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Royal, Knight, and Lemons

Bobby Knight the Indiana Coach says that Abe Lemons is “ one of the five best basketball minds I have encountered during my time in coaching.” His “great wit and sense of humor “ and his entertaining style have won the hearts of many fans. Abe Lemons is a open book “honest , simple, and direct.”

A New York sportswriter called Abe the “Jonathan Winters of coaching.”

Abe Lemons was always at war with the the striped shirts.

Abe Lemons hated road games because he had to play against another team and “their officials”. He said “officials have unharnessed bias and prejudices. If it came down to a close call, the official is going to go with the home team so he can move up the ladder in the conference.”

In one game Abe drew three technical fouls because as he says “ I’m having a little trouble with the guy with the whistle. I honestly believe if the sent this guy to Vietnam, he’d stop the war in two weeks - or else start another one of his own.”

1976-1982- COACH LEMONS HAD A 110-63 RECORD

After Abe Lemons turned around the basketball teams at Oklahoma City University and Pan American Coach, Darrell Royal hired him as The 20th Head basketball Coach At Texas. His salary was $30,000 a Year.

He was honored in 1978 as National Coach Of The Year By The National Association Of Basketball Coaches (the Only Head Coach At Texas To Ever Win This Honor) ; 1978 SWC Coach of the Year; 1994 inductee into the Longhorn Hall Of Honor; 1977 President of the National Association of Basketball Coaches ;winner of two SWC Championships; and 1978 NIT champion.

His favorite type of recruit struggled as a boy to succeed. Abe says “It is hard to be a competitor when you have everything.”




This book is a great read.


Coach Lemons Is A  Great StoryTeller And Quote Maker.  

Talking about looking successful he says “I’ll never get off the bench until we’re ahead. But when we’re ahead. I want to make sure the fans know who’s running this team.”

Abe is either 1/8 Choctaw or Cherokee. He is famous for saying that everyone’s “got to obey the white man’s law out here- never steal nothing smaller than a state “ referring to what whites did to the American Indians.

Finish  Last In Your League And They Call You  Idiot. Finish Last In Medical School And They Call You Doctor.

Coaches  Who Shoot Par In The Summer Are The Guys I Want On My Schedule In The Winter.

Doctors Bury Their  Mistakes,  But Mine Are Still On Scholarship .  

We Don't Pray After A Game ... That's Too Late.  

I wish I was a football coach so I could only lose 11 games a year. 

In his  tv show sometimes he  opened with Abe laying in a coffin. He raises up, turns to the camera and says “we ain’t dead yet “. 

"You scored one point more than a dead man".

After Frank Glieber died of a massive heart attack while jogging, Abe said "I don't jog. If I die, I want to be sick."

Abe also said he wanted to be a track coach. All you had to do was tell the kids is run fast and stay to the left.This was also a dig at the AD Dodds who was the track coach at Kansas State.

Said about his teams “ We strive for perfection like everybody else. We are more daring. I like a kid who’ll take a chance-not a gamble but a chance. He’s the type that will win for you in the long run.”

“It is more fun to shoot the ball than to play defense. And we’re going to work hardest on what’s fun.”

He questioned why any coach would only want a “Run and shoot” offense. He said the name should be “Run and score.”

He recruited great offensive players to win games. Abe said “most good defensive players can’t throw the ball in the ocean.”

A sports writer said what do you think you will have to overcome to win this game. Abe said the officials.

He once took his team to Madison Square Garden to play a game. The team was doing so poorly against Duke at halftime he told his players to play shirts and skins in front of the astounded fans attending the game. Shirts beat skins 12-6.

Lemons tells the story about criticising an official during a game , and the official said to Abe “ You’re just mad because we’re winning.”

About Kareem Abdul - Jabbar and judging talent worth recruiting , Abe says “You can tell right off that he appears to be a talent. Anyone who has to stoop to dunk the ball has promise.”

About taking an making long shots “ It (basketball) searched out the bucket like a Nike missile.”

About great players who want take the shot he said “Our biggest disappointment was Reed. He shot only 9 times , and I’ve been telling him over and over to shoot at least 20 times a game. It’s hard to criticize a boy who scored 27 points, but he should have had maybe 47 points.

