Historical Figure: Don Haskins

By: Bryce Boyd

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Picture via The University of Texas El Paso <http://ia.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=34413>


Don Haskins coached for 38 years at Texas Western University ( now known as University of Texas at El Paso or UTEP). He spent his entire college coaching career at Texas Western and is credited with being a major influence in breaking college basketball's race barrier. When Texas Western played in the 1966 National Championship game against Kentucky, Haskins started five African-American players, which was unheard of at the time (Kentucky started five white players). Haskins claims he "just played his best players" but when Texas Western upset heavily favored Kentucky, coaches across the country started giving both black and white players chances to play.

Haskins' Upbringing

Don Haskins was born and raised in Enid, Oklahoma. Haskins was born during the Great Depression and during the "Dust Bowl," so he had a tough childhood. He had to work in order to help support his family at a feed store, where he met an African-American boy by the name of Herman Carr. Enid during this time was segregated but overall there was not a whole lot of racism it was just the blacks would do their work and lived on one side of town and the whites would do their work and stay on the other side of town. Haskins was always passionate about basketball even though he was also a great baseball player and he and Herman became better friends through basketball as they played together when they were not working. Haskins believed Herman was better than him. Haskins attended Enid High School and eventually became a star basketball player, under Coach Dale Holt, and was given lots of attention and scholarship offers. Herman attended Booker T. Washington High School where he thrived but was giving neither media publicity nor scholarship offers. Haskins knew that this was unjust. Haskins eventually would achieve his dream of receiving a scholarship to play basketball at Oklahoma A&M under Coach Henry Iba.

This upbringing influenced Haskins in becoming the fair, hardworking, and humble man the world knows him as today.

Haskins' Life Influences

Mr. Iba: Haskins' college basketball coach at Oklahoma A&M, Haskins would base a lot of his coaching methods based off what he learned from Mr. Iba always valuing hardwork and discipline. Haskins would also assist Mr. Iba in coaching the US national team

Herman Carr: Haskins' childhood friend, taught Haskins' a lot of about basketball through their one-on-one games and also influenced Haskins' view of African-Americans as he saw the struggles Herman faced in life Haskins' saw the struggles African-Americans in general faced and knew it was not right.

Coach Holt: Haskins' high school basketball coach, helped Haskins' with his shooting form while also teaching him the hardwork and perseverance that Haskins would exhibit for the rest of his life.

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Don Haskins (left) and Mr. Iba (right) coaching the US National Basketball Team

Picture via bulls.com <http://www.nba.com/bulls/news/bach_feature_040203.html>

Don Haskins' Motivation

Don Haskins was an ultra competitive man. Whether he was coaching basketball, playing basketball, or playing any other game he always wanted to win. So when he went to coach at Texas Western he wanted, desperately, to lead his team to victory. In order to accomplish this goal Haskins' recruited any player he thought could help the team win, and because of his upbringing and the fact that El Paso, Texas was an accepting place, race was not a factor in his recruiting. Haskins' also wanted to give players a chance to succeed. Some of the players he recruited from New York and other places would not be given a fair chance or would not be given a chance at all to gain a college education if they were not playing basketball, so Haskins' knowing this would try to help players who would not be admitted to other colleges, because of factors they could not control, play at Texas Western or other schools so that they may have a chance to succeed. Overall Haskins' was motivated by his competitive nature and his fairness in believing that everyone should be given a chance to be successful.

"That left a lasting mark on me. Here was a person who bled the same color as I did, yet he was treated differently. That's why it was very, very easy for me to treat all of my players the exact same regardless of what they looked like."

College Basketball National Championship

Saturday, March 19th 1966 at 10pm

4095 Union Lane

College Park, MD

Texas Western vs. Kentucky

The Game: March 19, 1966 Texas Western vs. Kentucky

On March 19, 1966 Texas Western College faced the University of Kentucky for the college basketball national championship. In this game Don Haskins, the coach of Texas Western started five black players against Kentucky's all-white starting five. This was against the "unwritten rules" of the time that most coaches went by "two blacks at home, three on the road, and four when behind" but never five blacks on the court at once, especially at the start of a game. Haskins had "broken" this "rule" multiple times throughout the season but the National Championship game was the first time he got major attention for it. In the game Haskins only played his seven black players against Kentucky's all white team and the Texas Western Miners went on to win the game 72-65.
"And The Wheels Turned," a UTEP student produced documentary on the NCAA championship game of 1966

"I really did not think a thing about playing five black players to start the game -- they were our best players and deserved to start. But if I knew all the misery it was going to cause me in the weeks following the game, I'd have thought long and hard about it."

The Fallout Following the Texas Western Win

Following the game the people of El Paso were ecstatic that Texas Western had won the national championship as the town had really come together in supporting the team. But other people from around the nation did not share the same excitement. Rupp worked to downplay Texas Western's accomplishments during the season and tried to make Haskins appear as a racist instead of a fair man. Rupp claimed that Haskins was not helping the black players but instead was exploiting them. There were also articles written in Sports Illustrated that shared views similar to Rupp's. Haskins also received hate mail and because of all the negative press, recruiting became even more difficult. College basketball was not ready to completely abandon it's racist past, but then UCLA (an integrated powerhouse program) won seven straight national championships after Texas Western's and college basketball was officially integrated.

