Don Newman helped spark Idaho basketball’s turnaround in the late 1970s. After attending Louisiana State as a freshman, he transferred to Idaho in the fall of 1977. He sat out a year because of the transfer rules and then made his impact known under former UI coach Don Monson.
After finishing in the cellar the two previous seasons, Idaho rose to second place in the Big Sky Conference standings during his senior year and qualified for the four-team conference tournament for the first time. He was named the conference’s Player of the Year and a unanimous first-team all-conference selection.
Prior to his senior year, Newman was selected in the fourth round of the 1979 NBA draft by Indiana and then was taken in the third round by Boston in 1980. He was the final player cut prior to the start of the season, which the Celtics went on to win the NBA title that year.
Newman also played centerfield for the Vandal baseball team in 1979.
Although he didn’t play college football, Newman showed off his athleticism by trying out for the Seattle Seahawks at cornerback in 1981. He didn’t make the team, but he did wind up playing five seasons in the Canadian Football League as a cornerback and a receiver. While playing in the CFL, he also played basketball for three seasons in the CBA with George Karl as his coach.
Newman spent 1985 as an assistant football coach at Lewiston High and then coached some at Moscow High. He then served as an assistant coach to Kelvin Sampson at Washington State during 1987-92. He left WSU to become head coach at Sacramento State for five years. He then went to Arizona State as an assistant but was promoted to head coach during the 1997-98 season where he compiled an 18-14 record.
Newman then reunited with Karl as an assistant coach for the Milwaukee Buck in 1999. He then was an assistant for the Nets, Spurs and Wizards through 2016.
Newman passed away in 2018 after a long battle with brain cancer.