Abe is adjusting to the times when he says “I don’t mind long hair too much. I don’t mind beards, and I don’t mind miniskirts. I just don’t like to see them on the same person.”

Asked why he recruited Jack Langley a 6’9” high schooler who had never played organized basketball he said “ A poodle got loose , and Langley caught him. Any 6-9 boy who can can catch a French poodle in the field house is worth a scholarship.”

Abe lemmon is quick witted fan favorite. When asked if his first team at Texas was worthy of a top 20 ranking he said "you mean in the state"? 

Lemmons said about hanging out with the wrong people “ I’ve found that the bad rubs off on the good 100 times faster than the good rubs off on the bad.”

Coach Lemons is not a disciplinarian.  He believes his job is to get the players to motivate themselves instead of him motivating them. . He says about curfews "You think they can’t get into sin before 10:00 P.M.? He tells the story about one of his great players saying “Coach , if we play good when we go to bed at 10:00 the night before a game, how about us going to bed at 5 some afternoon and then seein’ how we’d do?” Abe quit enforcing a curfew by reasoning that “When you have a curfew, it’s always the star that gets caught.”


After a 10 year ban the dunk is reinstated but not allowed during warm-ups. A Mississippi State player warming up prior to the Texas game dunks the ball and is called for a two shot technical foul. Abe Lemons is incensed at such a ridiculous rule tells Krivac to take the technicals with his back to the basket. Krivac misses both and Texas loses the game 91-89.

Lemmons .jpg

Bring in the Clowns

After playing a lousy game against Rice, Coach Lemons says “ I ain’t knocking winning , but it’s not often you can play that bad and win. We’re a little weak in some spots- like five- and so in Rice. And they can’t help it anymore than we can”. In the Austin game the Rice coach substitutes 99 times and the fans holler for more substitutions and the Rice coach does as requested bringing all the Longhorn fans to their feet. Abe says Rice substitutions looked more like a circus act than a basketball game.

Later in the year when Texas played Rice in Houston the Rice students dressed up as clowns and celebrate their new mantra as illustrated in this photo.

In 1976 he had to hold the players hands on every play saying . “Please pass the ball. Please shoot. Please move to that spot.” He said in 1976 “ Heck, we’re going to have a tough game Thursday against open.” In one game he can’t get the attention of Jim Krivac so he taps a Houston player on the shoulder and says to him please tap Jim Krivac on the shoulder and tell him to run play #2. The Houston player did as instructed.

Abe Lemons hated dribbling. He said dribbling is “the scourge of basketball. In one game he said “if dribbles were a nickel apiece, we could have bought the Queen Mary.”

Abe’s first trip to Arkansas started a hate-hate relationship with Arkansas fans and the Razorback coach - Eddie Sutton. I (Billy Dale) was a team member of the Big shootout football game in Arkansas in 1969 so I understand Abe Lemons quote about Arkansas fans. He said “It’s amazing why grown people come to harass young men (at sporting events). There’s got to be a flaw in a man’s character to do that.”

Abe says about Jim Krivacs. “ If you gave him a choice of a week in Acapulco or a week of practice, he’d take practice”. “ If you live in the gym like he does, you’re going to be better”. “Lot of guys don’t realize that” . “They think they’re gonna have a vision one night and just play better”. “

Abe Lemons policy is to talk to only one team member during one minute time outs. He says “I talk to my quarterback, and he tells the other players and they take it better coming from him.” Johnny Moore was that man in 1976.

About Ovie Dotson Lemons says “Ovie may be our most valuable player”. “His spirit, his character, is much of our driving force. If I had a son, I’d like him to be just like Ovie”.

Coach Lemmons is concerned about the health of Jim Krivac and tells the press “Krivacs looks like he just came off a death march.”

After losing to Arkansas he said “It was like a battleship against a rowboat.”

All players have a bad day but Goodner’s game against the Aggies sets up a plethora of Lemon one liners. Lemons says to the official scorer “ Can’t you make them (referees) quit calling fouls on the Aggies”? “We’re playing right into their hands by (us) going to the free throw line”. “Goodner is 1 for 9 from the free throw line. The Horns overall are 5-19.

