Thorobreds lose a legend

By Michael Grant
Updated: February 26, 2010

KENTUCKY — Lucius T. Mitchell, the winningiest men’s basketball coach in Kentucky State University history, died in his sleep Tuesday in Virginia Beach, Va., the university announced Wednesday.

He was 74.

Mitchell coached the Thorobreds to three straight NAIA titles (1970-72), won National Coach of the Year awards in 1970 and ’71 and had five players drafted into the NBA. He was also the first African-American elected as an officer of the National Association of Basketball Coaches.

Mitchell coached NBA first-round picks Elmore Smith (Buffalo Braves, 1971) and Travis Grant (Los Angeles Lakers, ’72). In ’71 he was selected as one of four coaches to run the new Olympic Development Camp in Colorado Springs.

He also coached at Alabama State and Norfolk State, compiling a 15-year career record of 325-103. The basketball floor in Kentucky State’s Exum Center is named for him, and he was inducted into the school’s Hall of Fame in 2002.

In an interview with The Courier-Journal in October 2008, Mitchell said of his three straight titles: “I didn’t expect that. I didn’t think we would be that good that quick.”

“But I thought we’d have a good ballclub, because I recruited some good kids. I knew Kentucky was a basketball state. I thought I could get good kids to come here.”

Mitchell was born in Orvisburg, Miss., and was a graduate of Jackson State. Funeral arrangements are pending. There was no immediate information available on his survivors.