Former Brother Martin standout, longtime coach Don Newman dies at 60
New Orleans native Don Newman – a great multi-sport athlete who went on to a three-decade coaching career on the hardwood – died Tuesday after battling cancer. He was 60.
Newman graduated from Brother Martin High School in 1975, where he played alongside future University of Kentucky and NBA star Rick Robey and was a part of teams that won two Catholic League titles and the 1974 AAAA state championship.
Newman would sign to play basketball for Dale Brown at LSU, but spent just one year in Baton Rouge before transferring to junior college and eventually landing at the University of Idaho.
Newman was selected in the fourth round of the NBA Draft by the Indiana Pacers in 1979, but decided to return to Idaho for his senior year, when he was a unanimous first-team All-Big Sky Conference selection. The Boston Celtics picked Newman in the third round of the 1980 draft, but he never played in the NBA.
Instead, Newman played three seasons with the Montana Golden Nuggets of the old Continental Basketball Association, a team coached by future NBA head coach George Karl.
Despite never playing football in high school or college, Newman was such a good athlete that he spent six years as a wide receiver in the Canadian Football League, some of it at the same time as his pro basketball career was ongoing. Newman twice went to NFL training camps, with the Seattle Seahawks and New York Jets.
After returning to Idaho to earn his degree in 1987, Newman earned his first college job as an assistant under Kelvin Sampson at Washington State. In 1992, he was hired as head coach at Sacramento State University, where he spent five seasons and led the Hornets through a transition from Division II to Division I.
“Every big name team wants to bring you in for big money and beat your brains out,” Newman said in 1997 about his time in Sacramento. “One year, I think we played 22 of 27 games on the road.″
He was hired at Arizona State as an assistant in 1997, and soon thereafter was named interim head coach after the resignation of Bill Frieder. The Sun Devils went 18-14 and reached the NIT that season.
After one season as an assistant at the University of Oregon, Newman spent much of the next two decades as an NBA assistant, most notably an eight-year stint with the San Antonio Spurs under Gregg Popovich. In that time, the Spurs won two NBA titles. He also was an assistant in Milwaukee, New Jersey and Washington.
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Lenny was involved in college athletics starting in the early 1980s, when he began working Tulane University sporting events while still attending Archbishop Rummel High School. He continued that relationship as a student at Loyola University, where he graduated in 1987. For the next 11 years, Vangilder worked in the sports information offices at Southwestern Louisiana (now UL-Lafayette) and Tulane;…