 Gary Goodner is lost due to grades due to an incomplete in geography. The class was at 8:00 A.M. Coach said that he was important to the team. “the only player that’s improved while I’ve been here. “

He Says That 1976 Is His Toughest Year As A Coach. He Says"We're Still Looking For Someone Who Likes To Play Defense And Has That Rare Talent Of Running To The Other End And Throwing The Ball In The Basket."

  After the 1976 season he said we are going to recruit a “couple of Godzillas.



For the first time in the history of Gregory Gym the fieldhouse is sold-out for two consecutive basketball games.

The Good and Bad of the Burnt Orange Club

The "Longhorn Rebounders", a fundraising organization, is  formed. The success of this organization evolves into the  "Burnt Orange Club" And Eventually The Longhorn Foundation. 

With the help of Frank Erwin Abe Lemons formed a booster club that allowed the sale of alcoholic beverages on state property in a Burnt Orange room reserved only for membership in the Burnt Orange Club. Members could eat food and drink alcohol during the game and mingle with the players after the game. The club was revolutionary marketing concept for UT and a huge success, but eventually is one of the many reasons Abe Lemmons is fired.

1977 26-5 RECORD  COACH LEMONS   “people thought we were a ship of fools , a mcHales’s navy. but we had discipline” and won the nit championship

Coach Lemons being a promoter was quick to understand that the Longhorn fans “wanted more than just a game Abe Lemmons and he gave them what they wanted. His T.V. show becomes a hit with the Horn fans. 

Abe Lemmons signs Tyron Branyon who Abe says is too slow and can’t jump but “he knows how to win”. In the Texas miracle win over Houston in 1977 Tyron hits 6 of 8 free throws and finishes the game with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

After Ovie Dotson years as a Longhorn he joined the Harlem Globetrotters.


Texas ends its first year in the Frank Erwin Center  by becoming the first SWC team to win the NIT. Brayan and Krivac scored a total of 49 points in the semi-finals in the NIT championship. Johnny Moore, Ron Baxter, and Krivac scored 81 point in the finals against NC State. 

Budget cutbacks prevailed this year even though 37 million dollars were allocated to swimming , baseball, and basketball facilities. There were budget reductions, coaching layoffs, and very little money to support the women's athletic department.

Longhorns reach's #15 In The AP Polls. This Is The first time for the Longhorns in the top 20 Since 1949.

It is the Longhorns first 20 game winning season since 1963

Most points scored in Texas history (148) against Northern Montana.  

 Texas Plays Army And Coach Lemons Says "If Anybody Could Spell His Name, The Army Guy Would Be Coach Of The Year."  Army Coach Krzyzewski is the future Head Coach for Duke. 

Texas beats Houston twice during the season but loses to them in the SWC tournament. Lemons says “We play 16 games to see who wins it, then turn around and play a tournament to see who loses it.

12 Games At Gregory In 1977 Net $55,000.  8 Games In The New Arena In 1977 Net $275,000.

Abe Lemmons is still the only Longhorns men's basketball coach to win the National Coach of the Year honor. 

The NIT President tells Lemons that if the Longhorns beat Temple , the Horns will play their next opponent in the Drum in Austin. Someone with lesser status with the NIT promises Nebraska that their home court would be used if they beat their first Opponent. Lemons refuses to flip a coin for the home court with Nebraska the Cornhusker fans are livid.  One member of the Nebraska Board of Directors says “his school should break athletic ties with Texas”. Abe responds “I didn’t know we had any.”


Abe trying to put his 1978 basketball schedule together after winning the NIT in 1977 says to potential opponents “If you think we’re easy, get on our schedule “. “Come on down and pick-up up an easy win”. “ 6 of the teams that agreed to play Texas in 1978 cancelled their commitment after the 1977 Longhorns shocked the world.

