Monday, September 08, 2008

A story about Don Haskins and my father

This is not about AI, but a personal story.

Don Haskins died yesterday at 78 years old. AP Obituary

I grew up for the first 14 years in El Paso, Texas before moving back to the family home in Montana. Don Haskins and UTEP basketball were a big deal. Coach Haskins is of course the guy who coached UTEP (then Texas Western College) to the 1966 NCAA championship with five black players... which was wonderfully rendered into the movie Glory Road. It's hard to overstate what an effect he had on El Paso and UTEP.

I've always been more of a fan of coaches than players, and Haskins was at the top of my biased list of basketball idols. Years ago my father and I finally met him at my grandmother's 70th birthday party. [Photo of me bringing in flowers he brought to the party] I'd read every book, and article about him but managed to mostly stutter upon meeting him. My dad gave me some crap about that.

When Glory Road opened on Friday the 13th 2006, the family went to see it. Great flick even with the inaccuracies. After the movie Dad asked me how I liked it, I said "It was great". He then said "A movie about your hero Don Haskins", I said "yep.. but oh Dad you are my hero". We both snorted and chuckled as grown men do about emotions. A few minutes later we parted ways with 'I love you' and hugs.

Dad died the next day and those were the last words we exchanged. I didn't watch Glory Road again till a couple months ago.. too much emotion. When I heard the news that Haskins died, time stopped a bit as I thought about him, my childhood idols and my father.

The stories about this man that circulated in El Paso and in the family were legendary. Here's an example, or two.

RIP Coach Haskins (and I still miss ya Dad!)