| Wins against Kentucky - 0 | Losses against Kentucky - 1 |
Alma Mater: Penn State 
Hometown: Homestead, PA
Date Born: January 31, 1917
Date Died: June 29, 2007
Overall Record: 80-40 [5 Seasons]
|3/21/1952||Kentucky vs. Penn State||W||82 - 54||NCAA East Regional First Round (at Raleigh, NC)|
Obituary - Pittsburgh Post Gazette (August 9, 2007)
Elmer Gross / Penn State basketball star
By Ray Fittipaldo, Pittsburgh Post-Gazette
Elmer Gross, a Homestead native and the only coach to guide Penn State University to the NCAA men's basketball Final Four, died June 29 in Chandler, Ariz. He was 90.
The Penn State sports information department just learned of Dr. Gross' death Tuesday.
After a two-year hitch in the Army upon graduating from Munhall High School, Dr. Gross went to Penn State and played varsity basketball. He first made the NCAA tournament as a player in 1942.
Back then, the tournament was composed of eight teams, and Penn State lost in the first round to Dartmouth, 44-39.
Dr. Gross was a three-year letterman for the Nittany Lions and the team captain and leading scorer in 1942. The team finished with an 18-3 record and a No. 10 national ranking in the final Dunkel Index, a basketball poll of the time.
Dr. Gross took over as Penn State's head coach in 1950 and served until 1954. The Lions made two NCAA tournaments under his guidance. The first came in 1952, and he made news as the first player to return to the tournament as a head coach. Penn State lost to Kentucky, 82-54, in the first round.
The 1954 team's was a special season in Happy Valley. The Lions opened the tournament with a victory over Toledo and followed with upsets of LSU and Notre Dame in the second and third rounds.
"Boy, was he proud of that," said his sister, Ruth Potts of West Mifflin. "They had a big dinner for him up there a while back. I think [Joe] Paterno put it together."
Penn State lost to eventual champion LaSalle in a national semifinal game at the Final Four in Kansas City. The Lions placed third in the tournament after defeating Southern California in a consolation game and finished the season No. 9 in The Associated Press poll.
Dr. Gross left coaching on a high note and retired after the '54 season. He went on to earn his doctorate in education and continued to teach at Penn State until his retirement in 1978.
Between his playing and coaching, Dr. Gross served as a second lieutenant in the Army in France and Germany during World War II. He participated in the landings at Normandy and Omaha Beach. Wounded in 1944, he was awarded the Bronze Star and Purple Heart for his bravery in the battle at St. Lo.
"He was shot in the neck," Mrs. Potts said. "It was a tracer bullet. He thought it was a bee, but his throat started filling up with blood. He was airlifted to London."
Dr. Gross had a stroke early this decade and had been living in a nursing home in Arizona.
In addition to his sister, Dr. Gross is survived by daughters Jennifer Phalon of Doylestown, Bucks County, Barbara Speyser of Annapolis, Md., and Meg Middleman of South Pasadena, Calif.; son James Gross of Austin, Texas; a brother, Fred Gross of Bradbury, Calif.; stepdaughters Jan Barrington of Chandler, Ariz., and Jamie Sorenson of Ahwatukee, Ariz.; 10 grandchildren; and nine great-grandchildren.
A memorial service will be held in Sunland Memorial Park Chapel, Sun City, Ariz., Saturday at 11:30 a.m.
Return to statistics, team schedules, team rosters, opponents, players, coaches, opposing coaches, games, assistance, Kentucky Basketball Page or search this site.