The Murray State family lost a great friend, supporter and former star student-athlete Howard “Howie” Crittenden who died at the age of 80 on August 30, 2013. He was born March 3, 1933.
The word legend is many times casually tossed around in describing athletic accomplishments. However, Crittenden lived and played a legend in a bigger way than all the rest. Truly, his basketball career at Murray State is legendary and will never be surpassed.
"The Racer family lost one of its all-time greats today,” said Murray State Director of Athletics Allen Ward. “Yes, Howie was an incredible player, but he was an even greater person and friend. Everyone that knew him, loved him, and he will be missed by all."
"On a personal note, it has been a real honor to get to know Howie and Meg personally since they moved back to Murray,” Ward said. “He was more than just a Racer icon to me; he was a wonderful friend and a man I admired very much. My family and I will miss him very much."
"All of the Racer basketball family & Murray State University is extremely saddened by the passing of the legendary Howie Crittenden,” said Steve Prohm, MSU Head Basketball Coach. “Howie embodied what a true Racer is on and off the basketball court. Howie was very close to our program, our staff and our players. This is a tough day for all of Racer Nation. My thoughts are with his wife Meg, son Howie & the rest of his family."
Crittenden played for Coach Harlan Hodges and Rex Alexander from 1952-56 and was named All-Ohio Valley Conference in three seasons.
When Howie left Murray State in 1956, he had 2,019 points and was the Racers’ all-time scorer. His mark stood for 32 years until Jeff Martin topped him in 1988. Crittenden is still No. 6 on the all-time scoring list at Murray State and is one of six that scored 2,000 points and the only one who did it without the benefit of the three-point shot.
Howie had a career scoring average of 19.4 points. He still holds the Murray State career record for most made free throws (731). He set several single game records including getting to the free throw line 28 times against Western Kentucky in 1955. His most prolific season was 1953-54 when he scored 652 points for a 21.0 average.
Crittenden’s career spanned two Murray State home courts as he closed out Carr Health Building and opened Racer Arena. In the final game at Carr Health (Dec. 4, 1954), Howie scored 23 points in an 87-59 win over Tennessee Tech. He opened Racer Arena a week later with 41 points, tying the MSU record that was held by Bennie Purcell. This historic game came on Dec. 11, 1954 in a 108-80 win over Middle Tennessee.
Crittenden’s jersey No. 19 was retired in 1956 and he was inducted into the Murray State Hall of Fame in 1970. He was also inducted into the Kentucky Sports Hall of Fame (1972), Kentucky High School Hall of Fame (1989) and the Kentucky Athletic Hall of Fame (2004). In 2001, Howie was named to the Fabulous-50, part of the best to appear in the Kentucky State Tournament. In July, Crittenden was in the inaugural class of the Kentucky High School Basketball Hall of Fame.
Before he arrived at Murray State, Crittenden was part of one of the most famous high school basketball teams in the Commonwealth. In 1952, the small town/small school Cuba Cubs (later consolidated into Graves County High School) made a run all the way to the Kentucky Sweet 16 and won the state championship under head coach Jack Story. Howie was named Kentucky All-State in 1951 (Cuba was state runner up) and 1952, he was also named a high school All-America.
Bennie Purcell, who carved out his own legendary career with the Racers, left MSU in the spring of 1952 just before Crittenden arrived in the fall.
“I came to Murray in 1948 and saw Howie play in high school,” Purcell recounted. “I left about the time he was coming to Murray and I was still playing pro, but did get to see him play at Murray State. Howie was an outstanding player and did things on the court that nobody else could do.”
“Howie was a great friend and I’ll always treasure his friendship,” Purcell added. “We’ve lost perhaps our greatest player at Murray State. He will be missed so much.”
Howie earned his undergraduate degree from Murray State University in 1956 and later obtained his Masters from MSU. He was named to the Scabbard and Blade Military Honor Society and was a Distinguished Military Graduate. He was commissioned as a Lieutenant in the United States Army Reserve and served on active duty for a year at Fort Chaffee, Arkansas.
Following graduation in 1956, Crittenden was drafted by the NBA’s New York Knicks, but decided to play in the National Industrial Basketball League for the Peoria Caterpillars (1956-60). He was a member of the first USA Basketball team to play in Russia in 1958 during the height of the Cold War.
In his professional life in education, Crittenden became a coach and administrator. He was head coach at Metropolis, Ill., High School (1958-59), Calloway County High School head coach (1960-65) and University of Missouri assistant coach (1965-66). He had a decorated career that included serving as principal of Calloway County High School and Henderson County High School. Crittenden served at Henderson for more than 20 years and at the time of county consolidation as the school became the largest in the state.
In 2010, the Crittenden Scholarship was gifted by Murray State alum Jim Thomas. While in school at the time Howie was playing at Cuba High School, Thomas saw Crittenden play and was so inspired by him that more than 50 years later, he came from his home in New Jersey back to MSU to start a scholarship in Howie’s honor.
Funeral services will be held at First United Methodist Church in Murray, Ky., on Tuesday, Sep. 3, 2013 at 2 p.m. Visitation will be prior to the funeral at First United Methodist Church (503 Maple St., Murray, KY 42071) from 10 a.m. until the funeral hour. The family requests that memorial donations be made to the Murray State Foundation for the Howie Crittenden Racer Basketball Scholarship and mailed to Murray State University, 106 Development Way, Murray, Kentucky 42071.
J.H. Churchill Funeral Home is in charge of arrangements.
Online condolences can be left at theJHChurchillFuneralHome.com.
From: MSU media relations
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