Agates legend Ed Kernan dies at age 85Ed Kernan, one of the most decorated athletes to come from Two Harbors, died last week in Eau Claire, Wis., after complications from Parkinson’s Disease.
Ed Kernan, one of the most decorated athletes to come from Two Harbors, died last week in Eau Claire, Wis., after complications from Parkinson’s Disease.
There will be a funeral service Saturday in Two harbors.
The 1944 graduate of Two Harbors High School earned 10 varsity letters here and went on to become one of the all-time great basketball players for University of Minnesota in Minneapolis.
Last September, Kernan was named to the U’s “M” Club Hall of Fame, the third hall he would join for his athletic and coaching skills.
As his induction ceremony loomed in 2010, the News-Chronicle talked with Kernan and looked back on his career. Here's a reprint of that story.
Two Harbors star enters 'U' hall of fame
This time, coach was sure. There was no way the Ed Kernan fan club from Two Harbors would show up at the Cow Palace in San Francisco. “He said we were far enough away now,” Kernan said from his summer home in Eau Claire this week. But there they were at the University of Minnesota basketball game. “They stood up and sang the Two Harbors fight song.”
Kernan was that kind of a sensation on the basketball court for three Gophers seasons from 1945 to 1948. He’s been called the greatest freshman to ever play for the team and will be honored next week with induction into the university’s “M” Club Hall of Fame.
Kernan will be the third athlete from Two Harbors named to the hall. Before him on the basketball court was Grant “Fat” Johnson (1937-38) who helped the Gophers win a Big 10 title. Lloyd “Snapper” Stein played football at the ‘U’ when he attended from 1928-32 and was a longtime athletic trainer there. He is in the hall for “distinguished service.”
Kernan joined the Army Air Corps after graduating from Two Harbors High School in 1944 with 10 varsity letters. When World War II ended in August of 1945 with the surrender of the Japanese, Kernan had to decide where he wanted to go for school. He had three years paid for under the G.I. Bill.
Two Harbors coach Cy Magnusson, who considered Kernan the best athlete to ever come out of the school, suggested Kernan try out for the Gophers at a clinic in Superior. Did he think he had a chance? “No, I didn’t,” Kernan said.
There was a legacy to follow. Kernan’s father, Edward James Kernan, was also a star athlete for Two Harbors and played basketball at Minnesota for a one year before heading to service in World War I.
There were a lot of men coming back from World War II and Kernan had never seen so many people on a basketball court at one time.
He made the team and slowly worked his way up.
Things were in such a rush after the war that Kernan had three or four games before ever attending a class. After scoring some points late in the opening games, he became a starter and never looked back. Gophers coach Dave MacMillan would eventually call Kernan “the greatest freshman basketball player ever at the U.”
And the coach would rib his star about those loyal hometown followers at games. “I always had strong Two Harbors support,” Kernan said. In an understatement, he said those years on the team were a “good time for me. An exciting time.”
He made his indelible mark on New Year’s Eve of 1945. The second home game at the “Barn,” Williams Arena on the university campus, was against defending national champion DePaul. Kernan scored 17 points in the game, outscoring All-American and future NBA star George Mikan, in a 45-36 Gopher win. Kernan rested on the bench for a mere 33 seconds in the game. It was his third start and the most playing time he’d seen.
He had arrived. After that, he said, “you’re not looking behind your back” for someone to replace you.
Kernan became a three-year starter and letter winner. He was the team’s second leading scorer all three seasons and was named All-Conference Honorable Mention each year.
Kernan graduated with a year of eligibility left. “I had three years on the GI Bill and would have had to pay another year by myself,” Kernan said. Coach MacMillan was also retiring. The university was wooing John Wooden, who turned down the job and went on to a legendary career at UCLA.
Kernan worked at Robbinsdale High School in the Twin Cities area for five years as the athletic director and head coach for basketball and baseball. His 1950 basketball team finished second in the state to Duluth Central.
Kernan came closer to home and spent 10 years as athletic director and basketball coach at Northland College in Ashland. He won four conference championships at Northland and was inducted into its hall of fame in 1984. Northland dedicated the Kernan Fitness Center in 1999.
Following his tenure at Northland, Kernan went to the University of Minnesota Duluth for a year as placement director and then finished his professional life as a personnel manager at Price Waterhouse and then as an administrative director at the Chicago law firm of Sidley & Austin.
Kernan was part of the inaugural group inducted into the Two Harbors hall of fame in 1997. His Class of 1944 was the first to attend the new high school from grades 7-12. “I hated to see them tear it down,” he said of the school that has been replaced with the current high school on Highway 2.
Does he have a speech ready for next week? Not really, Kernan said. He’s had a flood of memories since learning of the induction earlier this year. His children are working on a video presentation and he’s sure he’ll do fine with whatever he chooses to say.
And maybe he’ll have a Two Harbors rooting section to spur him on. Just like old times.