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2006 Recipient - Mr. Clifford O. Hagan

Basketball Legend and Hall of Fame Member

 The state of Kentucky has long prided itself on its impressive basketball tradition and this year’s HIP honoree not only exemplifies athleticism in its highest form, but is also a sterling representative of the Grecian ideals of striving for excellence, consistently striving for worthwhile causes, the delight of games and fun, and the importance and worth of the individual. Clifford “Cliff” Hagan is a familiar name to many, known for his prowess as a basketball player, as well as his generosity in assisting those around him.

Hagan first tasted the fruits of athletic renown as a high school basketball player in his hometown of Owensboro, Kentucky. As a member of the Owensboro Senior High basketball team between the years of 1945 and 1949, Hagan received:

  • All-District,
  • All-Region,
  • All-City,
  • All-Conference, and
  • All-State honors (1947-1949).

1949 was an exceptional year for the young man, who was named Outstanding Kentucky High School Player, along with receiving All-American honors and leading his team, the Red Devils, to the state championship. There, Hagan scored 41 points in the final championship game, a record that remained unbroken for fifteen years after his accomplishment.

Upon graduation, Hagan pursued his bachelor’s degree at the University of Kentucky, where he garnered further athletic accolades. Playing under famed coach Adolph Rupp, Hagan not only belonged to the team who triumphed over Kansas State in the 1951 NCAA championship, but he was also honored as Team MVP in 1954—the same year that UK obtained a perfect record of 25-0.

During his years at Kentucky, he was twice named to the Consensus All-American and All-Southeastern Conference (1952, 1954). Hagan was also named to:

  • the Southeastern Conference All-Time Team,
  • the Orlando Sentinel All-Time Southeastern Conference First Team, and
  • recognized as the All-Time collegiate player in Kentucky by Inside Kentucky Sports magazine (1974).

He has been enshrined in the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (1974), as well as included in the UK Alumni Association Hall of Distinguished Alumni. His basketball jersey, emblazoned with the number 6, has been retired by the university.

In 1954, Hagan graduated from the University of Kentucky and temporarily eschewed a career as a professional basketball player in favor of military service, despite being drafted to the Boston Celtics. From 1954 to 1956, Hagan served as a member of the U.S. Air Force at the Andrews Air Force Base. While there, he continued to play basketball, helping his team to win two Worldwide Air Force basketball championships (1954, 1955) and twice being named All-Service (1954, 1955).

While still in the service, he was traded to the St. Louis Hawks, where he starred from 1956 to 1966 while simultaneously earning his master’s degree in education from Washington University in 1958.

As a member of the Hawks, Hagan helped to comprise a front line of players known as the “Unmatchables” and led the team in scoring for the entire playoff en route to the 1958 NBA Championship. Individual honors included

  • being named to the All-NBA Second Team (1958, 1959),
  • as well as being named an NBA All-Star (1958-1962) and
  • an All-Pro (1957-1962).

While a member of the NBA, Hagan held the record for the most field goals scored in a single quarter and scored 13,447 points (18.0 ppg) in his ten years with the association.

In 1967, Hagan left St. Louis to act as a player/coach for the burgeoning ABA Dallas Chaparrals (now known as the San Antonio Spurs), with whom he was affiliated from 1967 to 1970. While at Dallas, Hagan played in the first ABA All-Star Game and was the first player to play in the All-Star Games of two different leagues. In 1968, he was named Professional Coach of the Year by the Texas Sports Writers Association.

Hagan’s achievements continued to accumulate long after he ended his career as a professional basketball player. In 1978, Hagan received the high honor of induction into the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame. He was the first former UK player to receive such an honor. He served as the University of Kentucky athletic director from 1975 to 1988 and assisted the institution in initiating the CATS Educational and Tutorial Program for Student Athletes, a program whose mission is “to create an environment where all student-athletes have the opportunity to maximize their academic, personal, and social growth and improve their post-college quality of life.” Due in part to Hagan’s work, the 1987 Kentucky football team had the best graduation rate of any Division One University in the NCAA. The college’s baseball field was renamed the Cliff Hagan Stadium in 1993 in his honor.

Hagan also gives back to his community, as evidenced by his decades-long affiliation with the Boys and Girls Club of America on local, state, and national levels. The Cliff Hagan Boys and Girls Club in his hometown of Owensboro is so named in honor of his generosity and dedication to the program. An active member of Calvary Baptist Church, where he has served as a deacon, Hagan is known as a devoted family man. He and his high-school sweetheart, Martha, have been married for 53 years, and currently reside in Lexington, Kentucky.

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