Haskins' Impact as an Activist

Don Haskins was an activist in that he worked for racial equality and wanted to make sure that the best players regardless of race were given opportunities to play. Haskins was passionate about basketball and when his childhood friend, Herman Carr, was forced to play at Army because that was the only place that was accepting of black players that really stuck with Haskins. So when he became a coach he wanted to win and he recruited the best players he could and the players' race was not a factor. Don Haskins success recruiting and winning with players of all races helped to break down the college basketball race barriers. Many college basketball programs only recruited white players during the 1960's but after seeing Haskins' success began to recruit any player they thought could help their team regardless of race. Haskins' promoted his cause through his daily actions of treating all his players the same, yelling and disciplining all of them equally. He also broke the "unwritten laws" of college basketball at the time, by playing five black players at once. Haskins' actions upset some people and during road trips his players would face racial slurs and other intimidation tactics from opposing fans. Haskins and his family also received lots of threats and hate mail. During this modern time period (the 2000's) since race is not as much of an issue Haskins would be a strong advocate of immigration and allowing more Hispanics to become United States citizens. Haskins lived in El Paso and he interacted with Hispanics on a regular basis and saw that many were hardworking and would be a great part of the American workforce and Haskins would want for them to be given the chance.


In the article "Don Haskins: The Man Who Won More Than Games," by JW Nix, the author details how Don Haskins truly had a positive impact on basketball and the lives of countless student-athletes. Haskins coaching achievements are incredible with over 700 wins, a national championship and 34 winning seasons, but even more impressive is Don Haskins the person. Nix points out how Haskins did not see race as an issue and instead preferred to treat all people the same, even if it meant upsetting a lot of people by breaking racial norms in arguably the biggest game of his career. Haskins was not going to change for anybody and stood tall through all the backlash he received. Overall, Nix points out, Don Haskins was his own man and he was a competitor. He was not going to let something such as petty racism get in the way of his true goals as coach; winning and positively impacting the lives of players.
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Political Cartoon ^^

For my political cartoon I decided to keep it simple as Haskins was a simple man and his message of fairness and treating everyone the same is overall simple, yet impactful. The cartoon depicts a jump ball in basketball, which is how each basketball game begins. The jump ball also represents fairness as the ref tosses the ball up between the two players, each with an equal chance of tipping the ball so that their team can gain position. Also in the cartoon their is a hand representing a white player on the left and a hand representing a black player on the right, to depict the race issue that was present in basketball and society in general in the 1960's. Finally in the cartoon there is a basketball which is much larger in proportion to the hands than it would be in real life, this is to display how Haskins valued winning more than he valued keeping racial norms. The game of basketball as a whole is bigger than just the races of the players playing it. This is what Haskins realized and so he treated all players the same and in doing so he showed other coaches across the country how to do the same. And then the impact continued to spread helping to ease racial tensions across the country.

Haskins' in modern times (Compare/Contrast)

What if Don Haskins was a coach in the 2000's or the modern day? First off he would have to change his coaching style a bit as he was known for grueling practices and practicing often at anytime he saw fit. The NCAA now has rules about how much a team can practice and also requires water breaks which Haskins did not necessarily encourage. But what if Haskins had started five African-American players and gone on to play only his seven black players in a national championship game? In the 2000's this would be no big deal, because now basketball is integrated. Haskins actions in the 1960's have resulted in, now starting five African-American players being acceptable. In modern times the majority of coaches start the players that they believe will give them the best chance to win the game, just as Haskins did in 1966. But instead of getting a mixed response from the public filled with positive recognition from some and hate mail from others, if Haskins did this in modern day Haskins would be just another college coach trying to win games. He could have had just as much success as a coach and been a less polarizing figure. Overall Haskins would have enjoyed coaching in the 2000's so he could focus on putting players on the court to help the team and not having to worry about race.

If I had Haskins' skills...

Now if I had Don Haskins' coaching and people skills I would be successful coaching in the 2000's. Haskins' was a fair man and was an excellent coach who would have success in any era. So if I had his skills in the 2000's I would adopt the cause to make sure student athletes were well- educated. Since race in basketball in the 2000's is not much of a problem I would not worry about it as much and instead would focus on the educational issues facing some NCAA student-athletes. Some of the athletes do not go to class or are given grades they do not deserve, as a coach this would be a problem for me. I would first make sure my players went to class and that each one of them was working on getting their degree regardless of their plans after college, because a college degree can open up so many opportunities for student-athletes. I would also encourage other coaches to follow suit and with Haskins' skills i know i would be successful.

Glory Road Book Trailer

Glory Road Book Trailer

Book Review

"Glory Road" was a wonderful book which provided wonderful insight about the life of Don Haskins. Detailing everything from his childhood growing up in Oklahoma, to his first coaching stints and finally the great 1966 championship run with the Texas Western Miners. The book is also packed with Haskins' anecdotes and quotes from key figures from Haskins' life. Overall this book is excellent in it shows Haskins' had more of an influence besides the 1966 championship game and being a great coach. Don Haskins was also a great human being and "Glory Road" really highlights this.
Glory Road (2006) Official Trailer # 1 - Josh Lucas HD

Don Haskins' American Experience

Don Haskins in his life embodied the full American experience. Starting with his childhood, he survived the Great Depression and the dust bowl. Then he went on to pursue his passion of playing basketball and play at his dream school Oklahoma A&M. Haskins continued his journey after college coaching high school sports and finishing up his degree, all while still pursuing his dream of becoming a college basketball head coach. He then achieved this goal when he became the coach at Texas Western. Finally he won the a National Championship, the greatest honor a college team and coach can get and changed the landscape of the game forever making it acceptable for people of all races to be recruited and play college sports. His impact is still seen today as college sports are much more diverse, now even players from Europe and Asia come to play college sports in the United States and this all started with Don Haskins and his 1966 Texas Western team.