Biography: MANG, Louis

MANG, Louis
Inducted: 1959 – Among Original class of Honorees
Born: Not Available

It’s possible to never really know just how important a role a coach has played in your life until you let a number of years pass and then begin to reminisce. The kind of coaches who almost always have winning teams must have a great deal of “Bud” Mang in them. Herein, we have tried to give a word picture of Mr. Mang as a coach and a person through the experience of one of his Olympic Gold Medal winners. We trust you will be able to relate beyond the win-loss record, and wish you had known him both as a coach and a person.

General: Bud Mang served as Gymnastics Head Coach at the U.S. Naval Academy. His teams were so dominating that they literally forced the Intercollegiate Gymnastic League (IGA) to dissolve.  Prior to being admitted to the IGA, Mang’s teams annually defeated all teams in the IGA between 1910 & 1915. Once admitted to the IGA, Navy won six straight league titles. Navy even defeated the University of Chicago who had been Big Ten champions on numerous occasions during this period and eventually won the first ever NCAA team title in 1938. Between 1900 and 1926, there were two prominent leagues, the Big Ten and the IGA. Big Ten teams were allowed to compete in the IGA Championships, making the meet a de facto National Championship. After dominating the IGA championships on a steady basis, it was dissolved and replaced by the Eastern Intercollegiate Gymnastic League (EIGL). The Navy squad was allowed to only be an associate member until 1928. Coach: Mang coached teams were the best in the nation from 1910-1935 including seven straight EIGL titles, (1929-’35). He coached over 35 individual event conference champions with 13 official conference team titles and almost that many unofficially. His winning record was 146-12 for a .924 winning percentage. Twenty-two of his teams were unbeaten. He devised a unique rope climbing (RC) technique in part because he was a very strong athlete in the first place and he was a good trackman and a very good track coach. He believed in all the fundamentals of good running. He taught the rope climbers how to get more rhythm and roll into their climb than we’d ever had before. As far as climbing the rope was concerned, it was not like drawing water out of a well to him. It was a matter of getting a lot of rhythm and roll into the climb, holding the feet up high in front of your face as you climb the rope and rolling yourself up that rope using the whole body as a climbing mechanism, not just the arms and shoulders.  Mang’s RC techniques resulted in three Navy gymnasts winning all three medals in the Olympic Games, (1932). The Gold medalist, Ray Bass said in a 1988 interview, “It helps to have some teammates prod you? Yes, they were pacing, pushing, and prodding me all the time. That’s just the way it was. Lou Mang was such a skillful coach. I take pleasure in telling people how he must have felt at the Olympics to see the gold, silver and bronze winners all from the Naval Academy, all coached by him and all standing up there side by side while they played “The Star-Spangled Banner.” So, we see who really won the Olympicsthe coach.” Bass continues to relate, “ . . . My recollection was that Lou Mang was coaching us during all of that (the Olympic) preparation time. It was largely work and motivation. It was pretty serious business. In the tryouts, there were a lot of foreign athletes around and when they saw the times that we were turning in over there they began to back away from the rope climb event. One of the things that transpired at the Olympics was when we were having an Olympic ball near the conclusion of the Games in the Biltmore Hotel in Los Angeles. I went in there with Jack Galbraith and Tom Connelly and a young man from New Zealand. We were going to a certain table that had been designated and as we were proceeding out across the floor to that table a young lady came out and grabbed the New Zealander by the arm and said, ‘I’ve lost all my guests for this evening because all the Italians have gone to the Garibaldi Club in San Francisco. I have several girls over here and I don’t have any boys. Can you help me?’ She was a very gorgeous young lady and I told this New Zealand boy, “I think we can help her, don’t you?” So that was the evening I met Marjorie May Hart, and a couple years later she and I were married at the Naval Academy Chapel in Annapolis. At the time I met Marjorie she was going to UCLA. We were married in 1934 and we celebrated our 50th anniversary in 1984. We went back to the Naval Academy for the class reunion in 1986, which was the 55th anniversary of our graduation. And, the Lord willing, we’ll go back to the 60th in 1991 . . . I’ll just touch on one story about a coach of mine who pushed on us pretty hard to be good starters [from the floor when the signal was given]. The event is such a short event that if you don’t get off to a good start you might as well not have started in the first place. So he pushed on us to start fast. At a certain time we were perhaps on the edge and jumping the gun. This story is probably not true, but I still tell the story. After one of these training events where we were so touchy we were jumping the gun, maybe on a Friday before the big meet on Saturday, and he said, ‘Now I don’t want to see you around this rope anymore until just before the big match.’ But at ten o’clock on Saturday morning I couldn’t stand it any longer so I had to go back over and just take a couple of starts. The coach caught me, after having told me not to be there at all until just before the match. Then he said to me, ‘Benny, I wish you’d go out in town and see your girl or do something. But don’t fool around in this gym anymore until just before you sit down there to climb this rope. I don’t want you to jump the gun and lose the match here this afternoon.’ So here I am, edgy and jumping the gun, and I went out to town and my girl was surprised to see me. I told her that I was there to relax and take a walk and that I was supposed to ease up a little bit. She said, ‘Well, fine. We’ll just walk around the block.’ And as we went down the steps I observed that her shoe was untied so I stooped down to tie her shoe just at the same time as her brother in the yard lit off a firecracker. (laughter) We had rubdowns after our workouts in the gym. We were rubbed down with smelly liniment. We always had a lot of fun at the training table. We had a happy group of characters on the gym squad. They loved the coach and they loved what they were doing. It’s been an exceedingly happy thing to recall as years have gone by. At the slightest provocation I’ll tell everybody about the influence that coach Lou Mang had on me, and the winning of the Gold Medal in the rope-climbing event of ’32.”

It appears that Coach Mang was a very charismatic, knowledgeable, and encouraging man, especially when his athletes remember him so well after 56 years.

Sources: Jerry Wright’s Gymnastics Who’s Who, 2005, official NCAA records with quoted portions courtesy of a George Hodak interview with Ray Bass courtesy of . For more information about the Navy team and Bass’ life after the Academy, we recommend you visit the above web site. Introduction, commentary, and formatting by Dr. Larry Banner, Web Manager.