EL PASO, Texas Thousands of people filled the Don Haskins Center on Thursday night to remember the basketball coach in a memorial service that took on the atmosphere of a college game.
The arena's television screens showed a 1997 roast of Haskins, known to the basketball world as "The Bear" and to fans and players as simply "Coach," while a spotlight shone on the 1966 NCAA national championship banner.
The scoreboard was lit up with the final score of that game Texas Western College, 72, Kentucky 65 as it was during a public viewing for Haskins on Tuesday.
Haskins died Sunday. He was 78.
The Texas-El Paso marching band was on hand and former referee Irv Brown even stood guard with a whistle to cut off speakers who went over their allotted time in a service that was expected to last three hours.
Nolan Richardson, who played for Haskins during his first two years in El Paso and was a national champion as a coach at Arkansas, described Haskins as a "mentor and a good friend" before Thursday's service.
"You are talking about a crown jewel," Richardson said.
Richardson said while Haskins never acknowledged knowing what it meant for him to start to five black players in the 1966 championship game against an all-white Kentucky squad, he believes Haskins always knew what he was doing.
"He was a simple man with values," Richardson said. "Had he known the values he had maybe he wouldn't have been so good."
Nevil Shed, one of Haskins' starters in 1966 and a one-time assistant to Haskins, said the coach was a life-long inspiration to him. And Haskins recently told him something he always assumed, but never knew for sure.
"He told me he loved me, something I might not have believed when I played for him," Shed said with a soft smile.
Countless friends and former players, including Tim Hardaway and Antonio Davis, filled the arena's floor Thursday.
Those who knew Haskins best said this week that he would have hated the spectacle of thousands of people paying tribute to him. But family friend Jim Paul said this was the one time they didn't give Haskins a vote.