Don Gunhus, who helped lead UND to national men's basketball success in the 1970s, dies at age 68

Coming from Park River, the UND Athletic Hall of Famer was a model of consistency on coach Dave Gunther's teams

Don Gunhus (far right) was one of the standout basketball players during the 1970s at UND. Gunhus died on Christmas Day. UND players in the 1970s era photo are (left to right) Rick Fischer, Ron Becker, Fred Lukens, Austin Martin, John Thorpe and Don Gunhus
Submitted photo

GRAND FORKS – Don Gunhus may have not had the size to play inside at the collegiate men’s basketball level. He may have lacked the quickness for college ball as well.

But he made up for it in other areas.

According to his teammates, few players had the smarts and the discipline the forward from Park River, N.D., possessed when he came to UND in the early 1970s.

Gunhus, a standout on coach Dave Gunther's powerhouse teams of the 70s, died on Christmas Day following an illness. He was 68 and living in Broomfield, Colo.

The former Park River, N.D., standout was one of a handful of players who helped guide UND to immeasurable success in men’s basketball in the mid-1970s.


“As a player, Don was so dependable,” said his teammate Fred Lukens. “Don was a special player. He was only 6-foot-4. And he wasn’t as quick as some guys, but he was so smart and played his position so well that he rarely got beat.”

UND reached the NCAA Division II playoffs each season from 1974 through 1978. Gunhus was a key player during that era and also helped cultivate an incredible atmosphere at the Hyslop Sports Center. The games later became known as Hylsop Hysteria as the horseshoe-shaped venue was loud, raucous and made it extremely difficult on opposing teams.

“It had an electric feeling,” recalled Lukens of the Hyslop era.

In his final season, Gunhus helped lead his team to the NCAA Division II quarterfinal round where Old Dominion captured a 78-62 win over UND.

Lukens said Gunhus was a unique player for Gunther.

“Don made the most of his physical abilities; he hardly made mistakes,” said Lukens. “Don was a very good shooter from 15 to 17 feet. He had such a beautiful shooting form.”

Gunhus played in 101 games at UND. He scored 1,098 points during his career, ranking in the top 40 on the all-time scoring list at UND. He averaged 11.1, 13.9 and 12.0 points per game during his final three seasons and finished with a 10.9 career average. His shooting percentage in both his junior and senior seasons was 46.3 percent – another example of his consistency.

His style of play fit perfectly into Gunther’s coaching.


“Coach Gunther hated turnovers,” said Lukens. “If you were a player who turned the ball over, you’d be on the bench. And if you were a player who made mistakes on defense, you’d also be on the bench.

“And I think Coach Gunther also saw a lot of himself in Don. Coach was a small-town kid from Iowa; Don was a small-town kid and both worked very hard. Don was an A1 and first-class person.”

Gunhus was inducted into the UND Athletic Hall of Fame in 1989.

Gunhus later became an optometrist in Fargo. He sold his practice in 2017 and moved to Colorado.

A Celebration of Life will be held at 2 p.m., Friday, Jan. 6, 2023, at The Establishment at Bradburn Village in Westminster, Colo. A Celebration of Life will also be held in Fargo at a later date.

IMG_9253 (1).jpeg
During the 2021 UND Athletic Hall of Fame induction ceremonies, former UND players (left to right) Bill Tack, Ron Becker, Jim Goodrich, Fred Lukens, Rick Fischer, Ray Jones and Don Gunhus pose for a photo.
Submitted photo

Wayne Nelson is the sports editor at the Herald.

He has been with the Grand Forks Herald since 1995, serving as the UND football and basketball beat writer as well as serving as the sports editor.

He is a UND graduate and has been writing sports since the late 1970s.

Follow him on Twitter @waynenelsongf. You can reach him at (701) 780-1268 or
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