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Zip Gayles never got his chance against Iba's team

By Bob Hersom Published: August 14, 2008
Lots of tales have been told about two of the greatest coaches in basketball history, the late Zip Gayles from Langston and Henry Iba from Oklahoma State. The best tale of all, however, is not widely known.

The story dates to 1946, the year Langston won the National Negro championship and then-Oklahoma A&M won the NCAA title.

"We won the black version of the national championship and they won the white version,” former Langston great Marques Haynes said. "Zip Gayles and Hank Iba got to know each other pretty good. So Iba offered to play us one game, at least, and maybe two-out-of-three, and Zip was for it. They agreed they would play the game and Iba said, ‘Let me get back to you.' ”

Haynes said Iba was later told, "Don't even think about it,” by the Board of Regents during those days of segregation.

"It was the greatest game that was never played in the state of Oklahoma,” said Haynes, who graduated from Langston in 1946. "They talked about one game and maybe even two out of three, depending on the reception of the first one. We were going to play the first one in Stillwater.”

Caesar Felton "Zip” Gayles, who will be inducted into the Oklahoma Sports Hall of Fame on Monday night, won a lot more than he lost, and in two different sports.

In 35 years as Langston's basketball coach (1930-65) he was 571-281. In 28 years as the Lions' football coach (1930-57) his record was 146-78-18. His teams were National Negro champions twice in both basketball and football.

"He was a great coach. I admired him an awful lot,” said Haynes, who also played quarterback for Langston's football team. "He was a good teacher of basketball and football. He knew how to develop players. He could take a bad one and develop him into a good one.”

Gayles was just as well-known for developing good people. Prime examples are Haynes and James Mosely, a 1959 Langston graduate. Mosely, who went on to earn master's and doctorate degrees, was a coach, teacher and administrator at the high school and university levels.

He started all four years he played basketball at Langston, and he was the Lions' team captain as a junior and senior.

"Zip was a disciplinarian, a teacher, a person that you could depend upon,” Mosely said. "He was straight and honest with players. He wanted things done a certain way, probably like most coaches. But Zip was a kind person. He would look out for youngsters. I just think he was a great individual.”

Langston's basketball record was 112-3, including a 59-game winning streak, in Haynes' four years on the team. Those Lions never lost a home game at what is now named Gayles Fieldhouse.

Maybe the most unlikely win of Gayles' career came after the regular season was over, against the famed Harlem Globetrotters, who would sign Haynes seven months later, after he had graduated from Langston.

With Haynes scoring a game-high 26 points, Langston beat the Trotters 74-70 on the Auditorium stage in Oklahoma City.

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Langston University's fieldhouse is named in honor of C.F. "Zip” Gayles. by MATT STRASEN, THE OKLAHOMAN


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