View Full Version : College Basketball Pioneer Don Haskins Dies at 78

09-07-2008, 06:26 PM

College Basketball Pioneer Don Haskins Dies at 78

The Associated Press
Sunday, September 7, 2008; 9:57 PM

EL PASO, Texas -- Don Haskins, credited with helping break color barriers in college sports in 1966 when he used five black starters to win a national basketball title for Texas Western, died Sunday. He was 78.

Texas-El Paso spokesman Jeff Darby said the Hall of Fame coach died Sunday afternoon. He had no other details. UTEP was previously known as Texas Western.

"The word unique does not begin to describe Don Haskins," former Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said. "There is no one who has ever coached that I respected and admired more than Don Haskins. I've had no better friend that I enjoyed more than Don Haskins."

Haskins was an old-time coach who believed in hard work and was known for his gruff demeanor. That attitude was portrayed in the 2006 movie "Glory Road," the Disney film that chronicled Haskins' improbable rise to national fame in the 1966 championship game against Kentucky. The movie, which was preceded by a book of the same title, also sparked renewed interest in Haskins' career.

"The myth that surrounds Don Haskins in the movie 'Glory Road' and what he did for black players is better said that he cared like that for all his players. To me that tells me more about the man than anything," Knight said. "There was never anyone like him before and there will never be one like him again."

Former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said Haskins "had a tremendous impact on the college game. Anybody who's been around college basketball dating back to those days, they've seen how it changed after Texas Western won the national championship."

Sutton said he hadn't talked to Haskins for at least six weeks.

"Don had not been in good health and was having a hard time," Sutton said. "He'll be dearly missed. He was a great basketball coach."

During his career, Haskins turned down several more lucrative offers, including one with the now-defunct American Basketball Association, to remain at UTEP as one of the lowest paid coaches in the Western Athletic Conference.

Haskins retired in 1999 after 38 seasons at the school. He had a 719-353 record and won seven WAC championships. He took UTEP to 14 NCAA tournaments and to the NIT seven times and briefly worked as an adviser with the Chicago Bulls.

His health had been an issue in his final coaching years, often forcing him to remain seated during games, and his program struggled after twice being slapped with NCAA sanctions. Serious health concerns continued in his retirement. In the midst of a series of book signings and other appearances Haskins was hospitalized with various woes.

After his retirement, Haskins kept close ties with the Miners. The school's most recent hire, Tony Barbee, said he even met with Haskins just after accepting the job.

"He is a guy who has forgotten more basketball than I will ever know," Barbee said.

Haskins played for Hall of Fame coach Henry "Hank" Iba at Oklahoma State, back when the school was still Oklahoma A&M. Haskins was later an assistant under Iba for the 1972 U.S. Olympic team in Munich.

As a coach, Haskins became a star early in his career by leading his Miners to the 1966 NCAA championship game, then making the controversial decision to start five blacks against all-white, heavily favored Kentucky, coached by Adolph Rupp. The Miners won, and shortly after that many schools began recruiting black players.

"He took a school that had no reason to be a basketball giant and made it into one," Knight said.

Haskins said he wasn't trying to make a social statement with his lineup; he was simply starting his best players. The move, however, raised the ire of some who sent Haskins hate mail and even death threats during the racially charged era.

"When they won the national championship against the University of Kentucky, that changed college basketball," Sutton said. "At that time, there weren't many teams in the South or Southwest that had African-Americans playing. There was a change in the recruiting of the black athlete. It really changed after that. They've had a great impact on the game."

The coach always was focused on the game of basketball. He had a reputation for working his players hard.

"Don got more out of his teams and players than any coach who has ever coached college basketball," Knight said.

"Our practices wore us out so much that we'd have to rest up before the games," said Harry Floury, a starter in the 1966 championship. "If you work hard all the time and if you go after every loose ball, you see things like that (championship) happen."

Haskins is credited with helping Nate Archibald, Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis, among others, make it to the NBA.

In November 2000, Haskins was awarded the John Thompson Foundation's Outstanding Achievement Award during a tournament hosted by Arkansas.

"We couldn't think of anyone that deserves this recognition more than coach Haskins," said Nolan Richardson, the former Arkansas coach who played under Haskins for two years. "He opened the door for African-American players to play basketball."


09-07-2008, 08:16 PM
A true hero who will not be forgotten........

09-07-2008, 08:21 PM
Good guy. College basketball wouldn't be where it is without him. RIP. Well done .

09-07-2008, 09:32 PM
Good guy. College basketball wouldn't be where it is without him. RIP. Well done .

Don Haskins was one of the best. Everyone has probably seen Glory Road. Great movie. If you really want to know more about this man read the book Glory Road. Some great stuff about him that the movie does not show.

09-07-2008, 10:13 PM

09-08-2008, 10:36 AM
Before Gonzaga rose from the Mid-majors to National power, Don did the same with UTEP. I was sad to hear about his death. While I liked the movie Glory Road. I think it did hollywoodized what he accomplished. Form a smal school out in the desert, Don coached players like Tim Haradaway, Nate Archibald, Jim Barnes, Nolan Richardson. All the whle, he had to fight what Gonzaga has to fight, an inbuilt dislike of the little guy by the power conferences. He face the same problems, In the NCAA tournament, the would place UTEP against other smaller powers, making them play far from home close the the other guys gym. Making Gonzaga play Davidson on what amounts to a homecourt is nothing new. Through it all, the Bear (as he was known) kept winning. One of his biggest marks that is not talked about much and more is his use of three guard attack. He chose to start his all black line up in the '66 championship because the though Rupp would not be prepared for a three guard lineup. (No one had use in such a big game.) When Bobby Jo Hill kept stealing the ball from Pat Reilly, a new era was born, where quickness became as import as size. RIP Bear.

UTEP grad and now Zag fan


Visit beingandfaith.blogspot.com

09-09-2008, 03:07 AM
The Bear was one of a kind. I grew up in El Paso and was a soph in h/s in '66. Back then there was not the TV presence like today so many games were enjoyed on the radio. But some times they would show the games late at night on "delay" so my buds and I would often not listen to the radio so we could watch them later and not know the outcome. Those were great times that I shall cherish for the rest of my life. The Bear gave me my love for basketball.

09-11-2008, 08:43 PM
Thousands of people filled the Don Haskins Center on Thursday night to remember the basketball coach in a memorial service that took on the atmosphere of a college game.

The arena's television screens showed a 1997 roast of Haskins, known to the basketball world as "The Bear" and to fans and players as simply "Coach," while a spotlight shone on the 1966 NCAA national championship banner.

The scoreboard was lit up with the final score of that game—Texas Western College, 72, Kentucky 65—as it was during a public viewing for Haskins on Tuesday....

The Texas-El Paso marching band was on hand and former referee Irv Brown even stood guard with a whistle to cut off speakers who went over their allotted time in a service that was expected to last three hours.

Former players, coaches and others praised Haskins for his dedication to his players and offered censored versions of stories of a coach known as much for his skill as his colorful language.

"Coach Haskins lived to be a winner not just in the Xs and Os," said Nevil Shed, one of Haskins' starters on the 1966 team. "And he instilled in us that on the court you had to do your best, but after all this basketball you have to be a winner in life. Each and every one of his players still has a good portion of Coach Haskins in them."

Shed, the first to get the foul whistle from Brown, recalled fondly that while there were times—mostly in the midst of seemingly endless practice—he hated Haskins he's a better man for having played for him. "I can always say I thank God for my mother and father and I can say thank God for Don Haskins and all he did for me," Shed said....