Part of a Sports Illustrated article about re of Tyrone Branyan #31 as told by Sports Illustrated FEBRUARY 12, 1979




6’7” Tyrone Branyan does not run fast or jump high or have a perfect shooters form but half way thru the 1978 seasons he was leading the Longhorns with Tyrone averaging 18.2 points and 7.44 rebounds a game. Branyan plays a lot better than he looks

Texas Coach Abe Lemons took Branyan without ever having seen him play, which may have been to Lemons' advantage.

Lemons probably would never have seen—or even heard of—Branyan had it not been for George Brewer, a friend of Tyrone's father and a former football teammate of Texas Athletic Director Darrell Royal. When Branyan was a sophomore at Cypress Junior College in California, Brewer wrote Royal about him, and Royal passed the letter on to Lemons. Abe had never heard of Branyan, but the letter sounded so interesting he sought out a more detailed evaluation from Tyrone's junior-college coach. Lemons liked the coach's report enough that he decided to give Branyan a scholarship sight unseen. Only then did he dispatch Assistant Coach Barry Dowd to check him out.

After watching Branyan play in a junior-college tournament, Dowd called Lemons and said, "Picture a guy who can't jump, can't run and shoots funny. Now picture him with 24 points, 17 rebounds and the Most Valuable Player trophy in the championship game."

Lemons was overjoyed—until he actually saw Branyan himself the next fall. As is his custom, Branyan was in poor shape when he showed up for preseason workouts, and he was anything but impressive on the practice floor. When he got a chance to play, Lemons says, "People were aghast." However, by the second conference game Branyan was a starter, and he finished the year with respectable averages of 12.8 points and 5.7 rebounds. "If Tyrone could jump up and spin around twice and then score," says Lemons, "everybody would ooh and aah. But he isn't that kind of player. He's exceeded my expectations by about a million."

The oddest thing about Branyan is the way he shoots his jump shot—off his chest. The best thing about him is the way his teams always win.

Respect is something Branyan has learned to live without. Instead of reveling in his success, he questions it, scoffing at the suggestion that he or his team is anything special. "It's hard for me to think we're as good as the top teams," he says. "I guess I still look up to those people, because I never thought I could play with them."

And Texas can thank Branyan for its semi-lofty status. He is averaging 18.2 points and 7.4 rebounds and has been the only consistent performer during Texas' 16-5 season.

 Texas ends Arkansas' 35 game winning streak in Fayetteville.

Texas average attendance of 15,886 Is a record that has not been surpassed as Of 2015. The fans love him and his coaching style.

There Is A Verbal Battle Between Coach Sutton Of Arkansas And Coach Lemons. Lemmons Tells The Media If Sutton Ever Dares Address His Players Again He Will "Liquidate His Ass".  (John Moore Is The Player.)


Abe Lemons promotes Johnny Moore for All American.  




 Team starts at 7-1 and four weeks later they are 10-7.  Lemons says this year's team is no good and even though they were invited to the NIT , he was right. Horns finished 3rd in conference.

Still the Horns almost beat top-ranked De Paul and the Hogs and only one game away from another 20 game win season. 

Invited to the NCAA regionals the Horns lose to OU for the second time.   Abe says we did not have a big guy so it hurt our season.   Lemons praises Phillip Stroud handling of the center position.   Abe said about basketball in the state of Texas "You are looking at a state that keeps all of the gyms closed in the summer. When there's no place to shoot a goal. It gives you some kind of idea about the attitude towards basketball.  If Texas ever gets  interested in it, we'll be one of the most fruitful states in the nation."



Johnny Moore 1979 All SWC starts 113 games




Ron Baxter ends his career as SWC player of the year and as the all-time school leader in scoring and rebounding. 






John Krivac- sets the all time scoring for the Longhorns,  is CO- MVP in NIT tournament, and a academic All American


 Team was invited to the NIT and lost in the second round.  This was Coach Lemmons last trip to the NIT or NCAA.  




In 4 years Coach Lemons took the Longhorns to post season play 3 times.

In tournament play against Texas Tech Coach Abe tells his players "play or leave"




LaSalle Thompson - All American Center

LaSalle is the first Longhorn basketball player to lead the nation in rebounding.



