The coaching philosophy in the 1960s was pretty simple and laid out in an off-color joke.
You could play two blacks at home.
|Haskins didn't receive any coaching offers after winning the national championship. (Getty Images)|
Or four if you were behind.
"But you never played five," said Dan Wetzel, who wrote the book Glory Road with Don Haskins. "Nobody played five."
Nobody except Haskins, of course.
That's why his death Sunday at the age of 78 garnered national headlines.
"He did so much for so many people," said Tony Barbee, the coach at UTEP (formerly known as Texas Western). "He was a national treasure."
We've spent a large part of the past few months hearing about how one politician is breaking barriers and another is putting cracks in ceilings. These are historic times, for sure. But 42 years ago Haskins accomplished similar things in his own little way, only he wasn't similarly celebrated like Barack Obama, Hillary Clinton or Sarah Palin. Instead, he was ridiculed and threatened and, well, I'll just turn things back over to Wetzel.
"His friends asked him 'Don, are you crazy? Are you f---ing nuts?'" Wetzel said. "They said 'If you play five blacks they're going to call you the black coach. Even if you win you'll never get another job. And if you lose and get fired, nobody will ever hire you. And if one of those kids f---s up, then you're done. Your entire career is done and you've got kids to feed. Don't do this. It's stupid.'"
"He said 'F--- that,'" Wetzel said. "He said 'Seven of my best eight players are black, and I'm playing them. I don't care what the repercussions are.'"
So he played them, started five of them, and you know the story by now.