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{{College coach infobox |Image=| | Name = John McLendon | Caption = | DateOfBirth = April 5, 1915(1915-04-05) John B. McLendon, Jr. (April 15, 1915 – October 8, 1999) was a pioneering American basketball coach who is recognized as the first African American basketball coach at a predominantly white university. He was a major contributor to the development of modern basketball and coached on both the college and professional levels during his career. He is enshrined in both the Basketball Hall of Fame and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame.

Contents

Background

Born in Hiawatha, Kansas, McLendon was part African American and part Delaware Indian.[1] He soon became an all-around athlete who chose basketball as his favorite sport. He studied in the 1930s at the University of Kansas, where he learned the intricacies of basketball from the sport's inventor, Dr. James Naismith, who was the head coach there.[1] However, McLendon was not permitted to actually play college basketball, as the KU varsity team was segregated and would not suit up its first black player until 1951.[2]

Career

He went onto to become a successful high school and college coach, at schools such as North Carolina College for Negroes, the Hampton Institute, Tennessee State A&I University, Kentucky State College and Cleveland State University. In his early years, his teams were restricted to playing only against other all-black teams. However, while coaching at North Carolina College, McLendon participated in "The Secret Game", a match against a team from Duke University, which was the first collegiate basketball contest where blacks and whites competed on the same floor.[3] McLendon's teams were credited with increasing the pace of the game of basketball from the slow tempo of its early years to the faster tempo that prevails today.[1]

He was a three-time winner of the NAIA Coach of the Year award and won three consecutive NAIA championships at Tennessee State, making him the first college basketball coach ever to have won three consecutive national titles.[4] When he was hired at Cleveland State in 1966, he became the first African American basketball coach ever at a predominantly white university.[5]

McLendon also coached professionally on two occasions. Cleveland Pipers General Manager Mike Cleary hired him in 1962 to be the head coach of the American Basketball League team which was owned by George Steinbrenner. McLendon's hiring made history, as he became the first African American head coach in professional sports. In his, and the Pipers', only season in the ABL, the team captured the league championship. McLendon went on to coach the American Basketball Association's Denver Rockets (which later became the Denver Nuggets of the NBA) in 1969, although he was fired after the team started the season 9-19. Despite the fact that he was only 54 when dismissed, this was the last college or professional head coaching job in his career.

Recognition

Like Naismith, McLendon was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1979 as a "contributor", but not as a coach.[6] He was, however, selected in 2007 for the second entering class of the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame for his coaching achievements.[7] He was also inducted into the Cleveland State Athletics Hall of Fame in 2007, where his wife Joanna accepted the award on his behalf.

A biography of John B. McLendon, Breaking Through: John B. McLendon, Basketball Legend and Civil Rights Pioneer, by Milton S. Katz, was published in 2007. McLendon's coaching legacy is also chronicled in the documentary Black Magic, which originally aired as a two-part series on ESPN in March 2008.[1]

Notes and references

  1. ^ a b c d Aaron Barnhart, Black Magic: Only the lines were white, TV Barn, March 14, 2008. Retrieved on Jan. 20, 2010.
  2. ^ Woolf, Alexander (2002). Big Game, Small World: A Basketball Adventure. New York: Warner Books. p. 141. ISBN 0446526010. 
  3. ^ "Sunday March 31, 1996: JIM CROW LOSSES; The Secret Game". The New York Times Magazine. 1996-03-31. http://query.nytimes.com/gst/fullpage.html?res=9A05E4D61539F932A05750C0A960958260&sec=&spon=&pagewanted=all. Retrieved 2008-03-20. 
  4. ^ Woolf, Big Game, Small World, p. 142.
  5. ^ Woolf, Big Game, Small World, pp. 142–43.
  6. ^ Basketball Hall of Fame biography: John McLendon
  7. ^ "Arkansas hires coach; Bubas elected to Hall". Associated Press. 2007-04-03. http://www.news-record.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20070403/NEWSREC0105/704030314/1021/GTCOM. Retrieved 2007-04-27. 

External links

Preceded by
Bob Bass
Denver Rockets head coach
1969
Succeeded by
Joe Belmont
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