Gary Colson, Who Lobbied for 3-Point Shot in College Ball, Dies at 89

On a rules committee, he got fellow coaches to vote for the shot that changed the game. In 34 years as a college coach, he won 563 games with four teams.

Gary Colson, who successfully lobbied to introduce the 3-point shot to college basketball during a 34-year coaching career that included stops at Fresno State, New Mexico and Pepperdine, died on Friday at his home in Santa Barbara, Calif. He was 89.

The cause was complications of lymphoma, said Bob Rose, a friend, who said he had been told of the death by Colson’s wife.

Colson, who had a career win-loss record of 563-385, was a member of the N.C.A.A. rules committee in 1986 when he sought a straw vote from the members to see who was in favor of adding the 3-point shot.

He said he was discouraged by a number of his fellow coaches from asking for a vote. But he did anyway, and the proposal passed.

The rule, which originally awarded three points for baskets made from a distance of 19 feet 9 inches or more, had little effect at first. But the 3-point shot (the current distance is 22 feet 1¾ inches) has since become an important part of the game. It had been adopted by the National Basketball Association in 1979.

Colson began his head coaching career at Valdosta State College (now Valdosta State University) in Georgia when he was only 24. He led the team to a 188-69 record from 1958 to 1968 and took it to two appearances in the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics’ national tournament.

He next coached at Pepperdine, a small Christian school in Malibu, Calif., from 1968 to 1979, leading the team to the 1976 West Coast Athletic Conference title. The Waves went 153-137 and earned two N.C.A.A. tournament berths during his tenure.

“Coach Colson put Pepperdine men’s basketball on the national college basketball map,” the school’s current athletic director, Steve Potts, said in a statement.

Colson left Pepperdine in 1980 to take over at New Mexico, which was reeling after a gambling scandal that resulted in the firing of the head coach, Norm Ellenberger, and the program’s being placed on N.C.A.A. probation for three years.

After probation ended in 1983, the Lobos averaged 21 wins over the next five seasons, qualifying for the National Invitational Tournament each of those years. Colson went 146-106 at New Mexico from 1980 to 1988 and was the Western Athletic Conference coach of the year in 1984.

He was 76-73 at Fresno State from 1990 to 1995.

Gary Colson was born in Logansport, Ind., on April 30, 1934. He graduated from David Lipscomb College (now Lipscomb University) in Nashville in 1956 and earned a master’s degree in education at Vanderbilt in 1958. He was an all-conference player at Lipscomb and was named the Volunteer State Athletic Conference M.V.P. as a senior.

He later worked as assistant to the president of the Memphis Grizzlies.

He is survived by wife, Mary Katherine; his sons, Rick and Wade; his daughter, Garianne; four grandchildren; and three great-grandchildren.

Source: Basketball -


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