Harold Hunter, a former Tennessee State coach and the first African-American player to sign an NBA contract, died on Thursday at his home in Hendersonville. He was 86.
Hunter succeeded legendary coach John McLendon and coached at TSU from 1959-68. He led the Tigers to a 172-67 record in nine seasons, including four 20-plus win campaigns. He sent 17 players to the NBA while at TSU.
In 1968, he became the first black coach to lead the U.S. Olympic Team.
Hunter was from Kansas City, Kan., and a star guard at North Carolina College (now North Carolina Central University) in Durham, N.C. He led NCC to the Colored Intercollegiate Athletic Association Tournament championship in 1950.
That same year, Hunter was drafted by the Washington Capitols in the 10th round of the NBA Draft. The next day he became the first black player to sign an NBA contract. He was cut during training camp and never made an NBA team.
He also coached the men’s and women’s basketball teams at Xavier, Dillard and Southern — all in New Orleans. He was inducted into the NCCU Athletic Hall of Fame in 1984.