Pioneers

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Denver Pioneers

General Information

NCAA Division: Division I
Conference: Summit
Past Conferences: Summit, WAC, Sun Belt, MSAC, Ind
City: Denver, Colorado
Stadium: Magness Arena
NCAA Tournaments: 1992*, 1994*, 1996*
*Indicates appearances in Division II

Championships:

National Championships: None
Conference Titles: None

Team History

The Denver Pioneers men’s basketball program was established back in the 1904 season. John Koehler was the first official head coach to lead the Pioneers. Although the team played a few games each season since its inception, the foundation of the team would take years to build, because consistency in pushing our winning was difficult to find.

The Pioneers had an odd history, to say the least, due to what the program had to deal with throughout its history. Before World War II, the school was competing on the regional level, which rarely gained any attention on the national stage. After the war came to an end, Denver was allowed to become a Division I program level program between the 1950s and 1979. In 1959, the Pioneers would make an NAIA appearance in 1948 but ultimately lose in the first round to Mankato State by three points.

Under the leadership of coach Hoyt Brawner, the team posted a 14-10 record in the regular season and received an invitation to the NIT tournament in 1959. Unfortunately, they were defeated by NYU (who is no longer a Division I program) in the first round of the tournament.

The team made one final appearance in the NAIA tournament in 1984, but they were unable to advance past the first round, losing to Waynesburg in overtime. Things didn’t get much better after many internal and external setbacks.

Decline Due to Financial Difficulties

After this setback, the program faced a decline due to financial difficulties, which led the school to demote the program to the Division II and NAIA levels of competition, where they remained until 1998. Still, the players that played at Denver made the most of the opportunities over the next few decades, especially in the 90s, even though it wasn’t a successful run.

From 1992 to 1996, the Pioneers received three invites to the Div II tournament. However, during the stint, the team would muster up one win in 1992. The odds weren’t great, but the team defeated North Dakota in the first round before losing to South Dakota State in the Regional Finals.

Denver lost to South Dakota State in the opening round of the Div II tournament in 1994 and 1996. Regardless of going 1-3 in the tournament, the Pioneers moved back up to Div I status in 1998 and joined the Sun Belt Conference a year later. Becoming a member of the Sun Belt was proven to be difficult since the level of competition was much more fierce compared to Div II.

However, in the 2005 season, the team received an invitation to the NIT tournament with a 20-11 record in the regular season and a 12-3 record in conference play. Sadly, the team’s fortunes did not change as they lost a close game in the first round to San Francisco, continuing the trend of early exits.

Making History

In their only season in the Western Athletic Conference, the Pioneers made history by recording a 16-2 record in conference play. As a result, they received an invitation to the NIT tournament, and the team had high morale and strong statistics; the Denver team stats benefited offensively and defensively.

The team won their first game against Ohio in the NIT after going 0-2 in their last two appearances. Still, they would be stopped in the next round by a formidable opponent in Maryland. Despite having a few stints at the Div I level, the school has not made an appearance in the NCAA Tournament.

Head coach Jeff Wulbrun will be leading the program for the second consecutive season. Denver has been an average team, which will make it difficult for the team to make a run at the Summit League Conference title as they face long NCAAB odds to make a run.

All-Time Records

  • Points Scored

    • Harry Hollines 1,879
    • B.J. Pratt 1,705
    • Joe Rosga 1,621
  • Rebounds

    • Dick Brott 1,070
    • Jim Peay 915
    • Brett Starkey 751
  • Assists

    • Rodney Billups 418
    • Nate Rohnert 357
    • Chris Udofia 349
  • Steals

    • Chase Hallam 201
    • Erik Benzel 163
    • Rodney Billups 154

FAQs

What is the highest win total in program history?

Throughout its history, the program has had two seasons where it won 22 games. The teams would achieve this feat in back-to-back seasons as members of the Sun Belt and WAC in the 2012 and 2013 seasons. The team won its first NIT game ever in 2013.

Who is the winningest coach in program history?

Throughout the program’s history, only two coaches have over 100 wins on their resume: Joe Scott and Hoyt Brawner. Brawner may have the most wins, with a record of 163-189 during his 14-year tenure. Scott has a positive record of 146-132 during his nine-year tenure; making him the winningest coach in program history.

Who is the greatest player in program history?

Royce O’Neale is the greatest player in the program but spent two years with the program before transferring to Baylor. He would defy all odds, since he went undrafted in the 2015 NBA Draft. His first few years were spent with the Utah Jazz before he was traded to the Brooklyn Nets.

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