Basketball coaching legend John McLendon, who coached the Tennessee State men’s basketball team to three NAIA National Championships in the late 1950s, was elected to the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame as a coach, it was announced during a special presentation on ESPN on Monday morning. McLendon had previously been enshrined to the Hall of Fame in 1979 as a contributor to the game.
McLendon served as the head coach of the TSU men’s basketball program from 1954-1959, compiling a 144-20 overall record in five seasons. Utilizing the talent of future NBA All-Star Dick Barnett, McLendon guided the Tigers to NAIA National Championships in 1957, 1958 and 1959. His .878 winning percentage at TSU is the best in program history.
During his career, McLendon coached on the collegiate level at North Carolina Central, Hampton, TSU, Kentucky State and Cleveland State. In professional basketball, he was the first African American to coach the pro game with the Cleveland Pipers of the American Basketball League in 1961, and he also coached the Denver Rockets of the American Basketball Association.
McLendon learned under the inventor of basketball, Dr. James Naismith, when McLendon was a student at the University of Kansas. The court where the Tennessee State men’s and women’s basketball teams play in the Gentry Center was dedicated as “McLendon Court” during the 1991-92 season.
McLendon was elected into the Tennessee State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1983, the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2007 and the Cleveland State Hall of Fame in 2007.
McLendon is part of the 10-member Class of 2016 that will be inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 9 in Springfield, Mass. The class includes: John McLendon (Coach), Zelmo Beaty (Player), Darrell Garretson (Referee), Allen Iverson (Player), Tom Izzo (Coach), Yao Ming (Player), Shaquille O’Neal (Player), Cumberland Posey (Player), Jerry Reinsdorf (Owner) and Sheryl Swoopes (Player).