Statham, a 1960 graduate of McKendree, the all-time wins leader in college basketball history at the four-year level, amassed 1,122 victories over 52 seasons at his alma mater. He surpassed the late Pat Summitt — who held the all-division record for wins by a college basketball coach, men’s or women’s – with victory No. 1,099 in a 92-84 triumph at Maryville University on Feb. 6, 2016. In addition to being the all-time leader in coaching victories with 1,122, Statham coached in a record 1,635 collegiate games, all of which came on the sidelines for the Bearcats.
Statham served a dual role as athletic director and men’s basketball coach at McKendree for 44 years, which spanned his return to campus in the fall of 1966 until May 2010. Statham also coached baseball and track and field during the early years of his tenure at McKendree. Under Statham’s leadership as athletic director, the number of athletic programs offered at McKendree grew from a handful to 24 sports. He was honored as the NAIA Central Region Athletic Director of the Year by the National Association of Collegiate Directors of Athletics (NACDA) in 1998-99. Statham was also recognized as the American Midwest Conference and NAIA Region V Athletic Director of the Year in 2007-08.
“For more than half a century, Harry has represented himself, his student-athletes and McKendree University with the utmost professionalism and class,” said Brueggemann. “Harry built a winning culture by attracting talented student-athletes who excelled on the basketball court and in the classroom. He also prepared them for life after basketball, as scores of his players have gone on to give back and teach the game and life lessons that Harry bestowed upon them. We will long celebrate the body of work that Harry Statham has assembled over his career at McKendree University.”
From his first game at McKendree, a 90-78 win over Westminster College back in November 1966, Statham helped lead the Bearcats’ program into the conference, regional and national spotlight. Statham led the Bearcats to the post-season 41 times and guided McKendree to 15 appearances in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA) Division I Men’s Basketball National Championship. The Bearcats reached the national quarterfinals three times under his tutelage, including an NAIA Fab Four berth in 2003. Six times in his career, Statham led McKendree to at least 30 victories in a season, including a school-record 35 wins in the 1987-88 campaign. Overall, the Bearcats won 20 games or more 35 times in Statham’s 52 seasons at McKendree.
“Harry Statham’s contributions to McKendree University both on and off the court are extraordinary. He is a prominent figure in the history of McKendree University athletics,” said James M. Dennis, president, McKendree University.
In conference play, McKendree won 11 regular-season and six tournament championships with Statham at the helm. For his efforts, Statham was an eight-time conference Coach of the Year honoree. He also collected NAIA District 20 Coach of the Year accolades eight times. The Illinois Basketball Coaches Association (IBCA) recognized Statham’s coaching accomplishments with IBCA-NAIA Coach of the Year honors on 12 different occasions.
Statham coached hundreds of players in more than half a century on the sidelines for McKendree. Of that number, a total of 73 Bearcats earned post-season honors. That includes 10 players who received first-team All-America honors. Of the 51 McKendree players who have scored at least 1,000 points in their playing careers, Statham coached all but five.
In his storied career, Statham has earned several national and regional accolades. He was named the NAIA Division I Men’s Basketball Coach of the Year following the 2001-02 season. That made Statham the first McKendree coach to receive national Coach of the Year accolades. In 2005, he was recognized by two different national organizations for his coaching accomplishments. At the National Association of Basketball Coaches (NABC) national convention in St. Louis, Statham was honored by his coaching peers with the Guardians of the Game Leadership Award.
Later that summer, Statham was named as the winner of the Distinguished Service Award from the United States Sports Academy. The award is given annually to individuals who have made outstanding contributions to national or international sports through education, research or service.
Statham has also earned induction into four different Hall of Fame classes. The first came in 1987 when he was inducted into the IBCA Hall of Fame. In 1998, Statham was inducted into the NAIA Hall of Fame. Statham was honored in 2012 by his alma mater with induction into the McKendree Sports Hall of Fame. He is also a 2014 member of the St. Louis Sports Hall of Fame class.
Many McKendree basketball fans have witnessed several of Statham’s milestone coaching victories inside the facility that bears his name, the Harry M. Statham Sports Center. In addition to collecting career wins No. 500, 600, 700, 800, 1,000 and 1,100 at the facility, Statham earned other victories at home which garnered national media attention. On Nov. 15, 2002 in an 88-87 triumph over Mountain State University, Statham passed former Winston-Salem State University (N.C.) coach Clarence “Big House” Gaines as the all-time wins leader in NAIA history.
The second, and perhaps more memorial moment, came in Lebanon on Dec. 1, 2004 against Maryville. That night, Statham earned career win No. 880 when the Bearcats defeated the Saints 83-72. That pushed Statham past former University of North Carolina coaching legend Dean Smith for the all-time wins lead among men’s college basketball coaches at the four-year level. Nearly five years later on Nov. 13, 2009, Statham became the first men’s college basketball coach to record 1,000 wins when the Bearcats rolled past East-West University by a score of 79-49.
Statham began his coaching career while an undergraduate at McKendree. He guided the boys basketball team at O’Fallon Junior High School while taking college courses at night. After graduating from McKendree in 1960, Statham moved on to the University of Illinois, where he was a graduate assistant for the men’s basketball and track teams. He completed requirements for a master’s degree in physical education before embarking on a high school coaching career. Statham coached at Manito Foreman High School from 1961-63 before moving to Dwight High School. He stayed at Dwight three years before returning to McKendree.
Brueggemann said that a national search for Statham’s successor will begin immediately.