Butler University

10 Things to Know About Tony Hinkle

by Mark Montieth
Pacers.com Writer
@MarkMontieth

With the Pacers honoring the legendary Butler coach Tony Hinkle during Sunday's Hickory Night against the New York Knicks, here are 10 things to know about Hinkle's life and legacy.

  1. He was born just outside of Logansport on Dec. 19, 1899. His father, Edgar, was a farmer and schoolteacher. He attended high school in Chicago, however.
  2. His birth name was Paul David. He picked up the nickname "Tony" from his basketball coach at the University of Chicago, who admonished him for eating spaghetti and meatballs in a pre-game meal. The coach gave him an Italian nickname as a way of poking fun, and it stuck.
  3. He was a star athlete in football, basketball and baseball at Chicago, earning nine varsity letters. He was a member of the 10-man Helms Foundation All-America basketball teams in 1919 and '20, and had a contract offer from manager John McGraw to pitch for the New York Giants.
  4. He joined Butler's coaching staff after graduating in 1921, following his coach at Chicago, Harlan "Pat" Page to Indianapolis. Hinkle originally was the baseball coach at Butler, then took over the basketball program in 1926 after Page – himself a three-sport star athlete - left to become head football coach at Indiana University.
  5. He came up with the idea of orange basketballs. The balls were dark brown until the late Fifties, but he thought the ball should be more visible to players and fans. Working with the Spalding company, it was tested at the 1958 NCAA Final Four in Louisville and adopted for use the following season.
  6. Butler Fieldhouse was renamed for him by a vote of the university's board of trustees in November of 1965, one month after Hinkle was inducted into the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame.
  7. His basketball coaching career spanned not only decades, but styles of play. The first game he coached for Butler in 1926 resulted in a 27-24 victory over Central Normal College. The last game in 1970 brought a 121-114 loss to Notre Dame in which Irish All-American Austin Carr scored 50 points.
  8. He was never called for a technical foul in a basketball game. According to Bobby Plump, the only time he shouted at officials was when they did not know a rule. He did not dispute calls on fouls and other violations. He watched games while sitting down, crossing and uncrossing his legs and pulling up his socks.
  9. He provided color commentary for the telecasts of high school state tournament games in the 1960s, working with Tom Carnegie. He became famous for proclaiming, "The team that wins the game is the one that puts the ball in the basket the most times." It reflected his simplified approach to the game.
  10. Although he had hoped to continue coaching when forced to resign in 1970, he stayed on as a "special assistant" to the university president. He was a constant presence around the fieldhouse until he died in his sleep in 1992 at age 92. His death brought official statements from admirers in the coaching fraternity, including John Wooden and Bob Knight. Wooden, who gave serious thought to attending Butler and playing for Hinkle, called the coach "a wonderful man," adding "there are no better coaches, teachers, than Tony Hinkle."

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Mark Montieth's book, "Reborn: The Pacers and the Return of Pro Basketball to Indianapolis," covers the formation and early seasons of the franchise. It is available at retail outlets throughout Indiana and online at sources such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble.

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