“A Position of Respect”: A Basketball Coach Who Resisted Segregation

Volume 7, Number 2, Summer 2001

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“A Position of Respect”: A Basketball Coach Who Resisted Segregation

by John B. McLendon, PamelaGrundy
Southern Cultures, Vol. 7, No. 2: Summer 2001

"One of the best ways to play the game is avoid confrontation. The next is to make the adversary ridiculous."

John B. McLendon Jr. was one of the most talented and influential basketball coaches of the twentieth century. He first made his mark at Durham’s North Carolina College, now North Carolina Central University, where he arrived in 1937 after studying with basketball’s inventor, James Naismith, at the University of Kansas. McLendon transformed basketball in the Colored (now Central) Intercollegiate Athletic Association (CIAA), pioneering an incisive, fast-break style and vigorously promoting CIAA talent. In 1951 he moved to Tennessee A & I, where his 1957 team became the first from a historically black school to win an integrated national championship, that year’s National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) tournament. His long string of coaching accomplishments and groundbreaking efforts to foster athletic integration won him election to the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.