Don Haskins

Don Haskins
Don Haskins
Sport(s) Basketball
Biographical details
Born March 14, 1930(1930-03-14)
Place of birth Enid, Oklahoma
Died September 7, 2008(2008-09-07) (aged 78)
Place of death El Paso, Texas
Playing career
1949-52 Oklahoma A&M
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
Texas Western/UTEP
United States (asst.)
Head coaching record
Overall 719–353 (.671)
Accomplishments and honors
NCAA Tournament Championship (1966)
WAC Tournament Championship (1984, 1986, 1989, 1990)
WAC Championship (1970, 1983, 1984, 1985, 1986, 1987, 1992)
Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 1997
College Basketball Hall of Fame
Inducted in 2006

Donald Lee Haskins, nicknamed "The Bear" (March 14, 1930 – September 7, 2008), was an American collegiate basketball coach and player. He played for three years under legendary coach Henry Iba at Oklahoma A&M (now Oklahoma State University). He was the head coach at Texas Western College (renamed the University of Texas at El Paso in 1967) from 1961 to 1999, including the 1966 season when his team won the NCAA Tournament over the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky, coached by coaching great Adolph Rupp.

In his time at Texas Western, he compiled a 719–353 record, suffering only five losing seasons. He won 14 Western Athletic Conference championships, 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.[1]

He was enshrined into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997 as a basketball coach. The 1966 team was nominated in its entirety to the Basketball Hall of Fame, and was inducted to the Hall on September 7, 2007.

Haskins died at his home on September 7, 2008. He is survived by his wife, Mary; three sons Brent, David and Steve and three grandsons, John Paul, Cameron and Dominick. A fourth son, Mark, died in 1994. His son Steve is a professional golfer who has won two events on the Nationwide Tour. El Paso radio stations have dedicated "I Put On (For My City)" by Young Jeezy Ft. Kanye West as a city-wide respect for Haskins.[citation needed]


Early coaching career

After college and a stint with the Amateur Athletic Union’s Artesia Travelers, Haskins began coaching, successfully leading some small-town high school basketball teams. He took a pay cut for a chance to be a college coach, accepting a job offer at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) in 1961.[2]

In the 1950s, prior to Haskins' arrival, Texas Western recruited and played African American players, in a time when it was still common to find all-white college sports teams, particularly in the South.[3] When Haskins arrived in El Paso, he inherited three black players from his coaching predecessor (one of those players, El Paso native Nolan Richardson, would go on to win a national title as the head coach at Arkansas).

The Miners reached the NCAA Tournament in 1963 and 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 "Bad News" Barnes not fouled out after playing only 8 minutes in a 64–60 loss to Kansas State in the Tournament.

1966 NCAA Championship team

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.[4]

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.[5]

Facing the top-ranked University of Kentucky in the championship game, Haskins made history by starting five African American 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.[6]

Later asked about his decision to start five African American 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."[7]

Though credited with setting in motion 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 change the world."

Also, in his book, he wrote: "I've said this many times over the last 40 years, but for a long time I thought winning the national championship was the worst thing ever to happen to me. I wished for a long time that we had never won that game with Kentucky because life would have been a heck of a lot easier for me, my school and my players."[8]

Texas Western's 1966 Championship Game Roster:

Texas Western College Miners FG FT RB F Pts
Bobby Joe Hill* 7-17 6-9 3 3 20
David Lattin* 5-10 6-6 9 4 16
Orsten Artis* 5-13 5-5 8 1 15
Willie Worsley* 2-4 4-6 4 0 8
Willie Cager 1-3 6-7 6 3 8
Nevil Shed 1-1 1-1 3 1 3
Harry Flournoy*+ 1-1 0-0 2 0 2
Totals 22-49 28-34 35 12 72

*Denotes Starter
+Denotes Injury

Frank Fitzpatrick, a sportswriter for The Philadelphia Inquirer and author of a 1999 book on the championship game, And the Walls Came Tumbling Down: Kentucky, Texas Western and the Game That Changed American Sports (ISBN 978-0-80-326901-9), wrote in a 2003 piece on the team,

But even as the jubilant Miners celebrated a new set of myths was emerging. Rupp's lingering bitterness helped paint the Miners as urban street thugs, quasi-professionals imported from Northern cities to win Haskins a championship.[9]

A decade after the game, James A. Michener took several swipes at the team in his book Sports in America, calling the game "one of the most wretched [stories] in the history of American sports" and saying that the Miners were "loose-jointed ragamuffins. Hopelessly outclassed [by Rupp's Kentucky program]."[9] Michener's criticism proved to be far from reality.

In the historic game, Texas Western played only its seven black players. Four of the seven – Cager, Flournoy, Shed, and Worsley – earned degrees. The remaining three left college a semester or less from graduation, and went on to their respective careers—Artis as a Gary, Indiana police officer; Hill in sales, eventually rising to senior buyer for a natural gas company; and Lattin as an NBA draftee for the San Francisco Warriors, and then in business management, currently as an executive with a liquor distributor. In contrast, though it was not mentioned until decades later, four of Kentucky's five starters, including stars Louie Dampier and Pat Riley, had still not earned degrees by the mid-1970s.[9]

Post-Championship Career

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 served as an assistant coach under Hank Iba in the 1972 Summer Olympics in Munich.

