Iver Malutin, a member of Kodiak’s first championship basketball team, died at the age of 82 of heart complications at a hospital in Anchorage.
Malutin was a star forward on the 1949 Kodiak High School boys basketball team that won the Fur Rendezvous Tournament in Anchorage. It was the first championship in the school’s history and it came 10 years before Alaska became a state.
Malutin, whose parents moved to Kodiak in 1914 from Afognak Island, enjoyed sharing the story of the team’s triumphs whenever he got the chance, whether it be at a store, a government meeting or on the radio.
“He had an unbelievable memory,” said longtime friend Joe Floyd, who moved to Kodiak in the 1950s. “He knew the history of Kodiak with an emphasis on sports.”
Before Kodiak’s two undefeated basketball teams — the 2001 boys and the 2014 girls — there was the 1949 squad that conquered Alaska.
“They called us the ‘Kodiak midgets’ in Anchorage,” Malutin’s teammate Laurence Anderson said. “We were a short team. He was the shortest and I was the next shortest.”
Kodiak surprised the Class B field by beating Cordova, Wasilla, Valdez and the Kodiak Naval Operating Base — a team the Bears practiced against during the regular season — to reach the championship game against Nome, a squad that beat them earlier in the tournament.
This go around, Kodiak edged Nome, 31-29. In that game, Malutin pulled off a move that is still talked about today.
“I still remember that man faking a guy underneath the basket and he went under his legs and went up and made the basket,” Anderson said.
Malutin, born in 1931 in Kodiak, and three of his teammates — Anderson, Dick Skinner and Charlie Jerling — were named to the All-Star team.
“We had a fast team, it was very fast,” Anderson said. “We were a passing team — we were constantly passing. We were moving and running all throughout the game.”
Malutin was a member of Kodiak High School’s first basketball team in 1947 that was coached by Tom Utterback, who moved to Kodiak from an Indian reservation in Washington state.
That year, Malutin and his teammates created the school’s mascot — the Bears — and the colors — blue and gold.
“It was a full discussion,” Malutin said in a Daily Mirror interview in 2013. “We were in the back of a panel truck coming in from the base, or going out to the base, and that is when we named the team.”
In 1948, the Kodiak Bears attended the Fur Rendevous Tournament for the first time. The team did not win a game, but was awarded the sportsmanship trophy. Anderson, who was on the 1949 and the 1950 team that won the tournament, said Malutin was “a fast little ballplayer who loved to play ball.”
“Morning, noon or night we’d play ball,” said Malutin in a 2006 Daily Mirror article. “We didn’t care if it rained or sunshined. We didn’t care if it snowed, but we played ball.”
Anderson, 81, said he and Malutin always reminisced about the glory days and that he is going to miss his childhood friend.
“He is what I call my arguing buddy,” Anderson said. “We could argue about all kinds of things every time we met.”
Floyd said he always looked forward to talking to Malutin.
“He had quite a story and he loved to tell it,” Floyd said. “He was really proud of Kodiak.”
Contact Derek Clarkston at firstname.lastname@example.org.