Iba, (Payne) Henry (“Hank”)

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Iba, (Payne) Henry (“Hank”)

(b. 6 August 1904 in Easton, Missouri; d. 15 January 1993 in Stillwater, Oklahoma), college basketball coach and athletic director who was among the most respected in the United States and who won two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) basketball titles while coaching at Oklahoma State University (OSU).

Iba was one of five children of Henry Burkley Iba, a traveling salesman, and Zylfa Dell Payne, a refined homemaker who brought her Kentucky traditions with her when she moved to Easton. At Easton High School, Iba was a member of the debating team and was acknowledged as the best player on the school’s basketball team. After graduating in 1923, he attended Westminster College in Fulton, Missouri, where he had an athletic scholarship to play basketball, football, and baseball, and to run track. In his four years at Westminster, Iba participated on seven league championship teams. He lettered four times each in basketball and baseball and two times in football. He made the all-state basketball team four times and led the state in scoring in 1926. Playing as an end, he made all-state in football for his 1926 team.

In 1927 Iba took a teaching and coaching position at Classen High School in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. As Classen’s basketball coach, Iba stressed fundamentals and defense. On offense, Iba slowed the game and stressed close-to-the-basket shots and accuracy. In his first year he took Classen to the state finals, only to lose 22–17. Iba also coached baseball and won several tournament championships. In the 1928 basketball season, Iba’s Classen Comets won the state championship and competed in the finals of the national high school tournament, which they lost.

After the academic year, Iba attended summer school at Marysville State Teachers College in Marysville, Missouri, where he finished his B.S. degree in physical education. After another championship year at Classen, Iba landed a college job at Marysville State University, where he served as head basketball coach and assistant football coach. It was in Marysville that Iba met his future bride, Doyne Williams. They married on 25 August 1930 and eventually had one son, Henry Williams (“Moe”) Iba, who also became a successful basketball coach.

Iba’s trademark was defense and ball control. The game’s tempo was slow. Iba developed a pattern offense that included approximately fifty plays, with someone guaranteed an open shot if the pattern were correctly run. His first year at Marysville was an undefeated one (31–0). Three more years of winning records and winning tournaments followed before Iba accepted a new position—head basketball and head baseball coach at Oklahoma A&M College (now Oklahoma State University) in Stillwater.

Assuming his new position in 1934, Iba took charge of a losing basketball team whose last winning season had been in 1928. He managed to turn the program around in just one year. His team posted a 9–9 record, a statistic that Iba had predicted before even playing the first game. In 1935, in addition to his coaching duties, Iba was named the college’s athletic director. That year, his basketball team won a share of the Missouri Valley conference by tying Drake and Creighton in conference wins.

A host of good years followed. Iba’s teams became contenders for national laurels. His 1945 team won the NCAA title and his 1946 team repeated the feat. Iba became the first college coach to win back-to-back basketball titles. Subsequently, he continued his career in Stillwater until his retirement in 1970. Although he never won another NCAA basketball crown, his overall record was a dazzling 767 career victories and only 338 losses. His victories placed him fourth (as of 2000) on the list for wins as a college coach. Only Dean Smith, Adolph Rupp, and Jim Phelan had more wins.

As athletic director of OSU, Iba also made his mark. By 2000 the university had won thirty-five NCAA championships in various sports: twenty-five of those came during Iba’s tenure as athletic director. Iba also supervised the modernization of OSU’s athletic facilities.

In a fitting climax to a successful career, Iba was named to coach the United States basketball team in the Olympic games of 1964, 1968, and 1972. He became the only American to coach basketball in three Olympics. His teams won gold medals in 1964 and 1968 but had to settle for the silver after losing to the Soviet Union in 1972’s final game—a contest marred by last-second controversial rulings that allowed the Soviet team three chances in which to take the last shot of the game. The Soviets finally scored on the third try and won the game with the score of 51–50. Iba also served as the honorary coach of the gold medal—winning Olympic basketball team under Bobby Knight in 1984.

Iba was best known as an innovator in “hard-nosed” man-to-man defense and in ball control and pattern offense. He also believed in iron discipline for his teams both on and off the court. He was an honest, ethical coach and administrator who served as a role model for college basketball players and coaches everywhere.

Iba won many awards during his career. He was the NCAA coach of the year in both 1945 and 1946. He was inducted into the Basketball Hall of Fame in 1968. In 1976 the Basketball Hall of Fame trustees gave him the John W. Burn Award for outstanding contributions to basketball and to athletics. In 1982 Iba won OSU’s Henry G. Bennett Distinguished Service Award for contributions to OSU and to the state of Oklahoma. He was selected for both the Oklahoma Hall of Fame and the Missouri Hall of Fame.

After his retirement in 1970, Iba continued to live in Stillwater and became a sports consultant for OSU and many other universities. He died of heart failure at the age of eighty-eight. He is buried in Fairlawn Cemetery in Stillwater.

Iba will always be remembered as one of the most successful college basketball coaches of all time. He excelled as both player and coach, and remained number four on the list of coaches with the most career wins at the end of the twentieth century. As a coach Iba was known for building a defensive team and slowing down games. The play of his national championship teams of the 1940s as well as his other teams over his thirty-five years as OSU’s athletic director attest to his great coaching abilities. Under his direction OSU became known as a university with excellent and ethical athletic leadership.

A collection of Iba’s personal papers is maintained by the Media Division of the OSU athletic department in Stillwater, Oklahoma. John Paul Bischoff wrote Iba’s full-length biography, Mr. Iba: Basketball’s Aggie Iron Duke (1980). The biography stresses Iba’s career but does not develop his family history. Also containing material on Iba are Tom C. Brody, “Who Says You Can’t Win Them All,” Sports Illustrated (Apr. 1964); Tom C. Brody, “The Man Who Said Control the Ball,” Sports Illustrated (Dec. 1967) ; and Neil D. Isaacs, All the Right Moves: A History of College Basketball (1975). For a look at the coach and his Olympic basketball teams of 1964, 1968, and 1972, see The United States 1964 Olympic Boo% (1965); The United States 1968 Olympic Book (1969); and The United States Olympic Book (1973). Other books that consider Iba’s career are Alexander M. Weyand, The Cavalcade of Basketball (1960), and Philip Reed Rulon, Oklahoma State UniversitySince 1890 (1975). Obituaries are in the Saturday Oklaho-man & Times and Tulsa Tribune (both 16 Jan. 1993).

James Smallwood