Legendary UTEP Coach Don Haskins Passes Away
Sept. 7, 2008
• Events Planned to Honor Coach Haskins
EL PASO, TEXAS - Don Haskins, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, passed away on Sunday. He was 78.
Haskins died at his home, surrounded by friends and family, at 4:30 p.m. MDT. A public memorial is set for Thursday.
"It is a very sad time for all of us," UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull said. "Don is an icon of El Paso. He has had a huge impact on the city and the University of Texas at El Paso. Since his retirement, he has remained very interested in our entire athletic program and supportive of all of our coaches. He has been an invaluable resource to everybody in the athletic department. He remains one of the most revered and honored coaches in basketball history. His decision to start five black players in the 1966 national championship game, as chronicled in the movie Glory Road, changed college basketball and the sports world. He will always be remembered for that."
"My thoughts and prayers go out to Mary and the Haskins family," UTEP coach Tony Barbee said. "We are losing a national treasure. I am very fortunate to have had the opportunity to get to know him over the last two years. The information he shared with me was invaluable to a first-time head coach. He is a Hall of Fame coach and a Hall of Fame person. It's sad to think that we're losing someone so special to this community and this university, and a national hero at the same time."
Haskins, who was nicknamed "The Bear," was the head coach at UTEP from 1961-99, leading the Miners to 719 wins, as well as a national title (1966), 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and seven Western Athletic Conference championships.
CBS Sportsline.com named him the greatest Division I men's basketball coach of all time in July, 2001. "UTEP -- with no recruiting base, no media attention and substandard budgets -- had no business winning much of anything," said sports columnist Dan Wetzel. "No coach did more with less, maximized his talent and made strange parts fit better than The Bear."
Haskins, who announced his retirement on Aug. 24, 1999, ranks 19th among all-time Division I men's basketball head coaches with 719 victories.
He was born on March 14, 1930 in Enid, Okla. He played his college ball 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 as a collegian, leading Oklahoma A&M to the NCAA semifinals in 1949 and 1951.
Haskins' coaching career began at Benjamin High School in Benjamin, Texas in 1955. He was a teacher and coach of both boys and girls teams at Benjamin High from 1955-56. Haskins also headed the basketball programs at Hedley (Texas) High School from 1956-60 and Dumas (Texas) High School from 1960 -61.
Haskins took over the UTEP program for the 1961-62 season. His first Miner squad notched an 18-6 record. His second UTEP team posted a 19-7 mark during the 1962-63 campaign and made the first of Haskins' 14 NCAA Tournament appearances.
The Miners captured the NCAA title on March 19, 1966, shocking heavily-favored Kentucky, 72-65, for the championship. That year Haskins became the first coach ever to start a lineup of five black players at the major college level. The achievement was documented in the 2006 motion picture Glory Road.
Haskins' teams captured WAC championships in 1970, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987 and 1992, and advanced to the NCAA Tournament in 1963, 1964, 1966, 1967, 1970, 1975, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1988, 1989, 1990 and 1992.
Haskins has tutored numerous players who have gone on to play in the NBA, including Antonio Davis, Tim Hardaway and Jim Barnes, the first pick by New York in the 1964 NBA Draft.
Haskins' last Miner team notched a 16-12 record during the 1998-99 season, his 32nd winning season in 38 years as head coach.
Haskins was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 29, 1997, and the Jim Thorpe Association Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Aug. 9, 1999 in Oklahoma City.
He is survived by his wife, Mary; three sons - Brent, David and Steve; and three grandsons. A fourth son, Mark, passed away in 1994.