“In all the time I’ve been in basketball, I’m not sure I’ve met anybody that more genuinely liked the game than Abe…he was not in any way reluctant to be innovative. He saw a lot of things that other people might not see.”
Oklahoma native Abe Lemons worked his way through high school and landed a basketball scholarship at Southwestern State Teachers College (now Southwestern Oklahoma State University) in Weatherford, Oklahoma. Abe served in the Merchant Marine during World War II and came to Oklahoma City University after the war ended. Abe was a star player and became an assistant basketball coach after graduation. He was named head coach at OCU in 1955 and built the Chiefs, known today as the Stars, into a major college basketball powerhouse for the next 18 years. In 1973, Abe moved to Pan American University (now the University of Texas Rio Grande Valley) in Edinburgh, Texas, for three seasons and made the Broncs the leading independent basketball team in the Southwest. Abe became head coach at the University of Texas in 1976, winning the Southwest Conference his second season and the NIT in 1978. He returned to OCU and retired in 1990 with 599 wins. The Abe Lemons Arena at OCU was named in his honor.
Known as the funny man of basketball, Abe Lemons may be the most quoted coach of any sport of all time. In fact, USA Today chose one of Abe’s quotes —“Doctors bury their mistakes, ours are still on scholarship”— as their “Coach Quote of the 20th Century.”
Lemons was born in Walters, Oklahoma.