Born: April 5, 1915 – Hiawatha, Kansas
Died: October 8, 1999 – Cleveland, Ohio
Graduated: Kansas City (KS) Sumner High School, 1932; Kansas City Junior College, 1933; University of Kansas, 1936
A pioneer, innovator, and gentleman, John B. McLendon helped wage the successful fight to break down barriers of segregation in college and professional athletics. He was the first black coach inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the first black coach for any professional franchise. McLendon became one of the game’s leading ambassadors.
Basketball Coach & Ambassador
He learned the sport from Dr. James Naismith at the University of Kansas and was the first coach in history to win three consecutive national titles – the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA national championships for Tennessee State. McLendon’s teams featured superior conditioning, a patented fast break offense and an aggressive “in-your-face” defensive attitude. He proved his basketball style was ahead of the game when his Tigers used the fast break to beat Duke University by 40 points in a secret game in the late 1940s on N.C. Central’s campus. McLendon also coached collegiately at Hampton Institute, Kentucky State and Cleveland State, along with the Cleveland Pipers (NIB-ABL) and the Denver Rockets (ABA). His teams won a combined 523 games. McLendon traveled the world promoting basketball and wrote two books – “Fast Break Basketball” and “The Fast Break Game.”
McLendon is also a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame and Helms Hall of Fame. In 1992, the basketball arena at Cleveland State was named in his honor.