| Wins against Kentucky - 0 | Losses against Kentucky - 1 |
Alma Mater: Brigham Young 
Hometown: Murray, UT
Date Born: August 30, 1911
Date Died: April 6, 2000
Overall Record: 371-254 [23 Seasons]
|12/28/1951||Kentucky vs. Brigham Young||W||84 - 64||Sugar Bowl (at New Orleans, LA)|
Obituary - Provo (UT) Daily Herald (April 7, 2000)
BYU Legend Watts Dies at 88
PROVO - Hall of Famer Stan Watts, one of the most respected basketball minds and coaches of the 20th century, died Thursday after surgery at Utah Valley Regional Medical Center, not far from the Marriott Center and Smith Fieldhouse, where his BYU teams earned many of his 372 wins and began runs to two NIT championships.
Watts, who was 88, coached the Cougars from 1949-72, served as president of the National Association of Basketball Coaches, chaired the 1976 U.S. Olympic Basketball Committee and was BYU's athletic director from 1972-76.
He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., on March 6, 1986.
Many BYU fans consider Watts more than the winningest coach in the school's basketball history.
"He carried the athletic program when he couldn't beat anybody in football," said Pete Witbeck, an assistant coach on the 1966 NIT championship team. "He held it together through perilous times at BYU when the protests about the the LDS Church's stance with regard to black and the priesthood became so bad that church leaders considered killing the athletic program."
"Stan was one of those who went in and said, 'Don't give in.'"
The church, which owns and operates BYU, has allowed blacks to hold the priesthood since 1978, but faced intense criticism in the 60s.
The 1951 NIT title had brought such favorable recognition of the church school that it led Ezra Taft Benson, a member of the church's Quorum of Twelve Apostles, to suggest that winning athletic contests, could be of "incalculable" value to the church's missionary program, and attitude that carried BYU sports through the 60s and persists today.
"The athletic world seems vastly different today," said Harold Christensen, who played on the 1951 NIT championship team. "I watch coaches and I just don't see the same characteristics. I don't think they make coaches like Stan Watts any more."
Watts finished his career with a record of 372-254. His teams won eight conference championships and finished fourth in the 1951 NCAA tournament, the highest finish in school history.
Watts lived more than a quarter of a century after serious cancer surgery. He had lost the use of his legs near the end of his life and was confined to a wheelchair. Friends said he'd relied heavily on his wife, Emily, but had weakened after Emily died Feb. 3 following a short illness.
Witbeck, now the senior men's associate athletic director at BYU, was at Watt's side when he died.
"He was my very best friend and my mentor," Witbeck said. "he gave me my chance. He was responsible for many wonderful things in my life."
In a 1996 article, Witbeck said, "(Stan Watts) is BYU basketball. He got the Smith Fieldhouse built and we outgrew that, so he got the Marriott Center built. You have to rank Stan Watts with the Adolph Rupps, Henry Ibas and John Woodens. And you know, the Basketball Hall of Fame feels the same way."
In 1996, one of Watt's players, Kresimir Cosic, became the second Cougar inducted into the hall.
Watts was not expected to live after 14-hour surgery to remove a cancerous tumor in his prostate gland in 1971. He liked to recall that he was the fourth known case, and that the previous three men had died.
But Watts returned to the court for the 1971-72 season and led Cosic and his last team to one more conference title in the first season in the Marriott Center. Current BYU coach Steve Cleveland has tried to restore what he calls the "Marriott Center magic."
Witbeck told Cleveland when the team left for Indiana last month and third-round NIT game that Watts wished the Cougars well.
"Even at his most critical times, he was thinking about BYU basketball," Cleveland said. "He has a great legacy here, one so many in Utah Valley remember. You have special memories of people like that."
Witbeck said Watts passed peacefully at 6:50 p.m. Funeral arrangements have not been made.
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