Don Haskins, one of the greatest coaches in college basketball history, died on Sept. 7, 2008 of congestive heart failure. He was 78.
Haskins died at his home surrounded by friends and family.
"It is a very sad time for all of us," UTEP Director of Athletics Bob Stull said when Haskins died. "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."
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."
"I remember the first time I met him, I was kind of scared," Tim Hardaway told the El Paso Times in 2008 after Haskins' death. "I was looking into the eyes of 'The Bear' and I was mumbling, but after the meeting, I thought 'he wasn't that bad.' As a coach, he was great coach, but he was a better person."
Read more about Don Haskins at the El Paso Times special section here.
In 2010, UTEP hired Tim Floyd, an assistant coach for Haskins from 1978-'86, to be the Miners' new head coach.
As a tribute to Haskins, Floyd had one of the Bear's ties in his jacket pocket for every game of his last season as coach at USC. He was given the tie by Haskins widow, Mary Haskins.
Floyd paid tribute to Haskins at the opening game of the 2010 season against Pacific by wearing a clip-on tie and immediately taking it off before the game started, just as Haskins used to do.
Floyd has also carried on other aspects of Haskins' coaching philosophy, including not having names on the backs of jerseys and adapting the style of offense to the players he has.
"So much of what we do is talk team, team, team, team, team," Floyd said in 2010 after he was hired, which was what Haskins used to always talk about.
Haskins 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.