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John McLendon

Class of 2009


John McLendon

  • John McLendon

Birthdate: April 5, 1915
Birthplace: Hiawatha, KS
High School: Kansas City Sumner (1932)
College: University of Kansas (1936)
Died: October 8, 1999
Year Inducted: 2009

While an undergraduate at the University of Kansas, John McLendon couldn’t play basketball because African-Americans were not accepted on intramural or varsity teams. Nevertheless, he learned the basics of the game from its founder, Dr. James Naismith. Building on what he learned, McLendon became one of the game’s most successful coaches and ambassadors. His college teams, which featured a fast-break offense and an aggressive defense, won 523 games and lost 165. He was the first coach to win three consecutive national championships when his Tennessee State team won NAIA titles in 1957, 1958 and 1959. He became the first black coach in a professional league in 1962 when he coached the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League. Four years later he was the first black to coach at a predominantly white institution when he left a lifetime contract at Kentucky State in 1966 to coach at Cleveland State University. McLendon died in 1999 at age 84. He was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame in 1979.