Mr. Iba, as his players and other coaches alike knew him, was perhaps the most highly respected basketball coach of all time. Mr. Iba was the only person to coach three different U.S. Olympic basketball teams (1964, 1968 and 1972.) In 1984 he served as an honorary coach on Bob Knight’s Olympic coaching staff.
While Mr. Iba’s success on the court could be measured in wins and losses, he was tremendously successful off the floor, teaching not only the game of basketball, but also the game of life. Many former players went on to become highly successful head coaches at the collegiate level. Coaches like Jack Hartman, Don Haskins and Eddie Sutton have taken the principles they learned from Mr. Iba and applied them to their professional careers. Former player, U.S. Senator, Bill Bradley, said, “More inspiring and more important to me than the basketball instructions were the hints on how to live a more worthwhile life which were sprinkled throughout his practice sessions, team meetings and casual remarks. Now I understand why men are always proud when they say, ‘Mr. Iba was my coach.’ So am I.”
Other coaches who did not play for Mr. Iba also sought his advice: Bob Knight at Indiana, Mike Kryzewski at Duke and countless others. He always gave of himself to others. He became the first coach to lead his school to back-to-back NCAA Championships as he took Oklahoma State University to national titles in 1945 and 1946. He was named National Coach of the Year both those years. His 767 career victories ranked second best all-time when he retired and now twelfth in the history of the game. At the time of his death in 1993, his 1,105 games coached were more than any other individual. Mr. Iba is the only coach with six or more NCAA Tournament appearances, to make it to the regional finals of that event every year. He coached in four different Final Fours and his teams appeared in the NCAA Tournament in three different decades.
He was known as a master at coaching defense. His OSU Cowboys led the nation in scoring defense seven times during his tenure and were ranked in the top three in that category 18 times.
But it was his teaching for which he was noted and respected. The caliber of the players he turned out is legendary. And he was the consummate gentleman, coach and administrator.
Athletics need more Mr. Iba’s, and perhaps these awards, which bear his name, will inspire others to follow in his footsteps.