Black History: Special Delivery!!
John B. McLendon, Jr. (1915-1999) was trailblazing African American basketball coach. He is also recognized as the first African American basketball coach at a predominately white university and the first African American coach of a professional sports team.
McClendon, Jr.’s attended Sumner High School in Kansas City. While an all around athlete, McClendon, , Jr., did not play basketball while in high school. He was born in Hiawatha, KS and graduated from University of Kansas with a degree in physical education. He studied basketball at Kansas and was trained by the creator of the sport, Dr. James Naismith. McClendon Jr. was not allowed to play of the varsity team at the University of Kansas because he was black. However, he would go on to build an impressive career as a coach winning 8 CIAA (Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association) championships. McClendon, Jr. also invented several aspects of the game including the fast break, zone press, and four corners offense.
His coaching career included high school, college teams as well as professional teams (Cleveland Pipers), and Denver Rockets, which later became the Denver Nuggets). Initially his teams were restricted to only playing against other all black teams. Mclendon Jr.’s teams were credited with making basketball a much faster paced game from its slow tempo of the early years. McClendon, Jr. died in 1999.