Legendary University of Texas at El Paso basketball coach Don Haskins will be honored with a new statue on campus. The seven-foot work of art is a gift from El Pasoans Dan and JoAnn Longoria.
Haskins, the former head coach at Texas Western College — now The University of Texas at El Paso — is most recognized for leading the Miners to a national title. On March 19, 1966, Haskins made history by becoming the first coach to start five African American players in the national championship game. Haskins’ Miners stunned the heavily favored Kentucky Wildcats in a game of tremendous historical and social significance.
“It has been a remarkable journey to bring Coach Haskins’ statue to UTEP, a journey fueled by passion and anticipation,” Dan Longoria said. “Our hearts are filled with excitement as we prepare to unveil this tribute to the El Paso community. Don Haskins was more than a coach. He was a beacon of inspiration. He gave us far more than a college championship - he gifted us with an enduring legacy through his dedication to athletics, education and an equal playing field for minority student athletes. His influence will resonate for generations. JoAnn and I, together with the entire Mattress Firm family, are deeply honored to commemorate his memory with this statue. It stands not just as a symbol of his achievements, but as a testament to the spirit of El Paso - a community he cherished and uplifted.”
The public is invited to view the statue during a “Celebration of Don Haskins” pep rally at 4 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 24 outside the arena that bears his name, the Don Haskins Center. The event will occur just prior to the UTEP men’s basketball game versus Sam Houston. Tickets to the game can be purchased here.
“This statue is a fitting way to honor Don Haskins, a great El Pasoan and a giant in basketball who forever changed the game,” UTEP President Heather Wilson said. “I’m looking forward to remembering him surrounded by the players he coached, and the El Pasoans who cheered him on.”
“The Haskins family is deeply honored and humbled for the unveiling of the statue honoring our father,” the Haskins family said in a statement. “There are so many people that helped make this happen and we would specifically like to express our deepest gratitude to Dan and Jo Ann Longoria for their generosity, Steve Kaplowitz for spearheading the effort, Brian Hanlon for sculpting the beautiful statue, Dr. Heather Wilson, Jim Senter, Jeff Darby and the entire UTEP Athletic Department for all of their support and the City of El Paso and all of the UTEP fans that have supported the program throughout the years.”
The statue depicts Haskins, nicknamed “The Bear,” striking an iconic courtside pose. It was created by Brian Hanlon, a classically trained master sculptor and founder of Hanlon Sculpture Studio.
Hanlon has crafted over 600 public and private art pieces since 1986. His primary goal is to inspire and educate through his transformative art. Hanlon Studio holds the prestigious position of being the official sculptor for the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame and the Rose Bowl Stadium. Recognized with national awards, Hanlon's versatility shines through in his figurative, civic, and athletic sculptures, leaving an enduring impact on the cultural landscape.
“Crafting the sculpture of Don Haskins for UTEP was a profound and rewarding experience, encapsulating the essence of a basketball icon,” Hanlon said. “The meticulous process involved in-depth research, aiming not only to replicate his physical features but to convey the spirit and passion that defined his coaching career. Our goal was to capture the intensity of Coach Haskins on the court leading his athletes to victory. The sculpture symbolizes the values of hard work, perseverance, and excellence that Haskins embodied, serving as an enduring source of inspiration for generations to come.”
“The Don Haskins statue is a dream come true for me and every Miner fan,” said 600 ESPN El Paso Sports Talk Host Steve Kaplowitz, who has helped champion a statue for Haskins for the last decade. “Brian Hanlon is a world class master sculptor and he brought photographer Brian Kanof’s iconic shot of The Bear to life. I cannot thank Dan and Joann Longoria and UTEP enough for making this project a reality.”
Haskins was the head coach at Texas Western College for 38 years, from 1961-1999. He led the Miners to 719 wins, 14 NCAA Tournament appearances and seven Western Athletic Conference championships.
In the 15 years since his passing in 2008 — and nearly a quarter century since he last roamed the sidelines — Haskins entered the 2023-24 season ranked 34th on the list of the all-time winningest coaches in National Collegiate Athletic Association Division I men’s basketball history. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame on Sept. 29, 1997.
Assistant Athletic Director, Strategic Communications