ambassador of sorts for both the city and ISU.

His wife of 68 years, Mary Alice Klueh died in 2017. They had seven children, 10 grandchildren and six great-grandchildren.

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