Basketball pioneer Haskins dies
Don Haskins, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, died Sunday at the age of 78.
Haskins died at his home, surrounded by friends and family, at 6:30 p.m. A public memorial in El Paso, Texas, is tentatively planned for later in the week, with arrangements pending.
Haskins, who was nicknamed “The Bear,” was the head coach at UTEP from 1961-99, leading the Miners to 719 wins, seven Western Athletic Conference championships, 14 NCAA tournament appearances and the national title in 1966.
Haskins, who announced his retirement in August 1999, ranks 19th among Division I men’s basketball coaches in career victories.
He took over the UTEP program for the 1961-62 season and led the Miners to an 18-6 record. His second team posted a 19-7 mark and earned the first of Haskins’ 14 NCAA postseason berths.
The Miners captured the NCAA title on March 19, 1966, shocking heavily favored Kentucky, 72-65, in the championship game. That year Haskins became the first coach to start a lineup of five black players at the major college level. The achievement was documented in the 2006 motion picture “Glory Road.”
“He is the coach that I will always measure other coaches against,” said Harry Flournoy, one of the starters on the NCAA title team, in the El Paso Times. “His love for the players, his ability to create, his listening, his presence … I have not found a coach that has measured up to him. He had strong beliefs about life, and he transferred that to the game. Everything I do is as a result of him. He taught me everything I know.”
Current UTEP coach Tony Barbee added: “It’s a sad day. Not just for the basketball world but for the human race. If there were more men like coach Haskins, we wouldn't have some of the problems we have. He was a great man.”
Haskins’ teams captured WAC championships in 1970, 1983-87 and 1992. The Miners advanced to the NCAA tournament in 1963-64, 1966-67, 1970, 1975, 1984-90 and 1992.
Haskins’ last Miner team notched a 16-12 record during the 1998-99 season, his 32nd winning season in 38 years as head coach.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.
Haskins was born March 14, 1930, in Enid, Oklahoma. He played collegiately at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State) from 1949-52, where he was a second team all-conference selection as a senior. Haskins split time at the guard and forward positions, helping Oklahoma A&M to the NCAA semifinals in 1949 and 1951.
His coaching career began at Benjamin (Texas) High School in 1955. He was a teacher and coach of both boys’ and girls’ teams there from 1955-56. Haskins also headed the basketball programs at Hedley (Texas) High School from 1956-60 and Dumas (Texas) High School in 1960-61.
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