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College Division : The Master's Coach Doesn't Just Go by the Book, He Wrote It

December 15, 1987|Mitch Polin

As a basketball coach, Mel Hankinson of The Master's College in Newhall has had his share of success over the years.

In 17 years as a head coach, including three seasons with Division I Samford of Alabama, Hankinson's teams have produced a 230-215 record.

But Hankinson, who is in his first season at The Master's, is quick to admit that his biggest impact to the sport has transpired off the court.

The 43-year-old Hankinson has written several textbooks about the philosophy and practical application of coaching basketball including "Progressions for Teaching Basketball," a book that is considered by many coaches to be the best at teaching the sport.

"I suppose around the country most coaches would know of me and my knowledge of X's and O's," he said.

Said Coach Dean Smith of North Carolina: "Mel is an outstanding individual. I have all of his books on my shelves. 'Progressions for Teaching Basketball' is an excellent book for the college classroom."

The book, used by coaches at more than 2,500 colleges and by high schools and youth programs, describes progressive methods for teaching the sport to players at each level from fourth grade to the professionals.

"They tell me it's the most successful basketball book on the market," Hankinson says.

In the last two years he has also written "How to Teach the Matchup," which discusses efficient defensive systems, and "Bench Coaching Offensive Strategy."

He is working on books about coaching defensive strategy and maximizing leadership ability. He has also given clinics for coaches on the philosophy and practical approaches of the sport.

"Of course we strive for success on the court, but that's not where my biggest impact has been to basketball," Hankinson said.

"The most satisfactory thing, more than winning a game, is that you're impacting hundreds of thousands of players and coaches for years to come. Even after I'm out of coaching, these books will still be in use. That has to be gratifying to anyone."

Hankinson has also developed into a poet over the last three years. He said he has written 400 to 500 poems during that span and has won contests.

"I started it more as a diversion and it's something that I've just fallen in love with," he said.

Hankinson was the coach at Samford the last three years, posting a 39-47 record, but resigned because of changes in the school's athletic program.

"Samford is going through a different time where they had nine coaches resign (in about the last year), including (Athletic Director) Paul Dietzel," Hankinson said. "They're going through a rough time and could go Division III in the next year or so."

How did Hankinson wind up at The Master's, a small school in the National Assn. of Intercollegiate Athletics that has about 700 students?

"I had read many of the works of their president (John MacArthur) before, and their coach (Randy Stem) had been out to visit me last year to talk about developing recruiting methods," Hankinson said. "When I resigned, he told Geoff Zahn (athletic director) and the president that if there was anybody that he'd step aside for it would be me."

Hankinson said he agreed with the Baptist school's religious convictions and The Master's was enthusiastic about his writings on coaching basketball. So he did not have any hesitation about becoming coach of the Mustangs.

"Spiritually, personally and professionally it's a perfect marriage for everyone," he said.

The Mustangs, 5-24 last season, have languished near the basement of the NAIA's District III for years and have a 3-7 record this season.

But Hankinson has a reputation as a program builder.

He has established a five-year plan for improving the program. He said he will be more of an administrator this season, concentrating on recruiting players while Stem handles most of the day-to-day responsibility of coaching the team.

"There is a vision here to have a top-notch program," Hankinson said. "We don't know how high we can get but we want to take it as high as we can."

He said that improving the basketball program is in line with the growth goals of the school.

"They are visionary men and they realize that a lot revolves around the basketball program," he said. "This is the fastest growing institution in the United States. I think it's realistic that in the next three to five years, we will have 2,000 to 3,000 students."

And Hankinson hopes to be a central figure in the improvement of the school's athletic program.

It will be a family affair for the tennis program at Cal Poly Pomona this season.

Bob Holycross, who coached Mt. San Antonio College the last eight years, was named coach of the Pomona men last week.

His daughter, Mary, an All-American tennis player at Pomona the last four years, was selected as women's coach in September.

That will make for a most unusual coaching arrangement, but the elder Holycross, 57, said it is one that can be good for the program.

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