John McLendon

As the first person to be enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as both coach and contributor, John McLendon’s life was always more than what happened on 94 feet of hardwood. McLendon’s head coaching career started in 1940 at North Carolina Central University where he introduced his full-court press and fast-break basketball. The building up of the full-court game was soon followed by the breaking down of racial barriers and stereotypes that plagued American society. McLendon went on to coach at Tennessee A & I where he led the first all-black college team to a national tournament in 1954. He then led the Tigers to three straight NAIA national championships in 1957, 1958, and 1959, another first for college basketball. McLendon later became the first African-American coach in professional basketball when he joined the ABL’s Cleveland Pipers in 1959. His Pipers defeated the U.S. Olympic team led by Jerry West and Oscar Robertson in 1960. McLendon’s career was home to many firsts including the first African-American coach to compete in international competition, serve on the U.S. Olympic team staff, and coach in the ABA.