GREENSBORO – Don Corbett, the legendary North Carolina A&T men’s basketball coach who led the Aggies to seven Mid-Eastern Athletic Conference tournament championships over 14 seasons, has died at the age of 75 from cancer.
Corbett’s seven tournament conference titles occurred consecutively from 1982-88. The mark is still tied with the University of Kentucky for the longest such streak in NCAA Division I history (1944-50). Corbett became the Aggies head coach in 1979 as the successor to Gene Littles.
He went 9-19 his first season and then proceeded to run off eight straight winning seasons and 11 altogether from 1979-93. Also in that span, Corbett put together six 20-win seasons, won the MEAC regular-season seven times and won the MEAC tournament and regular-season titles in the same year five times. Corbett led his Aggies to seven NCAA appearances and one NIT showing.
The most memorable season under Corbett was the 1987-88 campaign where marks were set that may never be broken. The Aggies won a school-record 26 games by going 26-3 overall with a 16-0 mark in the MEAC. They advanced to the NCAA tournament where they nearly pulled off an upset at the Greensboro Coliseum against a talented Syracuse team that included NBA standouts Ronny Seikaly and Derrick Coleman.
Corbett won MEAC coach of the year six times and an Aggie won MEAC player of the year six times during his tenure including Joe Binion winning the award three consecutive seasons (1982-84). Eric Boyd (1985), George Cale (1987) and Claude Williams (1988) also won the honor under Corbett. The Aggies all-time leader in scoring (Binion), rebounding (Binion), assists (Thomas Griffis), steals (Griffis) and field goal percentage (Williams) all played for Corbett.
Corbett was born in Thomasville, Ga., where he was a two-sport high school standout in football and basketball. After receiving a bachelor’s degree from Lincoln (Mo.) University and a masters degree from the University of Illinois, he began his coaching career at Carver High School in Columbus, Georgia, where he compiled a 33-13 record.
After two assistant coaching stints at South Carolina State University and Tennessee State University, Corbett got his first collegiate head coaching job at Lincoln (Mo), his alma mater, in 1971.
He coached at Lincoln for eight years finishing with a 159-59 record. His teams finished either first or second in the Missouri Intercollegiate Athletic Association (MIAA) every year and his 1977-78 team made the NCAA Division II Elite Eight. He compiled a 159-59 record. He is still the school’s all-time winningest basketball coach.
Corbett finished his career at N.C. A&T 256-145. He had 415 overall coaching victories. In 2006, N.C. A&T named the basketball court for him and another legendary Aggies basketball coach, Cal Irvin. He is a member of the MEAC Hall of Fame, the Guilford County Sports Hall of Fame, the MIAA Hall of Fame, and the Lincoln University Hall of Fame.
Corbett met and married his beloved wife Freda while they were undergraduate students at Lincoln. They were married for 44 years before her passing in 2009. He is survived by four children: Don Corbett of Raleigh, Derrick Corbett of Philadelphia, Pa., Darren Corbett of Greensboro, and Denise Corbett of Durham; his sister, Gail Garfield of Manhattan, N.Y., two daughter-in-laws, Wendy Gates Corbett of Raleigh and Ana Matore Corbett of Greensboro; and two grandchildren, Jalen Michael Corbett and Cameron Matthew Corbett, both of Greensboro.