Don Haskins became coach of the Texas Western College men’s basketball team during the 1961-62 season.
The civil rights movement to end discrimination against blacks was in full swing. Although the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education decision and the Civil Rights Act of 1964 outlawed institutional racial segregation, it was still common to find all-white college sports teams, particularly in the South.
He was born on March 14, 1930 in Enid, Okla. He played college basketball 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, who announced his retirement on Aug. 24, 1999, ranks 19th among all-time Division I men’s basketball head coaches with 719 victories.
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.
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.
Don Haskins, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, passed away on Sunday, Sept. 7, 2008. He was 78.
He is survived by his wife, Mary; three sons – Brent, David and Steve; and three grandsons. A fourth son, Mark, passed away in 1994.
Mrs. Don Haskins
Mary Haskins shares her perspective on moving to El Paso, her husband’s early years as a coach, the road to the 1966 championship game and how the aftermath affected him.