Nate ‘Tiny’ Archibald is UTEP Miners Forgotten All-Time Great
Last week, Tim Hardaway was voted by fans as the greatest Texas Western/UTEP basketball player in program history. The man who invented the Killer Crossover defeated Bobby Joe Hill in the finals of a 64-man bracket that spanned seven decades of Miner hoops. Hardaway reached the finals after getting 59-percent of the vote in his Final Four showdown against Nate "Tiny" Archibald. Just for fun, the day after Hardaway was crowned champ, we let UTEP fans vote on another matchup between Hill and Archibald. The man who captained the 1966 TWC Championship team received 53-percent of the vote, with Tiny getting 47-percent.
Judging from the 150 people who voted on social media, Archibald is a clear third in terms of greatest Miners ever to wear a basketball uniform behind Bobby Joe Hill and Tim Hardaway. That is surprising when you consider that the Chicago native did not dominate on the court until his senior season for UTEP in 1988-89. Although Bobby Joe was the leader of the National Championship team, he played just seven games his senior season due to injury and never pursued a pro career.
In contrast, Archibald played three seasons for Don Haskins and dominated all of them as the team's starting point guard. He averaged 15.8 points as a sophomore, 22.4 points as a junior, and 21.4 points as a senior. Unfortunately, assists were not charted during his UTEP days (they were not officially recorded until 1978). During his final season in 1969-70, Archibald led the Miners back to the NCAA Tournament, and he scored 36 points in a first round loss to Utah State.
Tiny was selected in the second round of the 1970 NBA Draft by the Cincinnati Royals and in his third season, he led the NBA in scoring and assists with the Kansas City-Omaha Kings. He is the only player in NBA history to accomplish that feat. During his 13 seasons as a pro, he played in six All Star games, was a five-time All NBA player, was the MVP of the 1980-81 All Star Game, and that same season he won his only title with the Boston Celtics. Archibald was enshrined in the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame in 1991 and he was named one of the 50 Greatest NBA Players ever in 1997.
Why is Tiny not remembered as the best ever to play at UTEP? There could be many reasons, including his college career ending 50 years ago, and few people under the age of 45 ever remembered watching Archibald play in the NBA. He did return to UTEP as an assistant coach under Don Haskins in the late 1980's, but he left El Paso after just two seasons.
Ironically, when looking at Archibald's NBA career at Basketball Reference, the player who compares most to Tiny's Similarity Score is Tim Hardaway. There is no doubt that when you look at his body of work playing for Don Haskins and in the NBA,Archibald has a strong case to be the greatest men's basketball player in the history of the TWC/UTEP program. However, Hardaway played nearly 20 years later and more fans remember his career than "Nate the Skate". As for Bobby Joe Hill, the 1966 National Champs will always rank as the greatest accomplishment in the history of El Paso sports and his popularity will always stay near the top of all-time greatest local sports icons. One thing for certain is that ever since Coach Haskins arrived in El Paso in 1961, the Miners have been blessed to have some of the best point guards to ever play the game of basketball.