ABILENE, Texas (Jan. 11, 2014) – L. Haskell Sinclair, who coached basketball and baseball at Oklahoma Christian during the formative days of the university’s athletic program, has passed away at age 79.
Sinclair passed away Thursday after a long illness, said longtime OC biology professor Mike Gipson, who played both sports for Sinclair at OC during the 1960s. Sinclair, whom Gipson saluted last February upon Gipson’s induction into the OC Athletic Hall of Fame, was one of only six men’s basketball coaches in the university’s history.
OC Athletic Director Curtis Janz said Sinclair “was one of the men on whom the foundation of Oklahoma Christian athletics was built. He coached players such as Frank Davis and recruited players such as Mike Gipson, who set the standard for the future of our program.”
Sinclair was born on Jan. 17, 1934, in Ravenna, Texas. He was a football standout at what is now Abilene Christian University in the 1950s and arrived at OC before the 1962-63 academic year, hired by then-athletic director Ray Vaughn. Then known as Oklahoma Christian College, OC was about to enter only its second full season of competition against other four-year colleges.
Sinclair took over basketball-coaching duties from Vaughn, who had served as the Eagles’ first coach since the move to senior-college status. Under Sinclair, the Eagles – led by Davis’ still-standing school record of 26.2 points per game – went 17-5 during the 1962-63 season and followed that with a 7-13 mark during the 1963-64 campaign.
Sinclair stepped down after that season and was succeeded by Davis.
“He was the best coach ever,” Davis said. “He loved coaching and we loved playing for him. Coach Sinclair believed in us and made us believe in ourselves. He made a huge difference in my life as a person and as an athlete. I will always remember him and his wonderful family.”
In baseball, the Eagles went 2-11 in 1963 under Sinclair.
After leaving OC, Sinclair returned to Abilene Christian, where he served as an assistant baseball coach until becoming the Wildcats’ head coach prior to the 1967 season. He held that job for four seasons before going on to a career in secondary education.
A memorial service for Sinclair will be held Monday at 10 a.m. in the Elmwood Funeral Home Chapel, 5750 Highway 277 South in Abilene.