Monday, September 8, 2008

The fall of a legend

Lost in the kickoff to the NFL season, Palin-mania and the VMAs was the death Sunday of legendary Texas-El Paso (known once as Texas Western College) hoops coach Don Haskins.

Haskins wasn't a legend merely because he won an NCAA title in 1966. No, Haskins was a legend and a pioneer and, to finally use the term correctly, a maverick, because of his decision to roll out a starting five of black players in the championship game that year against Kentucky.

Doesn't seem like such a big deal now. I mean, even the Boston Celtics look like the Harlem Globetrotters these days. But, 42 years ago, this was positively a slap in the face to those many, many proponents of Jim Crow. Keep in mind that some coaches, including Kentucky's Adolph Rupp, wouldn't even bother recruiting black players. And keep in mind that, even though El Paso is more southwestern than south, it was still in Texas.

That Haskins had the courage to challenge that sort of conventional thinking - even if it was ultimately to the benefit of his Hall of Fame career - speaks to a man well ahead of his time.

Even if Haskins never coached another game in his life, that would have been enough to make him a legend in these eyes. He will definitely be missed.


Anonymous said...

Very educational, considering my ignorance to this guy's relevance in history. nice post.

blackink said...

Thanks for the good word, Cami.

Not sure how much you're interested but there's a Disneyfied movie about Haskins' title team, "Glory Road."

There's plenty of recognizable actors in the movie, not to mention "Hitz from the Streets," who portrays one of the team members.