Charles Martin “C.M.” Newton began his career as a coach at Transylvania on the recommendation of a legend: Adolph Rupp. Newton had been a basketball letterman on Rupp’s championship teams of the early 1950s.
After 14 seasons, Newton left Transylvania in 1968 to become head coach at the University of Alabama. Another towering figure in collegiate athletics, Crimson Tide football coach and athletic director Paul “Bear” Bryant, had contacted Rupp in his search for someone to turn around Alabama’s basketball program, and, once again, Rupp recommended Newton.
Just as he had done at Transylvania, Newton in 1969 recruited Alabama’s first African American player, Wendell Hudson.
In the 1980s he served as assistant commissioner of the Southeastern Conference and as head basketball coach at Vanderbilt University.
Newton’s record of victories in the SEC was second only to that of Rupp.
Newton gained a national reputation as team manager of the 1984 gold-medal-winning U.S. Olympic basketball team and for his work with Final Four committees of the National Collegiate Athletic Association.
He has served on the board of directors of the National Association of Basketball Coaches and six years on the NCAA Basketball Rules Committee, five as chairman.
Newton returned to Lexington in April 1989. The University of Kentucky had come calling in search of someone to replace athletic director Cliff Hagan and navigate the stormy waters of an NCAA probation.
His first major decision as AD was to hire then-New York Knicks coach Rick Pitino. The result was “The Unforgettables,” a team of mostly Kentucky-born players who lost in overtime in the East Regional Final of the NCAA tournament to Duke in what many consider the greatest college basketball game ever played.
From 1992-96, Newton served as president of USA Basketball. Under his leadership, professional basketball players were allowed to represent the United States in the Summer Olympics.
In 1995, Newton hired Bernadette Mattox as UK’s first black women’s basketball coach, followed in 1997 by the hiring of Orlando “Tubby” Smith as the university’s first black men’s coach, succeeding Pitino who had moved on to coach the Boston Celtics.
C.M. Newton has achieved national stature and has produced winning teams of exceptional academic credentials, enhancing the game of basketball around the world.
Newton and his wife, Nancy, reside in Tuscaloosa, Ala.
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