Former Alabama Men’s Basketball Head Coach C.M. Newton Passes Away
Longtime Alabama head coach and Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame honoree (Class of 2000) Charles Martin ‘C.M.’ Newton has passed away. He was 88 years old.
“Coach Newton was a true leader in intercollegiate athletics,” said Alabama Director of Athletics Greg Byrne. “He took risks and was willing to do the right thing even when it was not the most popular thing. He made a tremendous impact on The University of Alabama, the University of Kentucky, Vanderbilt University, Transylvania University and the Southeastern Conference. Thousands of student-athletes have been positively impacted because of his approach as an athletics director, a coach and an exemplary human being.”
“I was extremely saddened when I heard of the passing of legendary former University of Alabama coach C.M. Newton,” said head men’s basketball coach Avery Johnson. “C.M. was present at my first press conference when I arrived at Alabama back in April of 2015 and was always very supportive. He welcomed me with open arms and was so instrumental in my transition to The University of Alabama. C.M. impacted so many people in the world of basketball on the collegiate and professional levels and with USA basketball. His spirit will continue to live on, and we will strive to make him proud of us each and every day.”
As a player, coach, and administrator for over 50 years, Newton was one of the most influential figures in college sports over that span. Born on Feb. 2, 1930, in Rockwood, Tenn., Newton led the University of Alabama men’s basketball program to unprecedented heights of achievement from 1968-80. Hired by legendary head coach and athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant, Newton had a record of 211-123 during his 12 seasons at the Capstone. He led the Crimson Tide to four National Invitation Tournament (NIT) and two National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) Tournament appearances.
Under Newton, Alabama became the first school, other than the University of Kentucky, to win three consecutive Southeastern Conference (SEC) titles, winning the crown in 1974, 1975 and 1976. Newton was selected as the SEC Coach of the Year in back-to-back seasons (1975 and 1976); becoming the only Alabama coach to accomplish the feat. Newton was instrumental in recruiting the first African-American scholarship athlete at the University of Alabama, Wendell Hudson, in 1968; integrating a program for the second time (Newton also integrated athletics at Kentucky’s Transylvania University during his stint as a head coach, which immediately preceded his Alabama tenure).
Newton is the only coach in program history to have led the Tide to five consecutive 20-win seasons, including a 23-5 mark, a final national ranking of No. 6 and the program’s first Sweet 16 appearance in 1976. That still remains as the highest final ranking in program lore. In 1980, Newton resigned as head coach at Alabama to become assistant commissioner of the SEC. After one year at that position, he was approached by Vanderbilt University and accepted the position of head coach at Vanderbilt. In eight seasons, he led the Commodores to a 129-115 record and consecutive invitations to the NCAA tournament in 1988 and 1989.
Newton attained his first head coaching job in 1956 when he was tabbed the head coach at Transylvania University of the National Associate of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA). During his 12 seasons at Transylvania he compiled a 169-137 record and led the team to the 1963 NAIA Tournament. In 32 seasons as a head coach at Transylvania, Alabama and Vanderbilt, Newton finished with a 509-375 career record.
In 1989, Newton left Vanderbilt to become athletic director at his alma mater, the University of Kentucky, amid NCAA probation and sanctions. Newton hired the school’s first black women’s and men’s basketball coaches, as well as hiring Rick Pitino away from the New York Knicks to take over a struggling men’s program. Newton served as chair of the NCAA Men’s Basketball Rules Committee from 1979-85. During his tenure the NCAA adopted the shot clock, three-point line and the coach’s box. From 1992-96, Newton was president of USA Basketball. Newton is widely credited with the decision to allow professional basketball players to play in the 1992 Olympics, which gave rise to the 1992 ‘Dream Team’.
Newton played both basketball and baseball at the University of Kentucky. During his college career, Newton was a guard/forward on the 1951 national championship basketball team, in addition to helping lead the Kentucky baseball team to an NCAA tournament berth as a pitcher. After college, Newton signed a professional baseball contract with the New York Yankees and pitched briefly in the minor leagues, before turning to coaching basketball.
In addition to his Naismith Memorial Hall of Fame induction, Newton is also a member of the Alabama Sports Hall of Fame (1993), Kentucky Athletics Hall of Fame (2008) and Transylvania Pioneer Hall of Fame (1992). He received many other honors throughout his career. In 2000, Kentucky officially named its football playing field at Commonwealth Stadium in honor of Newton. The University of Alabama also named a recruiting suite in Coleman Coliseum for Newton in 2006.