A Student of Basketball's founder Dr. James Naismith, at The University of Kansas,
McLendon enrolled as the first black student in the school’s physical education department. he endured hostile/racially motivated treatment while enrolled, and was never allowed to play on the All-White basketball team. McLendon tried out for the team several times, but would be cut on each attempt. Upon graduation McLendon was hired as an assistant coach at North Carolina college (North Carolina Central). In 1941, he would become Head Coach, and in his first year as head coach, his North Carolina College Team would win the Negro National College Championship Tournament. McLendon is widely credited as the Founder & Pioneer of The Fast Break. McLendon's teams quickly became known for their Up-Tempo/Baseline to Baseline offensive & defensive play, superior conditioning, aggressive Defense and High-Scoring showmanship. The John McLendon coached North Carolina College Teams would go on to win Eight Black College Championship between 1941 & 1952. McLendon would be lured off to Tennessee A & I University (Tennessee State University). While there, the combination of McLendon's coaching & the play of The Great Dick Barnett would lead the Tigers to win Three Straight National Intercollegiate Championships (1957 thru 1959). No coach had EVER accomplished such a feat. It has been said that these were some great years for basketball, as the Tigers put on such an amazing show for what would quickly become a packed house of Integrated crowds. Coach McLendon would next move on to become The First Black Head Coach of a Professional Basketball Team in an Integrated League, as leader of the George Steinbrenner owned Cleveland Pipers of The american Basketball League (ABL). Quickly moving on from Steinbrenner's meddling, McLendon would again make history as the first black head coach of a majority white college upon taking the job at Cleveland State University. In 1969, he took the head coaching position with the Denver Rockets of the ABA, before retiring & spending the next two decades as a company rep for Converse.
Coach John McLendon was born April 5th 1915, and finished his coaching career with a record of 496 wins & 179 losses. He is also famous for the racially-groundbreaking 1944 "Secret Game" between Duke & North Carolina College. At that time intermingling of Black & White, of any kind, was illegal. Great care was taken to keep this event a secret, and this day would remain a closely guarded secret for the next 52 years (1996). McLendon's team trounced Duke 88 to 44. After that, they played an additional game (mixing the players from both teams together) and hung out in the dormitories together. Coach McLendon also coached at Kentucky State University & Hampton Institute. Today The John McLendon Award is presented annually to the Nation's Top Collegiate Head Coach (Division I, Division II, Division III, NAIA and JUCO coaches are eligible for the award). John B. McLendon, Jr. died in 1999 at the age of 84. Sadly few know anything about his contributions to the Game of Basketball. #Salute