In a lengthy press release sent out yetserday, Miami University announced that Charlie Coles, the winningest league-games coach in MAC basketball history and winningest overall coach in Miami basketball history, will have his #10 retired during the RedHawks' home game against Ohio University next season.
We here at Hustle Belt loved Charlie Coles, as every MAC fan -- hell, every basketball fan in the country -- should. When he passed away, we shared our favorite memories of the man, including my own story about the time he called me hours before the tipoff of a game against Purdue just to apologize for being late with a grade. We've shown you some of his best moments with the media, including this famous exchange with a Lexington reporter after an improbable last-second loss to Kentucky:
And upon his induction into the MAC Hall of Fame earlier this year, we shared the tearjerker of a speech given by his granddaughter, Jazz Bennett, whom several years of Miami students remember as the cute little toddler that used to sit on the sideline with him:
But what a lot of people forget is that Charlie Coles wasn't just one of the greatest coaches in MAC history (or, if you're Dan Dakich, one of the top 3 coaches you've ever seen). He was also one of the great offensive players in Miami history -- an odd trait for a coach known for defense, but the statistics bear it out. His junior season, in an era of basketball dominated by interior play, he led Miami in scoring with 18.5 points per game and shot over 50% from the field. Despite playing in the days before freshman eligibility, he still shows up at #30 on Miami's overall scoring list, and he ranks #10 in points per game. Had he been eligible his freshman year, that 15.4 points per game average would have left him #7 on Miami's overall scoring list.
Coles certainly deserves to be remembered as perhaps the best coach in MAC history, and when you add that to his record as one of Miami's best players, he certainly deserves to have his number hanging from the rafters in Millett Hall. There, he'll join fellow Miami coach Darrell Hedric (another standout player much better known for his time patrolling the sidelines), Naismith Hall of Famer Wayne Embry, rebounding machine Dick Walls, 5-time NBA champion Ron Harper, and Coles' most famous pupil in Oxford, Wally Szczerbiak.
Charlie Coles once said, "Living in Oxford is like being on vacation 365 days a year." The man loved Miami more than anyone else, and Miami will show him love in return.