Adam Zagoria covers basketball at all levels. He is the author of two books and an award-winning journalist whose articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Sports Illustrated, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide.
Not long after he was added to Norm Roberts’ coaching staff at St. John’s, Kimani Young spoke to his old college coach, Don Haskins.
“I spoke to him about two weeks ago and he was very proud of the fact that I had this opportunity at St. John’s,” Young, a Brooklyn native pictured here with Haskins. “I tell people all the time that my passion for coaching the game of basketball is directly related to my experience at UTEP and my experience playing for Coach Haskins.”
Haskins died Sunday of congestive heart failure at the age of 78. Young received the phone call not long after from Fred Reynolds, a friend of Haskin’s and a mentor to Young.
Haskins made history in 1966 when he started five black players for Texas Western College against an all-white University of Kentucky team and won the national NCAA championship. The story of that team was commemorated in the 2006 movie “Glory Road.”
“I wasn’t out to be a pioneer when we played Kentucky,” Haskins told The Los Angeles Times later in his career. “I was simply playing the best players on the team, and they happened to be black.”
Inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1997, Haskins was fourth in victories among active coaches when he retired in 1999 with a 719-353 record.
Seventeen of his teams won at least 20 games, and he had only five losing records in his 38-year career at Texas Western, now known as the University of Texas, El Paso.
Current USC coach Tim Floyd was an assistant under Haskins and served as a consultant on the movie.
“I traveled a great deal with Coach Haskins, and there weren’t many black men in the country who wouldn’t stop him in the airport, come over and say, ‘I loved your win against Kentucky,’ ” Floyd told the Los Angeles Times.
Young, who is African-American, arrived at UTEP in 1993 after transferring from LIU. He didn’t know much about Haskins before the transfer, but soon learned of his historic achievement.
“I didn’t know much about it till I got down there, but once I got down there it was the subject of conversations and media attention through my four years there,” Young said. “There was always someone coming in to commemorate it. There was always something going on that involved that accomplishment.”
A combination guard, Young played for Haskins until 1997 and said he improved as a player and a man under him.
“As a coach he was very demanding,” Young said. “He was a tough defensive-minded coach who wanted to get the most of each player. He challenged you on a daily basis. It was a great experience for me because I learned what it really would take to be a student-athlete at that level.”
Young is familiar with the film and said he thought it was “great.”
“It’s kind of hard to capture everything about him in a two-hour movie,” Young said. “He was a great man, a great coach, a great mentor, a great teacher, and somebody that had a profound effect on my life as a player and as a person.”
Young, who recently left his position as director of the New Heights grassroots program to join the St. John’s staff, is planning on attending the memorial service and said he expected many of Haskins’ former players, including Nate “Tiny” Archibald, to attend as well.
“I’m just waiting now to hear when the memorial service will be,” Young said.
Adam Zagoria is a Basketball Insider who covers basketball at all levels. A contributor to The New York Times and SportsNet New York (SNY), he is also the author of two books and is an award-winning journalist and filmmaker. His articles have appeared in ESPN The Magazine, SLAM, Sheridan Hoops, Basketball Times and in newspapers nationwide. He also won an Emmy award for his work on the SNY mini-documentary on Syracuse guard Tyus Battle.
A veteran Ultimate Frisbee player, he has competed in numerous National and World Championships and, perhaps more importantly, his teams won the Westchester Summer League (WSL) championships in 2011 and 2013.
He lives in Manhattan with his wife and children.