Don Haskins, a member of the Basketball Hall of Fame and the winning coach in one of the most significant games in college sports history, retired yesterday after 38 seasons at Texas-El Paso.
"This is it. I'm off the hot seat," the 69-year-old Haskins, known affectionately as "The Bear" for his burly physique, said before making the announcement in the Don Haskins Center, the arena renamed for him in 1997. Haskins looked out at a room packed with members of the media and said he was surprised his resignation drew such interest. With a 719-353 record, Haskins ranks 10th on the college career victory list. His teams won seven Western Athletic Conference titles and made 14 NCAA tournament appearances.
But it was the 1966 national championship game--when the school was still called Texas Western--that made Haskins part of sports and sociological history. Against top-ranked Kentucky, Haskins--who is white--sent out an all-black starting lineup against the all-white Wildcats. Texas Western won, 72-65, and the move that has been hailed as a turning point in the integration of college basketball led to Haskins receiving baskets of hate mail for the decision.
Haskins has had numerous health problems in recent years, including a mild heart attack during a game in 1996, which was followed by triple-bypass surgery.