Former University of Kentucky coach Adolph Rupp won four national championships, former University of North Carolina coach Dean Smith won two- one of which starred Michael Jordan, former UCLA coach John Wooden won ten- so, what do these three men have in common? They’re all hall of fame coaches within the NCAA? Yes. But what else? They were all from relatively small towns around the country? True, but one more thing; they all played in the NCAA tournament back to back by a Florida State University team coached by Louisville native, Hugh Durham in 1972.
Durham defeated Rupp’s Wildcats and Smith’s Tarheels before narrowly being defeated by Wooden’s Bruins in the NCAA championship. Still, that Seminole team is still one of the greatest cinderellas in college basketball history.
In truth Durham came to notoriety with the Florida State Seminoles long before ’72 though, that is when he suited up for the team as a player throughout his college years. As a guard, Durham’s stats still make him in the top ten scorers in the history of the program, and in fact he might very well hold the number one spot be it for one thing: during Durham’s time there was no three-point shot.
He was so prolific in fact that today the Seminole’s most valuable award has been named in honor of Durham’s contributions; this was put in place in 1999.
Following Durham’s graduation he became assistant coach at his alma mater under Bud Kennedy, a position he held for seven years until Kennedy’s untimely passing when Durham took over the role of head coach. For twelve years Durham led the team; he is still the most winningest coach in Seminole history.
In 1978 Durham left his Florida to coach a struggling Georgia team. The Bulldogs of Georgia had never been to an NCAA or NIT tournament- further they had never won out the SEC in regular season play or in the tournament.
That changed with the arrival of Durham who led the team to five NCAA tournaments and four NIT tournaments. His time in Georgia was highlighted with the team’s appearance in the 1983 NCAA final four-this year Georgia also won the SEC conference tournament. The previous year Durham led the school to a NIT final four in 1982, a few years later the team won a SEC championship in 1990. Georgia has yet to return to the final four since Durham’s departure and retirement.
He didn’t stay retired for too long as Jacksonville University offered a head coaching job to the now veteran coach in 1997- a job that Durham eventually accepted. After coaching with Jacksonville for eight seasons he set another record there- still being the most winningest coach with that program.
A tradition of work- and a legacy of success makes Durham without question a sports legend of the ville.
Image courtesy of the ACC