KANSAS CITY, Mo. – Harry Statham has had some monumental moments in more than five decades as the head basketball coach at McKendree University. At the start of this 2018-19 season, Statham, who stepped away from coaching a year ago, had more wins than any other collegiate coach at a four-year school with 1,122 wins.
On Sunday, April 7, during the annual NABC Convention and NCAA Men’s Final Four, Statham will receive the 2019 Hillyard NABC Golden Anniversary Award for long and outstanding service to men’s college basketball. The award will be presented during the AT&T NABC Guardians of the Game Awards Show at 6:30 p.m. CT in the Main Auditorium at the Minneapolis Convention Center. The show will be broadcast live on Stadium.
Statham was on the court for 1,635 games, guiding the Bearcats to 42 postseason appearances in his 52-year tenure with 1,122 wins and 513 losses.
On that journey, he took his team to the Fab Four of the National Intercollegiate Athletic Association in 2003; passed Hall of Fame coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines as the all-time wins leader in the NAIA; and became the all-time leader in victories for men’s and women’s coaches in college basketball in 2016, eclipsing the record of 1,099 wins by legendary Tennessee women’s coach Pat Summit.
Statham’s self-described biggest win of his career came on December 1, 2004, topping Maryville for his 880th win.
“That was the game that elevated me past Dean Smith for all-time wins in men’s college basketball at a four-year school,” Statham said.
Statham doesn’t seem as awed that he passed Smith, the legendary North Carolina coach, as much as how proud he was of what it did for McKendree University and its great fan base.
“It’s not about the milestones. We had national television coverage for a long, long time,” said Statham. “That really means an awful lot for a small community. We have the Bearcat boosters which supported a small school with a small budget in every way – financial, spiritual. It was a big part of our program.”
Statham’s teams celebrated some signature wins on the court at the Harry M. Statham Sports Center, giving the coach wins #500, 600, 700, 800, 1,000 and 1,100 at home.
“It all begins with your coaching philosophy: Win with good people. Get character first and talent second. With those around you build,” said Statham. “We were able to get good kids who played well and graduated.”
“I always had the utmost respect for Harry, someone who was so consistent and coached for so long,” said Columbia (Mo.) University head coach Bob Burchard, a major rival for the Bearcats in the American Midwest Conference. “Harry was the coach that we all talked about. He is a true Guardian of the Game and a great example for all coaches and educators to emulate.”