Hugh Durham has been a college basketball icon for many years, and now he is going into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame. He will be inducted on Nov. 18 in Kansas City.
Durham was a star student-athlete as a guard at Florida State. To this day, Durham’s career average of 18.9 points per game ranks among the Top 10 in FSU history, and this was before the implementation of the 3-point shot. Included in a number of records that Durham set while playing for the Seminoles is the 43 points he scored against Stetson in 1957, which is still tied for the third best single-game scoring mark in school history.
Durham was not only a star student-athlete at Florida State, he also went on to become one of the most highly-regarded and successful head coaches to ever coach the game. Durham’s ability to get the best out of his players both on and off the court was a large reason why he enjoyed so much success.
Durham is one of just seven coaches with 100 or more wins at three different Division I schools and is the only coach in Division I history to be the winningest head coach at three different schools – Florida State University, the University of Georgia, and Jacksonville University.
As a head coach, Durham also led Florida State (1972) and Georgia (1983) to NCAA Final Four appearances.
Durham’s achievements in the collegiate basketball world are truly remarkable and clearly Hall of Fame worthy. Durham, who was inducted into Florida State Athletics Hall of Fame in 1980 and the University of Georgia Hall of Fame in 2009, will be inducted into the 2016 College Basketball Hall of Fame on November 18, 2016, along with DePaul’s Mark Aguirre, Kansas State’s Bob Boozer, Illinois State’s Doug Collins, La Salle’s Lionel Simmons, UCLA’s Jamal Wilkes, former Stanford and Cal Berkley head coach Mike Montgomery, and Georgia’s Dominique Wilkins.
In Durham’s almost half-a-century as a head coach, from 1966-2005, he produced nine All-Americans, four first-round NBA draft picks – including fellow inductee Wilkins – 31 NBA draft picks, and two US Olympic basketball team members.
Durham’s first experience in the Final Four was with Florida State in 1972.
“We, being the coaches, thought we were going to be good,” Durham said of that 1972 team. “We had a lot of confidence going in. Our coaches were excited. Our players were excited. Everybody was excited.”
Heading into the 1972 season, the Seminoles had good reason to be excited as Durham had assembled a great roster led by returning 6-10 center Reggie Royals, and future Chicago Bull Rowland Garrett.
“Momentum was building over the three-week period leading up to the Final Four,” said Durham. “Week –by-week, game-by-game, we played three of the most storied programs in the country in Kentucky, North Carolina, and UCLA back-to-back-to-back.”
In the Mideast Regional Finals, Durham and the Seminoles would beat Kentucky, ending the illustrious coaching career of the Wildcats’ Adolph Rupp. Just two games later, FSU’s historic season reached a pinnacle when the Seminoles beat North Carolina, 79-75, for a spot in the national championship game against UCLA.
The challenge was huge for FSU, which not only would be playing a UCLA team that had won five straight NCAA Championships, but would be taking on Coach John Wooden and his Bruins at the Los Angeles Sports Arena.
The Seminoles played well in the title game and even led by seven in the first half before bowing to All-America center Bill Walton and his teammates, 81-76.
Durham would return to the Final Four again 11 years later, only this time with a different team and a different mindset.
Starting the 1982 season, Georgia and Durham had to find a way to replace arguably the greatest player the program history in Wilkins, who went to the NBA the previous year.
“When all of a sudden you lose your best player, the best player that Georgia has ever had, you don’t know how [the team] is going to react to that,” said Durham. “People didn’t know how strong we would be.”
Georgia was the underdog, but that had always been a position in which Durham felt comfortable.
The Bulldogs would win the East region with an 82-77 victory over North Carolina vaulting Georgia into the program’s first-ever Final Four.
“I had been there before, but it doesn’t get old,” said Durham.
Georgia would lose to the eventual champion, NC State, in the national semifinal, but not before Durham would make history as the first head coach in Division I history to take two different schools to their first ever Final Four appearances.
If Durham’s success at Florida State and Georgia were not enough to justify his Hall of Fame induction, perhaps his fantastic turnaround of the Jacksonville University basketball program is what sealed his remarkable reputation. He turned around a non-descript Dolphin program that had gone just 5-23 the previous season, and went on to coach at Jacksonville for eight seasons, from 1997 to 2005. When he stepped down, he did so as the most successful coach in JU history with 106 victories.
On the court, Durham looked focused and determined, never showing too much emotion, but off the court, his love for the game was easily apparent.
When asked about the adoption of the 3-point shot in the middle of his coaching career, Durham replied, “The thing is, the players like it, and the fans like it, and when you break it down, that’s really what the game is all about. It’s about the players and it’s about the fans. If you didn’t have fans, you’d be playing intramurals.”
The quote was typical of Hugh Durham who was anything but selfish, and at the end of the day, he viewed the integrity of the game he loved as most important.
When collegeinsiders.com was looking for a name to attach to a new award that would be presented to the top mid-major coach in Division I college basketball, it paid Durham the ultimate compliment by choosing to name it after him in tribute to his success.
Durham was always one of a kind and treasured in the college basketball community.
Now he will take a well-earned position among the all-time greats in the game.
By Sean Asher
Florida State Sports Information