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, former head coach at Army, Texas Tech and Indiana was Haskins' fishing partner, and one of his best friends. Another good friend, Norm Ellenberger is former coach of the New Mexico Lobos.

Glory Road

Glory Road, a film by Disney about the then-Texas Western 1966 championship season, was released on January 13, 2006. On November 29, 2005, the City of El Paso renamed the street between its two basketball arenas "Glory Road." Adolph Rupp, Jr., pointed out that his father had previously used the term "Glory Road" in his farewell speech to his fans and worried that his father would be villainized in the film. However Director Jim Gartner stated that Rupp Sr. would not be negatively portrayed in the film, claiming that Jon Voight, who played Rupp, was careful in his role, and sought not to mischaracterize Rupp as a racist.[10] Nevertheless, some dramatic license was taken such as a scene depicting Confederate flags being waved by UK fans. In fairness though, photographs exist of a number of UK fans in the upper bleachers waving a Confederate flag.[9]

Haskins stated his disappointment[11] at the cutting of the movie scenes of his one-on-one games with his boyhood friend Herman Carr, who is African-American. Carr was present in El Paso as a guest for the premiere screening, November 28, 2005. These scenes would have depicted a formative influence on Haskins' game of basketball. Haskins appeared in the movie as an "extra" by playing a gas station attendant.

Glory Road was produced by Jerry Bruckheimer, and was based upon Haskins' official autobiography written with Dan Wetzel, which was released by Hyperion Books in 2005. A national best seller, it was reprinted five times in its first four months of release and was selected as an "Editor's Choice" by the New York Times Book Review.


  • Haskins, Don with Dan Wetzel. Glory Road. New York:Hyperion, 2006. 254 pp. No index. ISBN 1-4013-0791-4. pen

Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Texas Western Miners (Border Conference) (1961–1962)
1961–1962 Texas Western 18–6 5–3 2nd
Texas Western (Border): 18–6 5–3
Texas Western Miners (Independent) (1962–1967)
1962–1963 Texas Western 19–7 NCAA 1st Round
1963–1964 Texas Western 25–3 NCAA 3rd Place
1964–1965 Texas Western 16–9 NIT 1st Round
1965–1966 Texas Western 28–1 NCAA Champion
1966–1967 Texas Western 22–6 NCAA 2nd Round
Texas Western (Independent): 110–26
UTEP Miners (Independent) (1967–1969)
1967–1968 UTEP 14–9
1968–1969 UTEP 16–9
UTEP (Independent): 30–18
UTEP (Western Athletic Conference) (1969–1999)
1969–1970 UTEP 17–8 10–4 1st
1970–1971 UTEP 16–10 9–5 T–2nd
1971–1972 UTEP 20–7 9–5 T–2nd NIT 1st Round
1972–1973 UTEP 16–10 6–8 5th
1973–1974 UTEP 18–7 8–6 5th
1974–1975 UTEP 20–6 10–4 2nd
1975–1976 UTEP 19–7 9–5 T–2nd
1976–1977 UTEP 11–15 3–11 8th
1977–1978 UTEP 10–15 2–12 8th
1978–1979 UTEP 11–15 3–9 T–5th
1979–1980 UTEP 20–8 10–4 T–2nd NIT 2nd Round
1980–1981 UTEP 18–12 9–7 4th NIT 2nd Round
1981–1982 UTEP 20–8 11–5 T–2nd
1982–1983 UTEP 19–10 11–5 T–1st NIT 1st Round
1983–1984 UTEP 27–4 13–3 1st NCAA 2nd Round
1984–1985 UTEP 22–10 12–4 1st NCAA 2nd Round
1985–1986 UTEP 27–6 12–4 T–1st NCAA 1st Round
1986–1987 UTEP 25–7 13–3 1st NCAA 2nd Round
1987–1988 UTEP 23–10 10–6 4th NCAA 1st Round
1988–1989 UTEP 26–7 11–5 T–2nd NCAA 2nd Round
1989–1990 UTEP 21–11 10–6 T–3rd NCAA 1st Round
1990–1991 UTEP 16–13 7–9 T–5th
1991–1992 UTEP 27–7 12–4 T–1st NCAA Sweet 16
1992–1993 UTEP 21–13 10–8 4th NIT 2nd Round
1993–1994 UTEP 18–12 8–10 T–5th
1994–1995 UTEP 20–10 13–5 T–2nd NIT 2nd Round
1995–1996 UTEP 12–16 4–14 9th
1996–1997 UTEP 13–13 6–10 T–6th (Mountain)
1997–1998 UTEP 12–14 3–13 7th (Mountain)
1998–1999 UTEP 16–12 8–6 4th (Pacific)
UTEP (WAC): 719–354 262–200
Total: 719–354

      National Champion         Conference Regular Season Champion         Conference Tournament Champion
      Conference Regular Season & Conference Tournament Champion       Conference Division Champion


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