Few basketball coaches have made a bigger impact than Garland Pinholster – but then again, he was much more than just a coach. The legendary former Oglethorpe University basketball coach passed away peacefully Sunday at his home in Ball Ground, Georgia, survived by his wife, Darsa, and four daughters.
His legacy on the court is remarkable in and of itself – Pinholster is credited with helping to create the modern jumpshot, as well as the “wheel offense,” elements of which are still seen in the game today. He took Oglethorpe to the 1963 NCAA College Division Final Four, coached the 1963 gold medal-winning Pan Am Games USA team, and was elected to both the Atlanta and Georgia Sports Hall of Fames.
But he was also a staunch defender of social justice. In 1961 the South Georgia-born Pinholster hosted Rhode Island University in a the first integrated college game in state history. Following the game the students and fans in attendance gave Rhode Island and their black star, Charles Lee, a standing ovation. “I wanted to prove a point that we were open minded and would measure anybody on their ability and talent, not any way other than that,” he told Fox 5 Atlanta in an interview earlier this year.
In 1990 Pinholster, a longtime Republican, was elected to the state House of Representatives, where he served for six terms. While there he served alongside IAG Chairman Matt Towery, who had this to say about him, “Garland was a very dedicated legislator. He approached his job as a state Representative with the same focus and intensity as he had as a successful college basketball coach. It was an honor to have served with him. We will all miss the “Coach.”