Lonborg coached Northwestern's basketball teams for 23 years, compiling 236 wins to rank him first on the school's all time victory list. His 138 Big Ten victories place him 11th on the all-time conference rankings behind the likes of Bobby Knight, Ward Lambert and Fred Taylor. Lonborg also coached the Wildcats to their only Big Ten titles in 1931 and 1933.
Longborg was a distinguished member of the basketball community, inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 1973.
Born in 1898, Lonborg came into his own as an athlete, and, at the University of Kansas, he received nine letters in three sports. He starred for Kansas coach Phog Allen, was elected All-Missouri Valley twice, and was named a second-team All-American in 1920, his senior season. Following a brief stint at McPherson (Kansas) College, Lonborg moved on to Washburn (Topeka, Kansas) University, where he coached from 1923 to 1927. His success at these two schools led to a position at Northwestern.
Lonborg's 23-year stay in Evanston included the Big Ten championships. The 1931 team posted a 16-1 conference record. In addition, Lonborg was one of five founders, including his ex-coach Allen, who inaugurated the NCAA tournament in 1939. The first championship game, in which Oregon defeated Ohio State, was played in Northwestern's Patten Gymnasium. The following year, the NCAA gained control of the tournament, which is one of the premier athletic events, professional or collegiate, today.
Lonborg returned to his alma mater, Kansas, in 1950 to become the athletic director. He left Northwestern with a record of 236-203-1 on the hardwood. Success continued to follow him, as Kansas won four national championships in various sports during his administrative tenure. Kansas had never before made claim to a national title. In addition, UK won 38 conference titles during this time.
Lonborg chaired the NCAA tournament committee from 1947 to 1960. He was also the chairman of the U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee from 1957 to 1960, and he managed the 1960 Olympic squad.
Lonborg passed away in 1985.