Legendary college basketball coach Don Haskins died of congestive heart failure on Sunday afternoon. Most college kids know about the man known as "The Bear" from the movie Glory Road, which portrays the events leading up to Texas Western's groundbreaking national championship in 1966. But, there's a lot more to learn from The Bear's career than what can fit neatly into a Disney movie so, without further ado, we present to you 10 lessons every college student can learn from Don Haskins' life.
1. You can make a statement without being political
Nolan Richardson, who played two seasons for Haskins, said his coach "was never political." Despite this, Haskins made the most profound and lasting statement any college basketball coach has made by starting five black basketball players in the 1966 NCAA basketball championship game.
2. Whatever it is you do, don't just do it for the money
Over his 38-year career in El Paso, Haskins had multiple opportunities to coach at bigger college programs and in the pros, but he turned down every offer, choosing instead to stay at UTEP, where he was one of the lowest paid but most successful coaches in the WAC.
3. Learn to hunt coyotes
If you're going to follow your heart and not your checking account, you'll surely live a fuller life, but you'll also need to weather the lean times. If you hunt coyotes, as Haskins did, you'll be fine. Back in the '90s, when the Miners were struggling, Haskins would supplement his income by hunting coyotes and selling the pelts for 75 bucks a pop.
4. History doesn't matter
Texas Western was not a basketball powerhouse before Haskins arrived, but The Bear was unphased by past precedent. Preaching hard work and tenacious defense, he took a tiny school in the middle of nowhere and led it to 719 wins and a national championship.
5. Forget your practice plan
Haskins was all about taking things one step at a time. He never had a lesson plan because he knew he wouldn't use it. But his practices were thorough, to say the least, and he'd spend hours having his players repeat the same drill over and over again.
6. Only time will tell
After Haskins started five black players in the national championship game against Kentucky, it seemed like everyone was against him. He received 40,000 hate letters, many from those upset about the desegregation of college basketball, but also some from civil rights activists who accused him of exploiting black athletes. In the end, history would prove Haskins a pioneer and the others ignorant, confused or both.
7. Old school can give rise to new school
Known as The Bear for his gruff demeanor, Haskins was about as old-school as they come. He hunted and fished and drove a pick-up truck. He preached fundamentals and ran his teams hard. His favorite city was Laramie, Wyoming. Yet, ironically, the modern game of college basketball emerged from this conservative mold.
8. Sometimes winning is the right thing to do
Haskins has always maintained he didn't start five black players in the championship game because they were black, but rather because they were the best five players he had. And, above all else, Haskins wanted to win.
9. Be versatile but always play defense
Haskins' teams were not known for a particular style of play (except for tough-nosed defense and tenacious rebounding). That's because the Miners would always adapt to best take advantage of their opponents' weaknesses.
10. Never lose your sense of humor
Once, during a game at Arizona State, Haskins walked out to the free-throw line while play was going on at the other end of the court. He nailed two free throws and returned to his coach's seat on the bench. When the ref asked what the hell he was doing, Haskins quipped: "Just shooting the two free throws we should've gotten when we were down on this end the last time."
Jacob E. Osterhout writes the Dean's List every Monday for SIOC. Contact him at Jacob.Osterhout@gmail.com.