We all know that the Don Haskins Center is named after the Hall of Fame coach that put the Miners on the map in college basketball. Why is it that more than 20 years after he retired as coach of the UTEP men's basketball team that we do not have a statue of The Bear in front of the entrance at the DHC? It is time to change that and give Coach Haskins a permanent shrine for all of his contributions to El Paso and college basketball.

This is not the first time that a statue of Coach Haskins has been mentioned. Years ago, former Miner Steve Yellen had tried unsuccessfully to get this accomplished with noted bronze master sculptor Brian Hanlon. Hanlon's impressive collection of sports sculptures include Jackie Robinson, Jim Brown, and Jerry Tarkanian just to name a few. Although Coach Haskins passed away in 2008, most of his immediate family still lives in El Paso. The arena that the Miners have played all of their home basketball games since 1976 bears his name (originally known as the Special Events Center until changed in 1998). All that is missing is a physical reminder of the 27th winningest coach in the history of college basketball.

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Jimmie Bemont designed the Buffalo Soldier that is on display at the Airport road gate entry at Fort Bliss. He also erected a life size bronze statue of a military soldier that is in front of the Veteran's Recreation Center Park at the corner of Salem and Rushing Road. Bemont lived in El Paso and worked for Parks and Recreation. Now, after living in El Paso for more than 40 years, the artist is currently residing in Kyle, Texas. He is a master sculptor working with bronze and he has always wanted to design a Don Haskins bust.

I spoke with Bemont regarding the design of a full-size bronze statue of Coach Haskins, and he said that the cost would be approximately $100,000. That would include six months for him to design the piece and then another six months at the foundry to cast molds and construct the bronze statue. The 77-year old artist admitted that he would jump at an opportunity to design the sculpture of the legendary Miners coach.

The biggest challenge would be raising the money for the project. UTEP would obviously rather have $100,000 donated to their Athletic Department rather than see that money go towards a statue of Coach Haskins. However, I am convinced that there are enough former players or close friends of The Bear to cover the cost of the project. This bronze symbol of UTEP basketball would be a great long term investment for fans and the program itself. People would take pictures next to the statue and it would forever be a reminder of the man that changed the face of college athletics forever. Simply put, Don Haskins did so much for the program over his 38 years as UTEP head coach that it is time to give him the ultimate tribute. Let us start the movement to get the funding raised and the statue built now so it does not turn into another delayed project like the downtown arena.

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