Obituaries

C.M. Newton, had 50-year basketball career as player, coach, administrator, dies at 88

Mr. Newton helped picked the 1992 “Dream Team.”
Associated Press/File 2012
Mr. Newton helped picked the 1992 “Dream Team.”

C.M. Newton, a member of Kentucky’s 1951 NCAA championship squad during a basketball career spanning more than 50 years as a player, coach, and administrator, died Monday. He was 88.

Mr. Newton, who also influenced selection of the original US Olympic ‘‘Dream Team’’ in 1992, was 509-375 as a coach at Transylvania College, Alabama, and Vanderbilt, and worked on several NCAA Division 1 basketball committees. He was inducted into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 2000.

As Kentucky’s athletic director, Mr. Newton’s hiring of Rick Pitino as men’s basketball coach helped the Wildcats win the 1996 national title.

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He integrated Alabama’s basketball program and later hired Kentucky’s first African-American women’s and men’s basketball coaches, Bernadette Mattox and Tubby Smith.

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‘‘Integrating the program was the thing,’’ Mr. Newton said in a 1999 media guide biography. ‘‘It had importance not only at Alabama, but also around the league. We took in-state talent and won nationally. That opened the door for a lot of African-American youngsters.’’

Kentucky athletic director Mitch Barnhart said Mr. Newton was ‘‘a giant’’ at the school, with the Southeastern Conference, and throughout the sport.

‘‘His contributions to the sport of basketball continue to this day,’’ Barnhart said in a release.

Born in Rockwood, Tenn., Charles Martin Newton was a baseball pitcher at UK in addition to playing basketball from 1948-51. He lettered on the ’51 Wildcats team that won their third national title under legendary coach Adolph Rupp.

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Mr. Newton began his coaching career in Lexington at nearby Transylvania College before moving on to the Southeastern Conference at Alabama and Vanderbilt. The Crimson Tide won three consecutive SEC titles from 1974-76 under Mr. Newton and reached the postseason six times. He also was named the Associated Press SEC Coach of the Year in 1972 and 1976 while at Alabama and again in 1988 and 1989 while coaching Vanderbilt.

Mr. Newton also served as an assistant SEC commissioner.

Vanderbilt hired Mr. Newton in 1981, and he went 129-115 with the Commodores, notching his 500th career victory in 1989. He also coached Vanderbilt to the Sweet 16 in the 1988 NCAA Tournament with Barry Goheen knocking down two 3-pointers late in a dramatic overtime victory over Pittsburgh.

Former Vanderbilt and NBA player Will Perdue said Mr. Newton was more than a coach.

‘‘He was my father away from home, a role model for me to look up to, a motivator and a truly patient individual,’’ Perdue said. ‘‘He taught me basketball, but he also taught me what’s expected of a man. The basketball community has lost its best friend.’’

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Mr. Newton returned to Kentucky as athletic director in 1989 to shepherd the men’s program’s recovery from NCAA sanctions that included a two-year postseason ban.

Kentucky’s journey included heartbreak, with a 104-103 overtime loss to eventual champion Duke in the 1992 NCAA Tournament East Region final. A last-second jumper by the Blue Devils’ Christian Laettner won that game, which has been called college basketball’s greatest contest. A year later Kentucky was in the Final Four before climbing back on top of college basketball as the 1996 champion. But Newton’s astute personnel decisions didn’t stop with Pitino.

The Wildcats earned the 1998 national title in Smith’s first season as head coach, and Mr. Newton handed the first-year coach the championship trophy while serving as chairman of the NCAA Tournament committee. Mr. Newton retired as AD in 1999.

Mr. Newton also made his mark during the 1990s on the national level as director of USA Basketball from 1992-96, overseeing the US Olympic Team’s roster transformation from college players to a collection of NBA superstars.

Michael Jordan, Magic Johnson, and Larry Bird were the most famous of a powerhouse lineup of future Hall of Famers that made up initial 1992 ‘‘Dream Team.’’