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Photo of John McLendon

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.




April 05, 1915 Hiawatha, KS


October 08, 1999


Cleveland State Hampton Institute Kentucky State North Carolina College Tennessee State A&I

Professional Career

Cleveland Pipers Denver Nuggets

Career Stats

3 Consecutive
NAIA National Championships
1957, 1958, 1959
1958 NAIA
Coach of the Year
1961 First African-American
coach to win
AAU National Championship
1992 Named “Coach of the Century”
by Sports View Magazine
1959 First African-American coach
in professional basketball
ABL’s Cleveland Pipers
FIRST African-American
coach in the ABA