4 minute read

Earl Lloyd

First Black Coach

In 1968 Lloyd broke another color barrier when he was named the first African American assistant coach in the league, signing on with the Detroit Pistons. Three years later he became the second black to be named a head coach, and the Pistons' first black coach. Lloyd was the first African American to serve as bench coach. During his short tenure, he coached future Hall of Famers Dave Bing and Bob Lanier.

Unfortunately, the Pistons went just 20-52 under Lloyd in the 1971-72 season, and Lloyd was fired after only seven games into the next season. Pistons owner Fred Zollner replaced Lloyd with Ray Scott, the first time in the NBA that a black coach succeeded a black coach. Nevertheless, Lloyd should be commended for his dedicated service to the Detroit Pistons, having served as the team's assistant coach, scout, and head coach, and as a television analyst as well.


1947 Plays for West Virginia State
1950 One of three blacks drafted by NBA teams
1950 Joins the army for two years
1952 Plays with Syracuse Nationals from 1952 to 1958
1958 Traded to Detroit Pistons
1960 Retires from professional basketball
1968 Becomes assistant coach of Detroit Pistons
1971 Becomes head coach for Pistons
1972 Is fired as coach for Pistons
2000 Honored at 50th anniversary of black players in NBA

Recognized for his contributions to basketball, he was enshrined in the Virginia Sports Hall of Fame in 1993. In 1998 Lloyd was voted one of the CIAA's 50 Greatest Players and named to the CIAA Hall of Fame. He outlived his other two black NBA history makers; Cooper died in 1984 and Clifton died in 1990.

Career Statistics

DET: Detroit Pistons; SYR: Syracuse Nationals; WSC: Washington Capitols.
1950 WSC 7 43 .457 .846 6.7 1.6 3.7
1952 SYR 64 472 .344 .693 6.9 1.0 3.8
1953 SYR 72 654 .374 .746 7.3 1.6 4.2
1954 SYR 72 731 .365 .750 7.7 2.1 3.9
1955 SYR 72 612 .335 .772 6.8 1.6 3.7
1956 SYR 72 646 .373 .749 6.0 1.6 3.9
1957 DET 61 317 .331 .745 4.7 1.0 2.9
1958 DET 72 605 .349 .753 6.9 1.3 4.0
1959 DET 68 602 .356 .800 4.7 1.3 3.3
TOTAL 560 4682 .356 .750 6.4 1.4 3.7

Awards and Accomplishments

1948-49 Leads West Virginia State to two CIAA Conference and Tournament Championships
1948-50 Named All-Conference for three consecutive years
1949-50 Named All-American
1950 First African American to play in an NBA game, on October 31
1954 Career best of 731 points
1955 First black player to win an NBA title
1956 Named CIAA Player of the Decade, 1947-56
1968 First black assistant coach in NBA
1971 First black bench coach
1993 Enshrined in Virginia Sports Hall of Fame
1998 Voted to CIAA's 50 Greatest Players, and CIAA Hall of Fame
2001 February 9, 2001, named Earl Lloyd Day throughout Virginia
2002 Finalist for induction into Basketball Hall of Fame

Where Is He Now?

To commemorate the 50th anniversary of African Americans joining the NBA, the league in 2000 honored Earl Lloyd, Chuck Cooper, and Nat Clifton with special events during the season. Lloyd was joined in pregame introductions by Clifton's daughter Anita Brown and Cooper's wife Irva and son Chuck Jr., along with 78-year-old Hank DeZonie, a former member of the New York Rens who played in 1950. Lloyd tossed up the opening tip in the season-opener between the Philadelphia 76ers and the New York Knicks.

In Lloyd's hometown of Alexandria, Virginia, the board of directors of Kids In Trouble, Inc. recognized Lloyd in 2001 by coordinating a youth basketball clinic at the Charles Houston Community Center. That same year, the mayor of Alexandria and the governor of Virginia declared February 9, 2001, as Earl Lloyd Day.

As recently as 2002, Lloyd was still receiving accolades. He was speaker for the CIAA's Men's Tip-Off Banquet held in Raleigh, North Carolina, and was named as a finalist for enshrinement into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. Selected from 37 candidates, Lloyd had previously been a finalist once before.

Lloyd also found success after leaving professional basketball. He worked in the field of job placement for Detroit Board of Education for more than ten years. More recently Lloyd was employed in the community relations department of Dave Bing, Inc., a steel and automobile-parts company owned by the former Piston whom Lloyd had briefly coached. Lloyd has lived in Detroit and in Fairfield, Tennessee, with his wife Charlita. Though Lloyd was "never one to blow my own horn," his ground-breaking role in basketball assures his place in history.

Additional topics

Famous Sports StarsBasketballEarl Lloyd Biography - Virginia Native Makes History, No Jackie Robinson, First Black Coach, Chronology, Career Statistics