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Don Haskins
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Don Haskins

Donald Haskins (born March 14, 1930 in Enid, Oklahoma) is an American former collegiate basketball coach. He was the head coach at Texas Western College (now the University of Texas at El Paso) from 1961 to 1999, including the 1966 season when that school's basketball team won the NCAA basketball championship over the Wildcats of the University of Kentucky, then coached by hoops legend Adolph Rupp.

This event had societal implications well above its sporting ones. Texas Western had been recruiting and playing African American players in the 1950s, when no schools in the Southeastern Conference or the former Southwest Conference would offer them athletic scholarships. When Haskins arrived in El Paso, he had inherited one black player, future Arkansas coach Nolan Richardson, from his coaching predecessor. Haskins recruited and played black players to an even greater extent. Rupp, conversely, was largely regarded as being a supporter of segregation, or at least very reluctant to recruit black players. The game was played on national television, and to the confoundment of pundits, Haskins chose to play an all-black starting lineup; the team defeated Rupp's all-white one. (However, the game was not as large an upset as was often depicted after the fact; Texas Western was in the top five of that season's final polls.)

This game did much to change the perception of African-American athletes and to speed the desegregation of intercollegiate sports. It probably hastened the name change of Texas Western College as well; because of the basketball team, many persons erroneously concluded that Texas Western was an historically black college, perhaps confusing it with Texas Southern University. In any event, the school's name was changed to the Univerisity of Texas at El Paso the next year.

Haskins coached at UTEP for many years after his historic championship season, with general success, but never came truly close to repeating the team's 1966 performance. He is regarded, however, as one of the important figures in the history of basketball due to his courage to face its racial issues directly. He was elected to the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997.

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