As Don Haskins left the floor of Cole Fieldhouse in College Park, Maryland he realized that this feeling he had “will probably never happen again.” His Miners, who were the third-rated team in the country, defeated the nation’s number one team the Kentucky Wildcats 72-65 to win their small school – located in El Paso, Texas – their first national title. But was this national title bigger than what Haskins did? Playing five black players on floor all at the same time? Only time will tell if any other school in the country will do that.
Adolph Rupp, who is one of the most successful coaches in the game as we speak, has never recruited nor played an African-American player in his program. He has exclusively recruited predominately all white players, and winning four national championships and one National Invitational Tournament banner.
Haskins, a man with savvy and sharp mindset of how his teams play after playing for a legend at Oklahoma A&M in Henry Iba. He needed an athlete who displayed speed, strength and poise and that is when Bobby Joe Hill and David Lattin come to play. Hill, a guard from Detroit and Lattin, a big physical big man hailing from Houston, played a major role in Haskins “swinging gate” defense. But players like Hill and Lattin were viewed as outcasts if they were in a Kentucky blue jersey in Rupp’s eyes.
At the end of the day, Haskins got the better of Rupp and not saying that the players Rupp had like Louie Dampier, Pat Riley, Larry Conley and Tommy Kron were not great players in their own minds; but on that day Hill, Lattin, Willie Worsley, Willie Cager and Orsten Artis were at the top of their game; and the better team won.