John McLendon,
Basketball Guru

John McLendon was born on April 5, 1915 in Hiawatha, Kansas. He was an African-American basketball coach at the high school, AAU, college, and professional level.


From Hiawatha, Kansas, McLendon's engaging personality made him a popular basketball figure for more than 60 years. His extraordinary knowledge of basketball history made him one of the game's leading ambassadors. But, it is his coaching resume that makes many in the profession envious. He learned basketball from Dr. James Naismith as an undergraduate at Kansas. McLendon is the first coach in history to win three consecutive national titles.

McLendon earned this honor by guiding Tennessee State to the 1957, 1958 and 1959 NAIA national championships. His teams featured superior conditioning, a patented fast break offense and an aggressive in-your-face defensive attitude. McLendon championed for heightened awareness of basketball at all-Black colleges and helped initiate an era of integrated basketball. McLendon's well-rounded coaching background included positions at the collegiate, AAU and professional level.

He coached North Carolina College, Hampton Institute, Tennessee State, Kentucky State and Cleveland State along with the Cleveland Pipers (NIB-ABL) and the Denver Rockets (ABA). His teams won a combined 523 games and McLendon himself compiled a 76 percent winning mark over his 25-year career. Named the 1958 NAIA Coach of the Year, McLendon coached teams that won eight CIAA titles between 1941 and 1952, the NIBL and AAU championships in 1961, and the ABL Eastern Division crown in 1962. McLendon, who has traveled the world promoting basketball, wrote two books, Fast Break Basketball and The Fast Break Game. McLendon, a member of the NAIA Hall of Fame has also been enshrined into the Helms Hall of Fame and the CIAA Hall of Fame.

In 1992, the basketball arena at Cleveland State was named in McLendon's honor. He died on October 8, 1999.

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