Jon Teitel's Coaching Greats Series: SMU's "Doc" Hayes

May 3rd, 2011
In the latest installment in his "Coaching Greats" interview series CHN writer Jon Teitel spent some time talking about the career of late SMU head coach E.O. "Doc" Hayes with Gerry York, head of the SMU Heritage Hall Museum. In twenty seasons at SMU Coach Hayes won 299 games and led the Mustangs to eight conference titles and six NCAA Tournament appearances.

Jon Teitel: Elmore Onslow Hayes went by the nickname "Doc" or "Little Doc". How did he get the nickname, and how did he like it? 

Gerry York: His father was a doctor and people started calling him "Doc" or "Little Doc" at an early age. 

JT: Texas has always been known as a football state. How hard was it for Coach Hayes to convince the SMU fans to give basketball a chance? 

GY: The answer to this question started in 1953 when Jim Krebs chose to enroll as a freshman at SMU instead of Vanderbilt.  At that time, Jim was the tallest player (6'8") ever to play basketball at SMU.  From that point on, interest in SMU basketball (and the SWC for that matter) really started picking up.  When Jim came to SMU we were still playing in Perkins Gym, which only seated about 2,000 people.  Shortly after Jim came to SMU, ground was broken on a new coliseum that would seat a over 8,000 people.  It was completed by Jim's senior season, and just about every game that year was a sellout.  I attended SMU for all three years that Jim was on the varsity and I attended every game, including quite a few out-of-town games.

JT: In 1954 SMU began an incredible 44-game home winning streak. What was the ambience like at home games, and how big a home-court advantage did it give the Mustangs? 

GY: The first two years that Jim was there they played at Perkins, where the stands were very close to the court.  There were hardly any fans from the visiting schools during that time because between season ticket holders and students, there were no seats left for anyone else!  When we moved to SMU Coliseum for Jim's final year there were a few fans from the other teams but mostly 8,000 people there to cheer on the Mustangs, thus there was a real home court advantage.

JT: In 1955 SMU made its first NCAA Tournament appearance, suffering a two-point loss to a Bradley team that was 7-19. How big a deal was it to make the tournament, and how on earth did they get upset by Bradley? 

GY: There was great excitement when we got to the tourney.  We had already lost to Bradley earlier in the year so people really did not know what to think before the game.  You have to remember that we still had a very young team.  We were disappointed at the loss but were already thinking about the following year.  You also have to remember that at that point in time, Bradley was a highly respected program and often had very good teams.

JT: In 1956 led SMU to a 26-4 record and a trip to the Final Four before losing to eventual national champion USF (USF's Bill Russell finished with 17 points and 23 rebounds) and then losing to Temple in the third place game (Hal Lear scored 48 points to lead the Owls). Is that considered the best season in school history, and was it just a matter of Russell and Lear being too talented for SMU to match up with? 

GY: The 1956 team is considered the best.   Russell was not the reason we lost to USF; Krebs (24 points) actually outscored Russell.  Our scouting report did not show that Mike Farmer (one of their forwards) was a scorer, so our defense was geared to stop Russell and their guards.  Farmer scored 22 points and was the deciding factor but the next night against Iowa he only scored a few points.  The game against Temple was a shootout.  We scored a lot but just could not stop Lear. He was quicker than our guards and it was just one of those nights.  Our guys have told me many times that Lear was just outstanding.   Two of our starters and our top substitute from that team are still very good friends of mine, and we attend a bible study together each week.

JT: Krebs was the first All-American in SMU history. How was Hayes able to convince Krebs to head south from St. Louis, and what was the reaction like when Krebs was killed at age 29 by a tree limb while trying to remove a tree from his neighbor's yard? 

GY: A couple of guys from St. Louis had come to SMU the year before Jim got there and talked to him about coming to SMU, and another top player from St. Louis had already decided to come to SMU.  I think the combination of those guys, the beautiful campus, and Coach Hayes were enough to sway Jim into becoming a Mustang.  Jim's death was a big shock to the SMU community and to all of us who were his friends.  Whenever his teammates have a reunion it does not take long before the Jim stories start coming up, so it is very obvious how they all felt about him.

JT: Eight years later Hayes and his wife Kathleen were tragically killed in a one-car accident. Did people feel it was déjà vu for the best coach in school history to die in a tragic accident after the best player in school history did so less than a decade earlier, and what was the reaction like on campus? 

GY: There may have been people who compared the two deaths, but I never hear that from anyone.  People were in shock after the news broke about Kathleen and Doc.  They were not only loved by the SMU campus but also by the entire city of Dallas.  Doc had been a legendary high school coach in Dallas before coming to SMU, so the whole town felt like it had lost not only two friends but also two outstanding role models.

JT: Coach Hayes won 299 games, which is the most by any SMU coach in any sport. Do you consider him to be the best coach in SMU history, and what was the key to his combination of success and longevity? 

GY: He is the best coach in SMU basketball history without a doubt.  Krebs was to SMU basketball what Doak Walker was to SMU football, and Coach Hayes was to SMU basketball what Coach Matty Bell was to SMU football.  Doc's recruiting philosophy was to always find guys who could shoot, and the rest would take care of itself.  There were many games (especially during the Krebs years) when our outstanding free throw shooting would pull us through the close games.  Additionally, he always talked about the character of his players.  I believe it was these two things that made Doc a big winner and a great coach.

JT: The Doc Hayes Award is given out each year to the most improved player. Why did they name the award after him, and what would it mean to him to know they did so? 

GY: The team has many annual awards, so my guess is that someone came up with this idea because they wanted to name an award for him.  I am sure Doc would be pleased to know that they named it for him because he took great pleasure in seeing the guys that he recruited improve each year.

JT: When people look back on his career, how do you think he should be remembered the most? 

GY: I think he should be remembered as a good coach, a great motivator, and a truly wonderful and caring human being. 
Coach Hayes is also on Jon's list of best coaches in Conference USA history. 

East Carolina: Tom Quinn (1966-1974) 102-106, 1 NCAA tourney, 1-time conference COY
Houston: Guy Lewis (1956-1986) 592-279, 14 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time national COY
Marshall: Cam Henderson (1935-1955) 362-160, 3 conference titles, 1 NAIB title
Memphis: John Calipari (2000-2009) 252-69, 6 NCAA tourneys, 7 conference titles, 1 NIT title, 2-time national COY, 3-time conference COY
Rice: Buster Brannon (1938-1942, 1945-1946) 85-37, 2 NCAA tourneys, 2 conference titles
SMU: E.O. "Doc" Hayes (1947-1967) 299-192, 6 NCAA tourneys, 8 conference titles
Southern Miss: MK Turk (1976-1996) 300-267, 2 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference title, 1 NIT title
Tulane: Perry Clark (1989-2000) 185-145, 3 NCAA tourneys, 4 conference titles, 1-time national COY
Tulsa: Nolan Richardson (1980-1985) 119-37, 2 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 1 NIT title, 2-time conference COY
UAB: Gene Bartow (1979-1996) 350-193, 9 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
UCF: Kirk Speraw (1993-2010) 279-233, 4 NCAA tourneys, 1 conference titles, 1-time conference COY
UTEP: Don Haskins (1961-1999) 719-353, 14 NCAA tourneys, 9 conference titles, 1 NCAA title, 2-time conference COY