As head coach of men’s basketball from 1943 to 1964, John Metras led the Mustangs to fourteen senior intercollegiate championships. Although official play was suspended for the duration of the Second World War, Western maintained a basketball program despite travel restrictions and lack of college level competition. Intramural sports flourished and competition in basketball, hockey, and football culminated in the annual Arts-Meds sports finals. After three years of military service during which he earned the US Silver Star for bravery, Clarence “Moose” McNair returned to the Mustangs as captain of the 1945-46 team. McNair’s postwar team had a new home at the downtown London Arena.
In the late 1940s, the basketball Mustangs had home crowds of 5,000. The Mustangs competition at the arena was preceded by a preliminary game of the intermediate Western Colts or a high school team, and followed by a dance. According to the Athletic Association minutes, although the board was hesitant of asking students to pay twenty-five cents for the game and dance, a letter from the president of the University Students' Council assured them of student approval. In 1950, the venue changed to its current location at the Reid Gymnasium in Thames Hall. With only 1,777 seats compared to the 5,000 at the London Arena, tickets were at a premium and seats were filled to overflowing when Thames Hall opened. The biggest crowd ever to watch the Mustangs was an audience of 12,000 on January 16th, 1946 when they played the University of Toronto at Maple Leaf Gardens. The game was a preliminary exhibition to the first professional game played in Toronto between the Rochester Royals and the Fort Wayne Zollners Pistons of the Basketball Association of America, the precursor to the National Basketball Association (NBA).
In the eleven post-war years after the return of the game, the Mustangs won the league championships ten times and shared the title once, winning seventy-eight games and losing just six in senior intercollegiate competition. More significantly, in the immediate post-war seven seasons, the Mustangs lost only one of forty-four games; this loss represented the first time a Western team under Metras lost a basketball or football game to a rival Canadian school. The 1959-60 athletic year was particularly memorable because the basketball, football, wrestling, and swimming teams all won Canadian Interuniversity Athletic champion- ships. Western developed strong rivalries with the Windsor Lancers, which only intensified when they won five consecutive intercollegiate championships starting in 1962-63. The Mustangs next championship came in 1967-68. When the 9,000 student cap at The University of Western Ontario was lifted in 1965, the growing student population led to increased competition and interest in sports on campus.