Cardinal Basketball

Wade Houston: More On The Man Louisville Hoops Is Honoring In The Bubble

The Louisville Men’s Basketball team and their fans are heading into their opening games of the 20-21 campaign with more than a few questions.

How will the squad perform with so many veterans beset by injuries?

How many games will be played before everyone succumbs to the plague?

How is playing in a “bubble” environment functionally different from being a professional athlete?

But another question fans may have, particularly Generation Z or even those darn Millennials, is this:

Who in the Sam Hill is Wade Houston?

Louisville’s self-contained basketball tipoff extravaganza—if it goes on—is named after a historic Louisville Cardinal and one of the area’s legendary coaches.

Wade Houston was the first African-American scholarship basketball player in school history (about seven years before UK signed one), and was a critical part of the squad from 63-66.  He was one of the trio that included Sam Smith and Eddie Whitehead that made up the first black scholarship players at the school.

After graduating, he spent the late sixties playing professionally in France before returning to Louisville to begin a long coaching career. He began by coaching at Ahrens from 71-73 before taking the head position at Male.

He coached at Male from 73-76, a run that included two state championship appearances and a state title in 1975. He then accepted a job as an assistant at Louisville under Denny Crum. He worked at Louisville for 13 seasons, including both the 1980 and 1986 championship teams.

In 1989 Houston took the head coaching job at the University of Tennessee, becoming the first African-American head coach in the program’s history. Considering it was an historic step up and Wade was a Tennessee native, Cards fans wished him well. Those feelings soured somewhat when he took his son Allan, fresh off of leading Ballard High School to the 1988 Kentucky State Championship (Go Bruins) to Knoxville with him when the kid would have almost certainly played at Louisville otherwise.

No one’s perfect.

Wade Houston coached at Tennessee through 1994. His overall record wasn’t the best at 65-90 but it did feature two NIT postseason appearances.

After basketball, he put his college degrees to work and excelled in the business world. He founded Houston-Johnson Inc., a third-party logistics and supply chain management company, with his wife Alice. The company is now known as HJI Supply Chain Solutions and their daughter Lynn is the CEO.

He’s also a member of several community, business and athletic organizations specializing in providing less fortunate kids with educational opportunities.

Truly Houston is an iconic name in the history of not only the University but the city of Louisville. A name worthy of accolades, the least of which is a early season basketball tournament.

Now if only the games go on as planned…

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