Robert ‘Duck’ Dowell, 91; Basketball Coach Led Pepperdine Waves to Four State Titles

Times Staff Writer

Robert “Duck” Dowell, who coached Pepperdine basketball for 20 years and led the Waves to four consecutive California Collegiate Athletic Assn. championships, has died. He was 91.

Dowell, who also served as the school’s athletic director from 1955 to 1968, died on Thanksgiving Day of natural causes in a managed care facility in Yucca Valley.

With such standout players as John Furlong, Ken Milo, Dick Alvord and Bob Morris, Dowell’s basketball teams won four straight titles from 1950 to 1953. Dowell also coached Pepperdine to the West Coast Athletic Conference title in 1962 with Bobby Warlick as the team’s top scorer.

Dowell finished his Waves coaching career with a 263-263 record. He had more than 60 former players become coaches.


John Rettberg, who played for Pepperdine from 1955 to 1959, said the hallmark of Dowell’s teams was a disciplined passing game.

In 1980, Dowell was inducted into the school’s Athletics Hall of Fame.

On Feb. 14, at halftime of their game against Santa Clara, the Waves will rename their floor at Firestone Fieldhouse the Duck Dowell Court.

Rettburg helped lead the drive to honor Dowell at Pepperdine.


“He was excited and honored when he found out,” Rettberg said. “He laughed and said, ‘Not everybody gets a court named after him.’ ”

Born and raised on a farm in Gilman City, Mo., Dowell was an All-American basketball player at Northwest Missouri State, where he played for legendary coach Henry Iba in the mid-1930s.

After college, Dowell played Amateur Athletic Union basketball for the Denver Piggly Wigglies and earned All-American honors after leading his team to the national championship in 1937. The next year, Dowell played for the Akron Firestones of the National Professional Basketball League.

Dowell began his coaching career in the service during World War II while he was still a player. He snapped an Achilles tendon during the 1945 season, ending his playing career.

After the service, he coached high school ball in New Mexico before taking a job at Modesto Junior College in 1947. He spent a year there before moving on to Pepperdine, which was located in downtown Los Angeles at the time. While at Pepperdine, he served one year as head football coach, in 1952.

He is survived by his wife, Oleta; daughter, Teri McCormick; and a brother, Ken Dowell.

Funeral services will be at 11 a.m. Saturday at Wiefielf and Sons Funeral Home, 57285 Yucca Trail Road, Yucca Valley.

Instead of flowers, the family suggests that contributions be made to the Pepperdine University-Duck Dowell Basketball Court Tribute, in care of the school’s athletic department: 24255 Pacific Coast Highway, Malibu, CA 90263.