One of the best UBC teams ever, it is the only UBC basketball team to win a Canadian championship without losing a single game to Canadian competition. This team, which would represent Canada internationally, was 24-0 and won the Canadian University championship final game by 21 points.
John Mills, Derek Sankey, Terry MacKay, Bob Molinski, Jack Hoy, Stan Callegari, Ron Thorsen, Alex Brayden, Joe Kainer, Rod Matheson, John Hawkins, Peter Mullins (coach), Bruce Jagger (manager), Derek Swain (manager).
In the Fall of 1969, following a disappointing 1968/69 season, UBC Thunderbirds coach Peter Mullins had his talented basketball team optimistically preparing for competition in the Western Canadian Intercollegiate Association. The Thunderbirds to watch this year were Ron Thorsen, Bob Molinski, Derek Sankey, Terry MacKay and Alex Brayden along with rookies Jack Hoy, Joe Kainer, John Hawkins, John Mills and Rod Matheson.
Utilizing speed and rebounding ability, UBC started the season with a convincing win over the highly touted University of Manitoba, followed by a 107-70 victory over Vic Pruden's University of Winnipeg Wesmen. At Christmas, the Blue and Gold played seven games against US competition winning three and losing four, the losses, all close, at the hands of northwest powerhouses Seattle Pacific and Portland State. The Ubyssey's Tony Gallagher observed that this year, along with their talent, "The UBC players are loose and have an unusual desire to win."
The UBC Thunderbirds remained undefeated at 6-0 in Canadian competition outscoring two of the Alberta schools 201-130 in a two game series and the two Saskatchewan schools 201-119 in two games. Using their bench strength, coach Mullins and his boys extended their record to 8-0 with wins over the Universities of Manitoba and Winnipeg. UBC was proving beyond a doubt they could not only score but also rebound. According to Manitoba coach Jack Lewis, who was very impressed by UBC all year, "We didn't get enough shots to win...with rebounders like MacKay and Sankey it's difficult to get possession to take the shots."
"Birds Bomb Alberta Schools For Wins 9, 10, 11" announced the Ubyssey as the locals, on the road, dominated the Universities of Alberta 91-63, Calgary 85-60, and Lethbridge 112-49. The week following was particularly memorable for the UBC Thunderbirds and especially for coach Mullins and his top scorer Ron Thorsen. They had extended their record against WCIAA competition to 14-0, whipping the Universities of Regina 94-54, Saskatchewan 109-70 and Victoria 76-69. Scoring-wise it was the Ron Thorsen show. Against Regina, in only half a game, he scored 25 points. Against Saskatchewan, playing only three-quarters of the game, guard Thorsen scored an amazing 48 points, a new Thunderbird single game record! Following the games in Saskatchewan an understating coach Mullins summed up by saying "We played extremely well defensively and also broke very well, we just ran them off the court."
The UBC Thunderbirds completed the WCIAA regular season at 16-0 after easily disposing of the University of Lethbridge by 60 points and the Victoria Vikings by 26. One of the biggest wins of the year was the outclassing, for the first time, their cross-town rivals Simon Fraser University, 103-67. The impressive win by UBC over SFU saved, to a degree, the credibility of the CIAU for if such a dominant CIAU team had lost to the Burnaby school, there would have been much embarrassment. After the SFU game Derek Sankey stated "We were all loose and ready and we went out and killed them.”
UBC crowned themselves champions of Western Canadian basketball by winning all four of their playoff games, bringing their record to 21-0 against Canadian competition. It was now to Hamilton for the Canadian University Championship where UBC would compete with the best university teams in the country. In game one, UBC defeated St. Mary’s 74-55 behind the scoring of Molinski, Sankey and Thorsen and the defense of Brayden and MacKay. In the semi- final, UBC dominated the Laurentian Voyageurs 107-78, again led by Thorsen, Molinski and Sankey, ably assisted by young Jack Hoy off the bench. In the championship game, UBC prevailed once again, defeating McMaster on their home court 96-75, thus extending their Canadian record to 24-0 and bringing home to UBC the Canadian championship.
Of the five UBC Thunderbird basketball teams who, to this point in history, had won Canadian championships, this was the first to be achieved without losing a single game to a team from this country. Ron Thorsen and Bob Molinski were named to the Western Canadian First All-Star team, Thorsen to the All-Canadian team, both Thorsen and Derek Sankey to the CIAU Championship All-Star Team while the CIAU Championship tournament MVP award went to Ron Thorsen.
The UBC Thunderbirds incredible 24-0 record, their lop-sided victories - winning the Canadian final by 21 points - could be attributed to their total team effort, their impressive depth, their comprehensive skills and the feeling of tremendous spirit and good will created by coach Peter Mullins.
Researched and written by Fred Hume, UBC Athletics Historian