Birthdate: September 5, 1931
High School: Hamilton (Ohio) High School (1949)
College: Miami University (1950-53)
Year Inducted: 2023
In sports and in life, we often are told to make the most of one’s opportunities. That’s exactly what Don Knodel did as a surprisingly successful player and coach.
An unimposing 5-9 guard, Knodel was a key player at Hamilton High School in the late 1940s but wasn’t recruited seriously by college programs with the exception of Miami University. It wasn’t until June of his senior year that he received and accepted the offer from MU; and after playing on the freshman team, he turned in three head-turning seasons for the varsity – one under Hall of Fame coach John Brickels and two under Bill Rohr.
From 1951-53, Knodel was named to the All-MAC team and was Miami’s second-leading scorer each season. In two of those campaigns, he was instrumental in the team capturing league titles. He finished his career with 828 points and earned All-America honorable mention honors as a senior. He also managed to letter two years in baseball at the school.
Knodel’s natural understanding of the game of basketball led him into coaching, and he started out at his alma mater, serving as a Miami assistant during the 1955-56 season. He then launched into a high school coaching career and compiled a mark of 76-31 in five seasons at the helm of the Talawanda and Marion Harding programs. That eye-opening showing opened the elevated door to the collegiate game that was so good to Knodel, first as an assistant at Vanderbilt followed by him accepting the head coaching position at Rice in 1966.
When he took over in Houston, the Owls were coming off a dreadful two-year record of 3-44. But in 1970, “The Silent K” bagged the Southwest Conference championship and berth in the NCAA Tournament, a dreamy run that ended with a loss to John Wooden’s mighty UCLA Bruins. Knodel coached at Rice until 1974 but stayed connected to the university as head of the “R” Association, which supports the athletic department and all Owl letterwinners.
Knodel also tried his hand as head coach of the Houston Angels of the Women’s Professional Basketball League and won the championship in the inaugural season of 1979. He enters the Ohio Basketball Hall of Fame at age 91.