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Kansas Basketball Legends - May 13, 2016

Wilt Chamberlain with other Hall of Fame inductees, 1979. From left to right: Don Baker, A.C. "Dutch" Lonborg, John McLendon, Wilt Chamberlain, Bill Johnson, and Ted Owens. (Photo Courtesy of Spencer Research Library/KU)

Q: Born in Hiawatha, this man became the first men’s basketball coach to win three consecutive national championships. He was also the first African-American coach to win a national basketball championship. What's the name of this Kansan who's enshrined as both a contributor and a coach in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame?  


 
A: John B. McLendon  

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John B. McLendon was a pioneering basketball coach and a great contributor to the sport. He was also the first African-American coach to win a national basketball championship. Born in Hiawatha in 1915, McLendon attended the University of Kansas where he was mentored by the game’s inventor, James Naismith. When he graduated from KU in 1936, he became the first African-American to receive a bachelor’s degree in physical education.
 
McLendon enjoyed a significant college coaching career and became the first professional African-American coach in the ABL for Clevland. He died in 1999 at the age of 84. In April of this year, McLendon was enshrined for a second time into the Naismith Hall of Fame. Originally inducted to the Hall as a contributor, McLendon was inducted as a coach along with nine other enshrinees in the class of 2016.
 
Taken from the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame website:
 
JOHN MCLENDON [Coach] – A native of Hiawatha, Kansas, McLendon was the first coach to win three consecutive national championships, leading Tennessee State to NAIA National Championships in 1957, 1958 and 1959. He compiled a collegiate coaching record of 522-165 and was named NAIA Coach of the Year in 1958. He was the first African-American coach to accomplish many feats including winning a national tournament (1954), winning a national championship (1957) and winning an AAU national championship (1961). He was the first African-American coach to coach in a professional league, the ABL.
 

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