Hindsman Tower Campaign Underway

His achievements at Arkansas Tech — 355 basketball wins, 15 conference championships in three different sports, two appearances in the NAIA National Basketball Tournament semifinals — are the stuff of legend. Sam Hindsman produced a record of excellence that puts him on a short list of the greatest coaches that the Arkansas Intercollegiate Conference ever saw. Now, his former players and his admirers are coming together to ensure that future generations will know the name Sam Hindsman. A campaign is underway to raise funds for the construction of Hindsman Tower, which will grace the lawn south of the Ross Pendergraft Library and Technology Center on the Arkansas Tech campus in Russellville. “I think the tower will be a fitting memorial for a man who meant so much to many of us,” said E.C. O’Neal, who became the first All-American in Tech basketball history when he earned the honor back-to-back years in 1953 and 1954. “It is unique and something we’ll be very proud to visit.” A committee that includes several of Hindsman’s former players is leading the effort to raise $300,000 for the project. The committee plans to have the funding secured by mid-October so that the tower can be completed by summer 2011.

Those interested in making a gift toward the project can call the Arkansas Tech Development Office at (479) 968-0400. All donors will be recognized on a plaque that will be placed on Hindsman Tower. “There had never been a coach in the state of Arkansas with the talent and administrative ability that Coach Hindsman had,” said Deward Dopson, a two-time all-conference performer under Hindsman and the man who succeeded Hindsman as Tech head basketball coach. “He was an excellent instructor and an excellent teacher. I don’t think you’ll ever see anything like what happened there again. It was the right time, the right place and the right person.”

Hindsman was hired at Arkansas Tech in 1947. He coaxed his first Tech team to a 12-8 overall record and a 9-7 mark in AIC play, but it was during the following campaign when he began to build his legend.

Hindsman and the 1948-49 Wonder Boys were 17-4 overall. They won the first AIC basketball championship in school history with a conference record of 13-3. It was the first of seven consecutive AIC titles for Tech, which won 112 of 118 contests against conference foes during that seven-year span.

In 1949-50, the Wonder Boys won 20 games in a season for the first time ever and made the first of nine NAIA National Tournament appearances under Hindsman’s guidance. Tech was 18-0 in league play during that 1949-50 season, the first of five seasons with undefeated AIC records for Hindsman’s Wonder Boys.

“(Hindsman) was faithful to his beliefs in teaching young men both basketball and life skills,” said O’Neal. “He believed in hard work and expected you to bring your ‘A’ game, not only to games but to practice. He instilled a desire in his players to do their very best and expected as much from each one.”

By the time he stepped aside as head basketball coach in 1966, Hindsman had won 11 AIC titles at Arkansas Tech. The Wonder Boys reached the national semifinals of the NAIA National Tournament in both 1954 and 1955.

“Most people relate Coach Hindsman with his success as a basketball coach,” said Dopson, “but he was also an outstanding administrator and teacher. He was head of the physical education department, and he taught many of the required classes such as anatomy and physiology. He was an organizer, and he went about it in a quiet way. He understood how to work with boys, and he was excellent in every respect.”

Hindsman’s basketball and academic contributions to Arkansas Tech would certainly be enough to warrant recognition, but his record indicates that given a group of young people and a common goal he could find success in most any pursuit.

He was head coach for the Tech football program from 1954-58, winning two AIC gridiron championships (1954 and 1958) and 83 percent of his conference games. He even captured two AIC titles as head coach of the bowling team (1963 and 1964). Hindsman, who passed away in 1997, was inducted into the Arkansas Tech Hall of Distinction under the Distinguished Service category in 1980. He was enshrined in the Arkansas Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. He is also a member of the University of Memphis Athletic Hall of Fame, and he holds the distinction as the first recipient of the NAIA national basketball coach of the year award. He earned that honor in 1954. But as is the case with any teacher, Hindsman’s greatest legacy is his students. And now, his students are working to repay some of what they owe to their mentor by building Hindsman Tower in his honor. “I think there was a carryover from the way he coached and taught to the success that many of his former players have enjoyed later in life,” said Dopson. “You learned from that, and you used those lessons as best you could in whatever your goals were. The guys picked up on that and did very well. “There’s a lot of us that what we have today and how we can provide for our families, he made that possible for us,” continued Dopson. “We could not have done it without his influence.”