Citizen Staff Writer
Don Haskins made a big impression on Arizona coach Lute Olson and
Santa Rita High grad Dave Feitl, who played for Haskins from 1982-86.
Haskins, 78, who retired as UTEP’s basketball coach in 1999, died Sunday of apparent congestive heart failure.
“Don was a great, great man,” Olson said Monday. “He was always a gentleman, always someone a pleasure to be around.”
Feitl, a center from Tucson, said Haskins wasn’t just a good coach, “but a mentor to all of us.”
“Teaching us how to live our lives. I use those lessons every day in
my business career,” Feitl said. “And it’s what I try to teach my kids.
It’s about working hard and if you put your mind to it you will
Olson remembers the time Haskins, known as “The Bear,” invited him
to his pregame locker room before a big game between Arizona and UTEP.
“I was ready and dressed (in a suit) . . . and he was wearing jeans
and a plaid shirt,” Olson said. “That’s who he was; Don was just Don.”
Olson and Haskins were longtime friends and members of the Basketball Hall of Fame.
Haskins gained fame in 1966 when he helped break basketball’s color
barrier when he started five black players against Adulf Rupp’s
all-white Kentucky team. Texas Western beat Kentucky 72-65 for the
title. Texas Western later became Texas-El Paso.
Disney made the movie “Glory Road” which chronicled Haskins’ title run.
“He’ll go down in history as a key person in terms of breaking the
color barrier that once existed,” Olson said. “He played the guys who
he thought should start. I’m sure that will be his legacy, but lost in
the shuffle is what a great coach he was.”
Olson said Haskins was a “great disciplinarian and a person who gained the respect of his players because it was a tough love.”
“He was very demanding and very fair,” Olson said. “I think that
will be something he’ll be remembered by, by his former players and by
Olson went 2-2 against Haskins while Haskins was at UTEP.
The losses were difficult to take. UA fell to the Miners in the
first round of the NCAA Tournament in 1987 at McKale Center. It was the
season that UA played without Steve Kerr. UA went on to win 71
consecutive home games right after that. In 1983, during Olson’s first
season at UA, the Wildcats lost to UTEP 51-49 in overtime, in what
would have been a ground-breaking win.
“It was always difficult to win at UTEP,” Olson said.