Legendary 'Big House' Gaines dies
Published in Sports on April 19, 2005 1:55 PM
WINSTON-SALEM -- Hall of Famer Clarence "Big House" Gaines, one of college basketball's winningest coaches during his 47 seasons at Winston-Salem State, died Monday, his daughter said. He was 81.
Gaines entered a hospital on Friday with heart problems, a family member told WRAL-TV in Raleigh. He was released Saturday but had a stroke and returned to Forsyth Medical Center. Lisa Gaines McDonald told The Associated Press that her father died at 9:10 p.m. Monday, possibly from complications related to a stroke.
Gaines, a native of Paducah, Ky., retired in 1993 after 47 seasons at NCAA Division II Winston-Salem State. His 828 wins rank him fifth on the NCAA career coaching wins list, behind Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, Bob Knight and Jim Phelan.
Gaines had 18 20-win seasons and won 11 Central Intercollegiate Athletic Association titles at Winston-Salem. In 1967 he led the Rams, featuring future NBA star Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, to a 31-1 record and an NCAA championship. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1982.
Gaines was born and raised when segregation ruled the country. He was a young coach when Jackie Robinson broke the color barrier in major league baseball in 1947.
Gaines was a 6-foot-5, 265-pound high school prospect in 1941 and his college possibilities were considered slim.
Yet with the determination of his family and the black community, he was given scholarship offers from three predominantly black colleges. He went to Morgan State, where a school worker inspired the nickname that stayed with him the rest of his life, telling him, "the only thing I've seen as big as you is a house."
After graduation he continued his career goal of becoming a dentist. He was offered a job as an assistant football and basketball coach at Winston-Salem Teachers' College and decided it would be a temporary solution until he figured out what to do next.
It turned into an unexpected career, one that Gaines loved for 47 years, all at Winston-Salem. He gave up coaching football after four years to focus on basketball.
Gaines' autobiography was titled "They Call Me Big House."
Funeral arrangements were incomplete Monday night.
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