Frankfort, KY – Kentucky State University mourns the loss of Lucias T. Mitchell, KSU’s winningest coach and leader of the 1970s championship Thorobred basketball teams, who died Feb. 23 in his sleep. Funeral arrangements still are pending.
Under Mitchell’s guidance, KSU dominated the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics. The Thorobreds won three straight NAIA titles 1970 to 1972, compiling records of 29-3, 31-2 and 28-5. Mitchell is one of only three coaches to ever lead his team to three straight national titles. For the next two years, his teams made it to the NAIA tournaments, but lost in the first round and semifinals, respectively.
He won national coach of the year awards in 1970 and 1971, had five players drafted in the NBA and was the first black coach elected as an officer of the National Association of Basketball Coaches. Mitchell’s was the first NCAA Division II team to have back-to-back first round NBA draft picks – Elmore Smith, who signed with the Buffalo Braves in 1971, and Travis Grant, who signed with the Los Angeles Lakers. He also was selected in 1971 as one of four coaches to run the new Olympic Development Camp in Colorado Springs, Colo.
After he left KSU, Mitchell coached at Alabama State and Norfolk State universities. In his 15-year career, he accumulated 325 wins and 103 losses, a .759 winning percentage, making him the sixth winningest coach in NCAA Division II history.
As a result of his tremendous records, the university announced in October 2008 that it would name the basketball floor in the Exum Center for Mitchell and celebrated his achievements at the Central State football game and at the court’s unveiling. He was inducted into the KSU Athletic Hall of Fame in 2002, and the KSU National Alumni Association also recognized Mitchell’s efforts at the 2009 Homecoming Founder’s Day Convocation by making him an honorary member of the association.