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Friday, July 13, 1990 - Page updated at 12:00 AM

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Habegger Is UW's 65-Year-Old Recruit -- Ex-Sonic Coach, GM To Be Husky Assistant

Fans of University of Washington basketball probably thought the German pipeline dried up after Chris Welp.

But Lynn Nance yesterday landed the biggest bargain in his year as head coach of the Huskies - an illustrious 65-year-old recruit, imported from West Germany at no expense to the Huskies.

He is Les Habegger, former Seattle SuperSonic assistant coach and general manager.

As the Huskies' unpaid fourth assistant, Habegger may be the most impressively qualified volunteer since Tex Winter, the former Husky and NBA head coach, assisted Dale Brown at State.

Habegger spent the past three seasons coaching the West German club team Steiner-Bayreuth to three championships in the top division.

After spending summers in his Queen Anne home, he decided to come back to Seattle for at least a year. He said he is not sure whether he will return to 2 the German club after this sabbatical among the Huskies.

``It's a fun opportunity,'' he said. ``I've been at all levels and I'm kind of looking forward to not being the guy in the first chair.''

Nance called Habegger ``one of the great basketball minds in the country,'' and said his program was ``very fortunate'' to get him.

Habegger was head coach at Seattle Pacific College, now SPU, for 20 years, beginning in 1956.

``When I first came to Seattle years ago, Husky basketball was No. 1 - of course, that was long before professional basketball had come here,'' Habegger said. ``Washington had always been a powerful program.

``If I have a goal, it's to see Lynn Nance do very well and Washington basketball get back to where it was at one time.''

Habegger has known Nance since Nance was a UW player 25 years ago. They became friends when Nance worked at a basketball camp operated by Habegger and Husky great Bob Houbregs.

Habegger's SPC teams had 15 straight winning seasons and went to the NCAA tournament in 1964.

In 1977 he became a Sonic assistant to head coach Bob Hopkins and was retained when Lenny Wilkens took over that year. While he worked with Wilkens, the Sonics went to the playoffs five times, won the Western Conference title twice and the 1979 NBA title.

Although his duties with the Huskies have not been determined, Habegger said he hopes his role will be in some ways similar to one he enjoyed with Wilkens.

Wilkens ``was kind of like a computer,'' Habegger said. ``It was my job to fill him with as much data as I could, and then he would decide which to accept and reject.''

Habegger laughed at the notion that he might overshadow Nance.

``I don't see Lynn as a guy who's threatened, plus I'm not at the stage in my career where I'm going to take anybody's job.''

Copyright (c) 1990 Seattle Times Company, All Rights Reserved.

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