Fifty years ago – on March 19, 1966 – Texas Western beat top-ranked Kentucky, 72-65, to win the national championship. Texas Western, now UTEP, made history by starting five African-American players.
To commemorate that team and its legacy, CBS is airing a one-hour documentary, “1966 Texas Western: Championship of Change,” this Sunday, Feb. 28, at 12 p.m. ET.
Nevil Shed, a starter on that Texas Western team, dropped by CBS Sports Radio on Thursday to share some of his memories from that team and that season.
“It was truly a culture shock,” Shed, a Bronx native, said on The Doug Gottlieb Show, referring to his time in El Paso. “The only thing I knew about Texas was oil wells and cows. But when I flew on my first plane ride and all I saw was mountains and desert, I thought I was in the wrong place.”
He wasn’t. And that’s where he met head coach Don Haskins.
“Playing for Don Haskins was truly an experience,” Shed said. “When I first met him, it was this little stocky man. He was very cordial, but we got right to work. The minute I found some tennis shoes, hey, it was all history.”
Texas Western went 28-1 in 1965-66, beating Oklahoma City, Cincinnati and Kansas en route to the Final Four.
“We were just a bunch of kids playing one game after another,” Shed said. “I enjoyed myself particularly when people said, ‘Wait until they play this (team)’ or ‘They haven’t really played anyone hard yet.’ But we showed them we can play with the best of them. The hardest game we ever played was practice. People say, ‘How long were the practices?’ When Coach Haskins got tired.”
The Miners beat Cincinnati in overtime and Kansas in double overtime before beating Utah in the semifinal. After that? A date with Adolph Rupp and Kentucky, which started five white players.
“The only thing we really knew was Kentucky had won the national championship (eight) years prior to that,” Shed said. “Did we know anything about Pat Riley or Louie Dampier? Not at all. Did we knew anything about Mr. Rupp? Not at all. It was really the best going up against the best. What was so great about that game is that the character of both teams was at the highest standard. I think that’s what Coach Haskins and Coach Rupp intended for us to be like on the floor. The white and black thing – that was the media. For us, it was going out there to be the No. 1 team in the nation.”
A half century later, Shed and his teammates are among the game’s greatest legends and pioneers.
“Unbelievable,” said Shed, 72. “Unbelievable. I’m very humble when I say this, but yes, we are legends.”