Stetson Mourns the Passing of Glenn Wilkes
Dr. Glenn Wilkes, legendary Stetson men’s basketball coach and internationally renowned steward of the game, passed away late Saturday night, Nov. 21. He was 91.
Wilkes spent 36 seasons as head coach at Stetson (1957-93), amassing a school-record 552 victories. A member of the Stetson Athletics, Florida Sports and ASUN Conference Halls of Fame, Wilkes was inducted into the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2014. He enjoyed 27 winning seasons with the Hatters, authoring the only three 20-win campaigns in program history.
Upon his retirement in 1993, Wilkes ranked ninth among active coaches in wins, trailing only Dean Smith, Lefty Driesell, Lou Henson, Gene Bartow, Gary Colson, Don Haskins, Norm Stewart and Bob Knight.
“It is a sad day for the Hatter family,” Stetson Athletics Director Jeff Altier said. “Dr. Wilkes was a larger than life personality. His success as a basketball coach was recognized by induction into many sports halls of fame. He was also an accomplished administrator, having led the Hatters to Division I and building the Edmunds Center which, at the time, was the largest on-campus gym in the state. As an educator he not only published several books, but finished his time at Stetson teaching in the classroom. I held Glenn in high esteem as did thousands of others. He will be missed.”
In his years at the university, Wilkes not only served as basketball coach, but also as athletic director, professor and Sports Information director. Upon his retirement from coaching, he continued to serve as an instructor of Sports and Exercise Science, and also spent four seasons as a scout for the Los Angeles Lakers (1994-98).
But while his success on the court is well known, Wilkes’ greatest contributions to the game came off the court. His Glenn Wilkes Basketball Schools, founded in the late 1950s, were the first of their kind in Florida and the South, and laid a blueprint for all of today’s successful mega camps. The camps were so well regarded that Wilkes eventually became camp director for the Nike All-America Camp and the Michael Jordan Flight School.
As a teacher of the game, Wilkes’ “forte” for instruction opened even more opportunities for him in the latter part of his “second career.” His two websites, www.basketballsbest.com and www.worldclassbasketball.com, feature tips and instruction for coaches and players, along with tournament information, products and various general basketball knowledge. His Basketball’s Best clinics have led him not only throughout the South but across the nation and internationally to locales such as Portugal, Colombia, Korea, Latvia, Taiwan, Hong Kong, Venezuela and the Bahamas. His work in growing the game internationally cannot be overlooked, either.
One such example is his work with NBA Hall of Famer Yao Ming. Wilkes and Yao spent the summer of 1998 working out at Stetson’s Edmunds Center, when Yao was just 18 years old. Four years later, Yao embarked on an NBA career that saw him selected to the All-Star team in each of his eight seasons in the league.
At Stetson, Wilkes coached three All-Americans, two NBA players, as well as numerous all-conference and all-district performers. He also shepherded the Hatters from the NAIA to Division II and eventually to joining the Division I ranks prior to the 1971-72 season, and the ASUN Conference in the mid-80s.
A native of Eatonton, Ga., Wilkes attended Mercer University on a basketball scholarship and forged a career as a player that eventually led him into Mercer’s Hall of Fame in 1971. After graduating from Mercer in 1950, Wilkes flirted with a professional basketball career, being selected by the NBA’s Syracuse Nationals, before also being drafted to serve in the Army during the Korean War.
While in the Army, Wilkes served as a communications officer before being discharged and beginning his basketball coaching career. His first coaching stop was at Brewton-Parker College, then a junior college, in Mount Vernon, Ga. Wilkes posted a 123-30 mark in three seasons, catching the eye of the Hatters.
Wilkes was tabbed to replace Stetson Hall of Fame coach Dick Morland, and found instant success, authoring 10 consecutive winning seasons, including the school’s first 20-win campaign (1960-61).
Wilkes would eventually lead the Hatters from the NAIA to what’s currently known as Division II a few years later, and the wins kept on coming. The Hatters were 22-7 during the 1969-70 season behind All-American Earnest Killum. The highlight of that season was Stetson’s 87-80 win over No. 14 Louisville.
Stetson eventually moved into what is currently known as Division I prior to the 1971-72 season and after a few lean years, Wilkes led Stetson to its finest season ever as the Hatters finished 22-4 and boasted wins over the likes of Cal, Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Tulane and Florida State.
After years of playing as an Independent, Wilkes led the Hatters into the Trans America Athletic Conference (now ASUN) prior to the 1986-87 season. Success was immediate, as the Hatters went 13-5 in their first season in the TAAC, reaching the conference tournament finals before falling to long-time nemesis Georgia Southern (49-46).
“I am deeply saddened with the passing of the great Glenn Wilkes,” current Stetson head coach Donnie Jones said. “Coach was an iconic figure in college basketball, putting Stetson University basketball on the map. His legacy extends well beyond the court. He impacted many lives by inspiring his players to reach beyond their potential, and leading others.
“He was such a huge influence on me personally upon my arrival to Stetson. Our friendship goes back to my arrival to the state in 1998. We shared many days together talking basketball and ways to get better in life and coaching. Coach Wilkes’ presence will be felt for generations to come. We extend our thoughts and prayers to the Wilkes family.”
Known as “The Godfather of Florida Basketball,” Wilkes was also a published author, writing several books on various aspects of the game.
Wilkes coached two of his sons at Stetson: Glenn, Jr. (1976-80) and Rob (1989-93). Both followed him into the coaching profession. Rob was an assistant coach at Florida State, Georgia Southern, Lynn and Old Dominion. Glenn Jr., is currently in his 35th year as the women’s head coach at Rollins. Together, father and son are the winningest coaching duo in the history of college basketball, with 1,276 wins between them.
In addition to being inducted into the College Basketball Hall of Fame, Wilkes was also inducted into the Naismith Coaches Circle at the Naismith Basketball Hall of Fame in Springfield, Mass., in 2019. He entered along with Denny Crum, Cotton Fitzsimmons, John MacLeod and Frank Martin.
Wilkes is survived by his wife, Jan, and their six children: Glenn, Jr., Scott, Tom, Rob, Tarra and Angel. Funeral arrangements are pending.