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Remembering John McClendon, MMM 3-28-2011


Monday Morning Message, March 28, 2011

In 1969, I was involved in starting FCA huddle groups in schools throughout Northeast Ohio.  The head basketball coach at Cleveland State University back then was a man named John McClendon, Jr.  At this time in Coach McClendon’s life, he had experienced so much that I had no idea who he was or why he was so significant in the lives of basketball players.  To me, he was a man who loved Jesus Christ so much that he would share his faith whenever we asked him to be part of our local events.  I suggest you Google Coach McClendon to learn more about him but for today just think about his legacy.  Part of his greatness was that he didn’t act like he was a big deal.

The reason he is so vivid in my memory during the NCAA tournaments is that prior to his time at Cleveland State University, his entire career was spent at predominately black colleges.  He won “National” championships in what was known as the NAIA tournaments.  Because he was the Jackie Robinson of college basketball coaches, he never got a chance to coach at the schools that competed in the NCAA.  The great Hank Iba did know about Coach McClendon however and included him on Olympic teams and International teams long before he was allowed to coach at an NCAA school.  Had the racial landscape been level back then, he would be talked about along with all of the other great college coaches. 

One of the most famous games that Coach Mac was involved in was the first ever college game between his all black North Carolina College team from Durham, and the all white graduate school team from Duke.  The grad school men from Duke were much better than the regular team back then, so don’t think they were just a bunch of old guys.  This game was played in a secret place on a Sunday morning at 11:00 when everyone else in the city was in church.  Final score was 88-44 in favor of the all black team who used a little known tactic back in the 1940’s called a “fast break”.  I wish I could have seen that game because I would love to have heard how Coach Mac would have talked to the Duke players afterwards.  One thing I am sure, he would not have “trashed talked” because in all of my time with him, his words were always well chosen and Biblically Responsible.   He also would have remembered that God only places us where he can use us in the best way as a witness. 

  Matthew 6:33 (RSV) “But seek first His kingdom and His righteousness, and all these things shall be yours as well.” 

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