Starter Henry Johnson leaves for academic reasons. Darryl Bushrod one of Abe’s players upset about playing time leaves at half time of a game.

This year marks the beginning of the end for the colorful Coach.

 The two individuals who supported Abe Lemmons coaching philosophy and who protected him from the Athletic Council are gone. Frank Erwin The Regent who expanded the prominence of UT sport passes away, and Darrell Royal retires. Abe Lemons enemies start to tighten the noose around Lemons neck. Lemons immediately has some conflicts with the new A.D. Bill Ellington. A subpoena for Coach Lemons and his two assistance to discuss gambling results into a media feud between Asst.Coach Moeller and Coach Lemons.  Moeller gets fired and goes on the offensive by stating Lemons criticism of the players publicly and privately Is hurting recruiting. Many of the players deny Moeller’s remarks. According To Bill Little's Book TEXAS LONGHORNS MEN'S BASKETBALL Hoop Tales  think Coach Lemmons is Funny. One Of Lemmon's Players (Krivacs) says he has  "people dying laughing on the sideline, ....Everybody we played against was bigger, faster, stronger, and quicker, but that's not what winning is all about. We had a smarter coach." Danks calls Abe a genius. “ He wasn’t the most technical coach you ever saw, but when it came to the human condition he was an expert”, “He knew how to get inside people’s head.”  Ovie Dotson  said "Coach took the losses and we got the wins. He treated us like men." “Abe always believed it was a player’s game.” Wacker says Lemons is a "masterful technician who knows how to get the best out of his players.  The grand jury investigation on gambling is quickly dispelled, but the investigation still hurts Abe Lemons reputation.



In 1981 news would get worse for Abe. The team craters the second half of the season, a member of the Athletic Council recommends that Abe Lemons be fired, and Deloss Dodds the new UT Texas A.D. does it.

Jan 26th 1982 Wacker gets hurt against Baylor and the team loses for the first time that season. Mike shatters his knee and  Ken Montgomery replaces him.  Abe Lemons is not at the game. He is in Oklahoma City at the bedside of his ailing brother.






Team Starts 14-0 and for the first time in Longhorn basketball history the AP ranks Texas at #5.   The Horns upset Houston team of 6’ 11” Akeem Olajuwan and Clyde Drexler and follow this win beating Arkansas before the largest crowd ever to see a basketball game in the Southwest It is the best start for a Longhorn basketball team since 1935.  But An Injury To Wacker turns the Season Into A Horror Story that finally results in first year Athletic Director Deloss Dodds firing Abe Lemons. 

 A sequence of events at the Arkansas game that ends in punches and Texas players involved in a fight was the final straw. On March 9th 1982 Coach Lemmons is fired by Deloss Dodds. Lemons is totally shocked. He says " I could not have been more shocked if you had told me I had been named governor."

The players are stunned and the fans  are upset with the announcement.  Thompson threatened to leave the program and go pro if assistant coach Barry Dowd did not get the head coaching job.  


 The UT administrators and powerful boosters felt that Abe Lemons demeanor did not reflect the future of the UT basketball program. Lemons indiscriminate offensive cutting remarks, his refusal to discipline the players,  lack of curfew, habitual sarcasm, acid tongue , and basketball court behavior are some of the reasons Abe Lemons is fired.

Coach Lemons did not leave quietly.  He commented that he wanted a glass-bottom car so he could he could see Dodd's face as he ran him over, and adding, "I hope they notice the mistletoe tied to my coattails as I leave town which was a not to subtle way of saying to the UT administration they could kiss his a....    

Years later when Texas invited Abe back to celebrate the NIT Champions Coach Lemons Is A No Show.  He Says "Just Tell Them To Put My Picture On A Poster And Parade It Around The Gym."

Coach Lemons made some mistakes that were costly to his career, but no one can dispute that  he  turned UT basketball around and showed the Longhorn administration the formula necessary  to reaching  the next level in college basketball. A Level Missed The Previous 30 Years.  Tough times for Longhorn basketball follow as the University tries to to transition from “Abe” ball to a more structured basketball program that portrays the proper public image for the University of Texas sports programs.