As part of his "Coaching Greats" interview series, CHN writer Jon Teitel recently caught up with former Prairie View A&M head coach Elwood Plummer. Plummer's teams went through some rough times but did manage to earn the school's first-ever NCAA appearance in 1998.
Jon Teitel: In the early 1960s you were a two-time all-conference player at San Antonio College. Why did you decide to attend San Antonio, and how good a player were you back then?
Elwood Plummer: San Antonio is my hometown and Coach Tom Smith encouraged me to stay at home. I averaged about 20 points/game during each of my two years there.
JT: What are your memories of the 1965 Division II tournament after transferring to Jackson State (four-point loss to Central Michigan)?
EP: I came off the bench and scored 14 points. It was an outstanding game and we probably should have won, but we just made some mistakes at the wrong time. We were bigger than anyone else in the tournament. We had Danny Manning's father Ed (who was 6-8), and our two other starters in the frontcourt were even taller than Ed.
JT: What are your memories of the 1966 Division II tournament?
EP: We played against Souther Illinois and their star Walt Frazier. Our coach (Dr. Harrison Wilson) gave us a scouting report that Frazier was a roaming guard, and he indeed was all over the court. We had four players assigned to him (two at a time)... but he still ended up with 48 points! I could tell from the opening jump ball that he was an outstanding player.
JT: After your playing days were over you decided to become a coach. Why did you decide to go into coaching?
EP: I had always wanted to be a coach ever since junior high when my coach taught me all about fundamentals. When I got out of college I went back to my old high school as an assistant under Coach Leon Price, and we went 30-2 that year. The following year I became head coach at St. Phillips JC in San Antonio, which was the first of several stops during my coaching career.
JT: After spending several years at Prairie View, you left in 1979 to become coach at Huston-Tillotson. Why did you take the job at Prairie View, and why did you end up changing jobs?
EP: My mom and dad had both gotten sick, which is why I left Prairie View to take the job at Huston-Tillotson. Both of my parents eventually passed away, at which time I went back to Prairie View.
JT: After you returned to Prairie View in 1990 the school announced that it was discontinuing basketball, but changed its mind two months later and decided to make it a non-scholarship sport. What did you do during those two months, and how hard was it to coach without any scholarships?
EP: It was pretty rough because we played a Division I schedule with non-scholarship players. We got bombed out of quite a few games! The following year we got three scholarships, and eventually got things back on track.
JT: In 1992 your team went 0-28. How frustrating was it to go winless, and what did you say to your team after the season was over?
EP: I brought in some new kids the following year and we won about six games, and it picked up after that.
JT: After winning the 1998 SWAC tournament title your team did a postgame step dance called "Hoop Phi Hoop." What did it mean to you to win the title?
EP: I was in another zone when we won. It was a great honor for me and for the school.
JT: What are your memories of the 1998 NCAA tournament, the first in school history despite having a record of 13-16 (Paul Pierce scored 25 points (10-12 FG) in a 58-point win by 1-seed Kansas)?
EP: Kansas was #1 in the nation at the time, and in addition to Pierce they had future lottery pick Raef LaFrentz. It was a big deal around town and in the SWAC.
JT: You currently coach at Huston-Tillotson. How do you like the job, and what do you hope to do in the future?
EP: I hope to build a winning program here. I am like a kid in a candy store! I retired from Prairie View in 2005 and was not doing very much besides attending coaching clinics with some of my old friends. I would get chills from watching games on TV, so when Alvin Moore became AD he asked me if I would consider becoming head coach. My wife was already teaching and coaching in Austin, which was also a factor. Huston-Tillotson is a nice school but I told them that I would only take the job as long as I did not have to teach.
Plummer is also on Jon's list of best coaches in SWAC history.
Alabama A&M: L. Vann Pettaway (1986-2011) 453-279, 1 NCAA tourney, 1 conference title, 1-time conference COY
Alabama State: James Oliver (1978-1995) 291-191
Alcorn State: Davey Whitney (1977-1989, 1996-2003) 332-230, 6 NCAA tourneys, 10 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
Arkansas-Pine Bluff: Van Holt (2002-2008) 50-124
Grambling State: Fred Hobdy (1977-1986) 123-126
Jackson State: Harrison B. Wilson (1950-1967) 371-93, 1 conference title
Mississippi Valley State: Lafayette Stribling (1983-2005) 305-318, 3 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles, 3-time conference COY
Prairie View A&M: Elwood Plummer (1977-2002) 150-341, 1 NCAA tourney
Southern: Ben Jobe (1986-1996, 2001-2003) 208-142, 4 NCAA tourneys, 3 conference titles
Texas Southern: Robert Moreland (1977-2001, 2007-2008) 352-354, 3 NCAA tourneys, 6 conference titles, 3-time conference COY