Today Is The Fifth Anniversary Of The Passing Of Legendary Coach Don Haskins
Five years ago today, El Paso was saddened to hear of the news of the passing of legendary UTEP Men’s Basketball coach, Don Haskins. The Bear was beloved not only for his 1966 team that won the NCAA Championship, but for his love of the city that adopted him so many years ago.
Coach Haskins came to UTEP in 1961, and inherited a team that wasn’t exactly an NCAA powerhouse. But his coaching style, and style of play, transformed them in just a few years into a team that shocked the collegiate sports world by beating Kentucky for the NCAA Championship.
Coach’s story came to light when Pat Riley, who coached the LA Lakers and played on the Kentucky team that lost to UTEP in 1966, told Hollywood producer Jerry Bruckheimer about that legendary game. Bruckheimer went on to make ‘Glory Road’ for Disney – a film that took some literary license with the story of Coach Haskins and UTEP in general, but is still an amazing record of that game. Coach Haskins made a brief, very brief, appearance in that film:
Sports Center did a story on the 1966 UTEP team 26 years later when UTEP made it back into the NCAA Tournament:
And here is Coach Haskins being Coach Haskins at his 1997 enshrinement in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame.
One of the first things I learned about Darren when we first met was his love and admiration for Coach Haskins. He enjoyed covering the UTEP Men’s Basketball team and Coach Haskins for many years. I asked him today how he felt about it being five years since we lost Coach. Darren said, “During my more than three decades covering sports and news in El Paso, it’s the time I got to spend with Coach Haskins that I cherish the most.”
Rest in peace, Coach Haskins. You are missed.