EL PASO, Texas --- Don Haskins, credited with helping break color barriers in college sports in 1966 when he used five black starters to win a national basketball title for Texas Western, died Sunday. He was 78.
Texas-El Paso spokesman Jeff Darby said the Hall of Fame coach died Sunday afternoon. He had no other details. UTEP was previously known as Texas Western.
"The word unique does not begin to describe Don Haskins," former Texas Tech coach Bob Knight said. "There is no one who has ever coached that I respected and admired more than Don Haskins. I've had no better friend that I enjoyed more than Don Haskins."
Haskins was an old-time coach who believed in hard work and was known for his gruff demeanor. That attitude was portrayed in the 2006 movie Glory Road , the Disney film that chronicled Haskins' improbable rise to national fame in the 1966 championship game against Kentucky. The movie, which was preceded by a book of the same title, also sparked renewed interest in Haskins' career.
Former Oklahoma State coach Eddie Sutton said Haskins "had a tremendous impact on the college game. Anybody who's been around college basketball dating back to those days, they've seen how it changed after Texas Western won the national championship."
Sutton said he hadn't talked to Haskins for at least six weeks.
"Don had not been in good health and was having a hard time," Sutton said. "He'll be dearly missed."
During his career, Haskins turned down several more lucrative offers, including one with the now-defunct American Basketball Association, to remain at UTEP.
Haskins retired in 1999 after 38 seasons at the school. He had a 719-353 record and won seven WAC championships. He took UTEP to 14 NCAA tournaments and to the NIT seven times.