Legendary former Texas Western men's basketball coach Don Haskins died Sunday at age 78. Haskins changed college basketball's landscape in 1966 when he started five black players against Adolf Rupp's all white Kentucky squad in the NCAA's National Championship game. At the time, few southern college basketball teams fielded black basketball players (although black players were common in the north). Starting five black players was revolutionary.
Tiny Texas Western's improbable National Championship victory over Rupp's Kentucky juggernaut changed college basketball forever. Don Haskins will be forever immortalized as the man who changed the game.
Haskins retired in 1999, after 38 years at Texas Western/UTEP (Texas Western became the University of Texas at El Paso) with a career record of 719-353. In addition to his 1966 National Championship, Haskins' Texas Western/UTEP teams went to fourteen NCAA tournaments and to seven NIT's. In retirement, Haskins briefly served as a special adviser for the NBA's Chicago Bulls.
Upon hearing of Haskins' passing, Bob Knight said:
"Don got more out of his teams and players than any coach who has ever coached college basketball..."
"The word unique does not begin to describe Don Haskins," Knight, the winningest men's coach in the sport's history, said Sunday. "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."
Texas Western's 1966 National Championship team is pictured below. Coach Haskins is in the top row, to the far right.