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Fri, 03.14.1930

Don Haskins born

Don Haskins

*Don Haskins was born on this date in 1930.  He was a white-American college basketball coach. 

From Enid, Oklahoma, he was nicknamed "The Bear" and from 1949 – 1952, played college basketball for three years under coach Henry Iba at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University).  After college and a stint with the Amateur Athletic Union's Artesia Travelers, Haskins began coaching small-town Texas high schools (Benjamin, Hedley and Dumas) from 1955 to 1961. He took a pay cut for a chance to be a college coach, accepting a job offer at Texas Western College—now known as the University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) in 1961. 

In the 1950s, prior to Haskins' arrival, Texas Western recruited and played Black players, in a time when it was still common to find all-white college sports teams, particularly in the South. When Haskins arrived in El Paso, he inherited three Black players from his coaching predecessor. One of those players, El Paso native Nolan Richardson, later won the 1994 NCAA Men's Division I Basketball Tournament as the head coach at Arkansas.  In 1961–62, Haskins' first season as head coach, the Miners had an 18–6 record. the next year they posted a 19–7 mark and made the first of 14 NCAA Tournament appearances under Haskins. They again reached the NCAA Tournament in 1964 and played in the NIT in 1965.

On numerous occasions, Haskins stated that he believed his 1964 team could have won the NCAA Tournament had All-American Jim Barnes not fouled out after playing only eight minutes in a 64–60 loss to Kansas State in the tournament.   

The Texas Western Miners finished the 1965–66 regular season with a 23–1 record, entering the NCAA Tournament ranked third in the nation in the final regular season AP college basketball poll.  In the first round of the tournament, the Miners defeated Oklahoma City 89–74. In the next round, they defeated Cincinnati 78–76 in overtime. They went on to defeat Kansas in double overtime in the Midwest Regional Finals, 81–80, and to defeat Utah in the national semifinals, 85–78.  Facing the top-ranked University of Kentucky in the championship game, Haskins made history by starting five Black players for the first time in a championship game against Kentucky's all-white squad, coached by Adolph Rupp. The Miners took the lead midway in the first half and never relinquished it — though Kentucky closed to within a point early in the second half. The Miners finished with 72 points to Kentucky's 65, winning the tournament and finishing the year with a 28–1 record.   

Later asked about his decision to start five Black players, Haskins downplayed the significance of his decision. "I really didn't think about starting five black guys. I just wanted to put my five best guys on the court," Haskins was later quoted as saying. "I just wanted to win that game."  Though credited with advancing the desegregation of college basketball teams in the South, he wrote in his book, Glory Road, "I certainly did not expect to be some racial pioneer or to change the world."  In his time at Texas Western/UTEP, he compiled a 719–353 record, suffering only five losing seasons. He won 14 Western Athletic Conference championships and four WAC tournament titles, had fourteen NCAA tournament berths and made seven trips to the NIT. Haskins led UTEP to 17 20-plus-win seasons and served as an assistant Olympic team coach in 1972.

Although Haskins was never able to duplicate his 1966 success, he is nonetheless regarded as an important figure in basketball history. Among the players he coached at UTEP over the years were future NBA all-stars Nate Archibald, Tim Hardaway, and Antonio Davis. Other UTEP alums moving to the NBA included Marlon Maxey and Greg Foster. He was also a mentor for several future coaches, including Nolan Richardson and Tim Floyd.   

He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997 as a basketball coach. His 1966 team was inducted in its entirety by the same Hall of Fame on September 7, 2007. A street is named after him in El Paso's East side. The arena he coached in is now known as "The Don Haskins Center". Bob Knight was Haskins' fishing partner and one of his best friends. Another good friend, Norm Ellenberger, is former coach of the New Mexico Lobos.  In 1997, he was inducted into the Oklahoma Sports hall of Fame.   Don Haskins died on September 7, 2008. 

To become a Coach


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