Don Shields, 78, Hoop Star At Temple

Posted: April 01, 1993

Don Shields, 78, the "spectacular . . . splinter" who led the 1938 Temple University basketball team to the NIT championship, died Tuesday at his home in Tulsa, Okla.

Mr. Shields, who was 6-foot-5 and slender as a knife, was called a ''spectacular . . . splinter" in a later Inquirer story. "He looked frail enough to collapse at any time but he was an iron-man forward," the story said.

Joining the Owls in 1935, he led the team to a three-year record of 58-14.

He was captain of the 1938 team, which compiled a 23-2 record. His brilliance in the NIT tournament - the first played - underscored the Metropolititan Basketball Writers' Association decision to name him the outstanding player of the tournament.

He was also named to two all-America teams.

In 1988, on the 50th anniversary of the NIT victory, Temple named him a charter member of the university's Athletic Hall of Fame.

He was an alternate on the 1936 Olympic team, and wrote a letter to the coach of that team begging to be included in the Berlin games. He offered to do anything - even carry water - for the chance to go, said a son, Donald W. Shields.

The coach never responded, and Mr. Shields never got another shot.

After college, Mr. Shields played for the Phillips 66 team from Bartlesville, Okla., which won National AAU championships in 1940 and 1942. He was named coach the University of Tulsa Hurricanes in 1945 and stayed there for two years. He worked at Mid-Continent Pipeline Co. in the day and coached the Golden Hurricanes in the late afternoon.

His teams won 11 games and lost 31, but whenever the subject came up later, his son said, Mr. Shields insisted that his teams actually were winners.

Later, he became a college basketball referee, and once called one of the NCAA final-four games, his son said. He gave up officiating about 35 years ago.

Mid-Continent eventually was taken over by Sun Oil. When he retired in 1975, he was general manager of crude oil purchasing and sales. After retirement, he was a consultant in the oil business and later a volunteer for the blind.

Surviving besides his son Donald are his wife, Chan; daughters, Beth and Kathy Keating; sons Drew, Rick and Doug, and nine grandchildren.

A Mass of Christian Burial will be said at noon tomorrow in Tulsa at the Church of St. Mary.

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