According to head coach Bob King, the rise in basketball quality at UNM really began when Ira Harge came to UNM after two seasons at Burlington (Iowa) Junior College. When the 6-9 Harge reported in 1962, he was the tallest player ever to wear a New Mexico basketball uniform.
Lobomania was front and center for the first time during Harge's senior season of 1963-64. UNM finished 23-6, tied for first in the WAC and made a sensational run in the NIT in Madison Square Garden. In the NIT, the Lobos beat Drake and NYU, but lost to Bradley in the final. Nonetheless, thousands of UNM fans greeted the team upon its arrival at the Albuquerque airport and the program has flourished ever since.
Harge scored 1,016 points in two seasons at UNM. He was drafted by the Philadelphia 76ers of the NBA, but signed with the newly-founded American Basketball Association, where he eventually played on six league playoff teams, including the 1968 ABA champion Oakland Oaks.
From the first day he walked onto the UNM campus, it was obvious that Ira Harge would be more than a basketball player. He graduated in 1964. While playing professionally, he completed a master's degree in 1969.
Harge, a Mississippi native, has been a New Mexico resident since first setting foot here in 1962.