WVU Sports Hall of Fame
Written by Bryan Messerly
George King, who served as men’s basketball coach at WVU for five seasons from 1961-65, led the Mountaineers to three NCAA tournaments (1962, 1963 and 1965) and three Southern Conference Championship crowns.
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King’s record at WVU was 102-43 (.703), which currently ranks third in winning percentage and sixth in victories among WVU head men’s basketball coaches. King coached WVU All-American Rod Thorn, who went on to an eight-year pro career and recruited future All-American Ron “Fritz Williams, the first African-American player to play basketball in the Southern Conference and at WVU.
The Charleston, W.Va., native left WVU in 1965 and served as the head men’s basketball coach at Purdue from 1966-72. King’s seven Purdue basketball teams compiled a record of 109-64, were runners-up for the national championship in 1969 and were invited to the NIT in 1971.
King’s coaching career began at his alma mater, Morris Harvey, now the University of Charleston. His overall collegiate coaching record was 223-119.
He was the first-full time paid assistant coach in WVU basketball history under head coach Fred Schaus.
King was elevated to athletics director at Purdue in 1971 and spent one year (1971-72) as head basketball coach and athletics director before giving up the coaching reigns in 1972. He served as president of the National Association of Collegiate Directors of America (NACDA) and as chairman of the NCAA Committee on Committees and the NCAA Postseason Bowl Committee (now Special Events Committee). He served as Purdue’s athletics director until 1992.
King was named West Virginia’s Amateur Athletic of the Year twice (1949 and 1950) and in 1976 highlighted his meteoric rise through the coaching ranks with selection to the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ Hall of Fame just 10 years after he began his coaching career. He was also named to the West Virginia Sportswriters Hall of Fame for athletics in the mid-1970s, to the prestigious Honors Committee of the National Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 1982, to the University of Charleston Athletic Hall of Fame in 1985 and to the Purdue Athletics Hall of Fame in 2001. He was also honored as the recipient of NACDA’s 1990 James J. Corbett Memorial Award.
King received his bachelor’s degree from Morris Harvey in 1950, his master’s degree from West Virginia in 1957 and an honorary doctorate from the University of Charleston in 1983, when he was also named recipient of a Distinguished Alumni Award.
After establishing several national offensive scoring records as a player, including a 31.2 scoring average as a collegian at Morris Harvey, King played one year in the national amateur industrial league with the Phillips Oilers. He then made the jump to the pro ranks with the Syracuse Nationals for five years and the Cincinnati Royals for one year. His steal helped preserve the Nationals NBA title in 1955.
King died at the age of 78 in October 2006. He and his wife, Jeanne G. King, were married for 57 years. He left behind six children, George, Kristy, Jeanne, Kathy, Jan, Kerry Jo and Gordon Scott; 18 grandchildren; and nine great grandchildren.