Don Haskins, The Hall of Fame college basketball coach who died Sept. 7 at age 78, wasn't unique. That's too broad a term. He was a pure gold original. There will never be another like Don.
"The Bear" won 719 games at the University of Texas--El Paso (UTEP), none more famous than the 1966 NCAA title game. Don was the first coach to start five black players in the championship, and Texas Western, as UTEP was then known, upset an all-white Kentucky team.
There's a myth, perpetuated by the press and the 2006 Disney movie Glory Road, that it took exceptional courage for Don to start an all-black team. Not really. It took a guy who didn't care about colors. He would have started five white kids or five Chinese kids if that gave him the best chance to win. Don's legacy is that he played the game the way he thought it should be played, without prejudice.
One time, my Indiana team played UTEP and--surprise--I got ejected after arguing with a referee. As I walked past Don, he looked straight ahead and said, "You put up with that crap a lot longer than I would have. See you after the game." That's Don--always a friend.
In my lifetime, there was no coach I respected more than Don. UTEP had no reason to be a national power. When Don arrived, West Texas wasn't really interested in basketball. Hell, they played in a rickety-ass gym. No coach in the history of college basketball did more with a given situation than Don Haskins, and he did it for 38 years.
Knight is the winningest coach in Division I basketball history