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Milton S. Katz
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McLendonas creative and courageous efforts to abreak througha the color lines of institutional racism include the famous asecret gamea between his North Carolina College players and the Duke University Medical School in 1944, ten years before the landmark Brown v. Board of Education decision. McLendon taught his players, including such NBA standouts as Sam Jones, Dick Barnett, and John Barnhill, that dignity and self-respect were more important than the numbers on a scoreboard, though he nonetheless achieved a 76 percent winning mark over a twenty-five-year collegiate coaching career. He was an early pioneer of game preparation, conditioning, the fast break, the full-court press, and a two corner offense that became the seed for Dean Smithas famous four corners, and he won eight CIAA titles at North Carolina College between 1941 and 1952.
McLendonas far-reaching list of firsts includes being the first coach to win three consecutive national titles (Tennessee State, 1957a59), the first black coach of an integrated professional team (the ABLas Cleveland Pipers), the first black coach at a predominately white college (Cleveland State), the first black coach in the ABA, the first black coach to publish a basketball book, the first black coach on the Olympic staff, the first black coach inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame . . . the list goes on. McLendonas amazing career culminated in his efforts as a basketball ambassador; he traveled to fifty-eight countries, teaching the fundamentals of the game and the value of sportsmanship, and many believe he contributed more to the proliferation of basketball worldwide than any other individual.
Breaking Through is both a history lesson and an inspiration to any player, coach, or spectator who has ever known the transcendent powers of a game.
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