Sept. 10, 2008, editorial: A career well spent

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TOPIC: Death of Don Haskins OUR VIEW: He changed college basketball

By The Staff

As far as wins and national championships go, Don Haskins may not be in the same category as some of the elite college basketball coaches of today.

But his impact on the game has been felt way beyond wins, losses and championships.

Haskins died Sunday afternoon at the age of 78.

He will be known by many as a hard-driving coach who worked his players to their limits.

He will be known by those in college basketball inner circles and out as the one coach who played and recruited the best players he could find — regardless of the color of their skin.

During the 1965-66 season, Haskins guided Texas Western (now Texas-El Paso) to an improbable season, capped off by winning the national championship over the University of Kentucky and legendary head coach Adolph Rupp.

Haskins did it by starting five black players against Kentucky’s all-white starting lineup. It was a groundbreaking move.

During that racially charged era, Haskins received hate mail and even death threats for his decision, according to the Associated Press. He said he wasn’t trying to make a social statement with his decision; he just wanted to put the best players he had on the floor.

They all were black.

Social statement or not, Haskins changed the game of basketball and, more importantly, the lives of many black student-athletes who previously were unwelcome to play the game on college campuses around the country.

That decision opened doors.

Haskins finished his 38-year coaching career at Texas Western/UTEP in 1999 with a 719-353 record and as a Hall of Famer.

That honor was deserved as much for the courage he showed during the 1966 season as for all his wins on the court.

This editorial represents a consensus of The News-Enterprise editorial board: R. Chris Ordway, Warren Wheat, Sarah Reddoch, Jeff D'Alessio, Michelle McGuffin, Kendra Stewart and Holly Tabor.