Don Haskins was the head basketball coach at Texas Western (now UTEP) in the 1960s. Haskins made history in the 1965-1966 season when he started five black players in the national championship game against the University of Kentucky. Although college basketball had already been integrated, Haskins’ Miners were the first all-black starting five to play for a title. In the championship game, they defeated the top-ranked, all-white Wildcats, coached by four-time national title winner Adolph Rupp.
Haskins denied wanting to make a social statement. Rather, he insisted, he simply wanted to start his best players. Assistant coach Moe Iba explained: “He’d have played five kids from Mars if they were his best five players.” Whatever his intent, Haskins and his team made history and paid for it. The team was not offered the customary national champion’s appearance on Ed Sullivan; much worse were the barrage of death threats to the players and coach. Haskins called the weeks after winning the title “the worst time of his life,” and the media spread rumours questioning the players’ academic credentials. (Four of the seven black players on Texas Western received their degrees, while the remaining three went on to careers as a detective, a buyer for El Paso Natural Gas, and an Executive with a Houston liquor company.)
The full Times obituary is here.