Wimp Sanderson
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Wimp Sanderson
Wimp Sanderson
Biographical details
Born (1937-08-08) August 8, 1937 (age 82)
Florence, Alabama
Playing career
1955-1956Abilene Christian
1956-1959Florence State
Coaching career (HC unless noted)
1960-1961Alabama (GA)
1961-1980Alabama (assistant)
1994-1999Arkansas-Little Rock
Head coaching record
Tournaments12-10 (NCAA Division I)
1-2 (NIT)
Accomplishments and honors
5 SEC Tournament (1982, 1987, 1989, 1990, 1991)
SEC regular season (1987)
Sun Belt regular season (1996)
SEC Coach of the Year (1987, 1989, 1990)

Winfrey "Wimp" Sanderson (born August 8, 1937)[1] is a retired American college basketball coach. He coached at the University of Alabama from 1981 to 1992 and the University of Arkansas at Little Rock from 1994 to 1999.

Sanderson was born in Florence, Alabama. He prepped at Coffee High School and graduated from Florence State College, now known as the University of North Alabama, in 1959.[2] In 1960 he became a graduate assistant under Hayden Riley at Alabama, and in 1961 he was made a full-time assistant. He served in this capacity for 20 years under both Riley and C. M. Newton, eventually becoming Newton's top assistant. When Newton resigned to become assistant commissioner of the Southeastern Conference, Sanderson was named his successor. In 12 years as head coach his teams averaged 21.8 wins a year, with a 267-119 record, and they won 5 SEC tournaments. They played in one NIT and ten NCAA tournaments making the "Sweet 16" six times. He is only coach in Alabama history to win 200 or more games in his first 10 years. He was the Southeastern Conference Coach of the Year in 1987, 1989 and 1990, and was the National Coach of the Year in 1987.

Sanderson was famous for wearing plaid sport jackets on the sidelines. During his glory years at Alabama, the Coleman Coliseum was known as the "Plaid Palace" (with its midcourt logo painted crimson-and-white plaid), the Million Dollar Band was known as the "Plaid Players", and many fans came to games wearing plaid in Sanderson's honor.

Early life and playing career

Winfrey Sanderson was named for his uncle, Hayes Winfrey, who died from kidney problems in his twenties after he blocked a punt in his stomach during a high school football game.

His father, who worked for an auto parts company, died when he was six, and Sanderson, an only child, shared an apartment with his mother, Christine, a secretary for the Veterans Administration. Wimp was more of an athlete than a student, and more Mr. Popular than either. During his senior year in high school, he beat the would-be valedictorian to become class president.[3]

In 1955, Sanderson went to Abilene Christian College to play basketball. He planned to go into radio and television, but flunking Spanish soured his plans. He transferred home to Florence State (now the University of North Alabama) and continued his hoops career while graduating in physical education. He took a high school head coaching job in Carbon Hill, Alabama and one year later, in 1959-60, he went to Alabama as a graduate assistant under Hayden Riley for $75 a month. Sanderson figured it was a stepping stone for a better high school job.[3]

"When he was hired, Wimp felt a tremendous amount of pressure", said his wife, Annette. "He had his doubters. People wondered,`Why did they ever hire Wimp?'"[3]

Sanderson played his freshman season of college basketball at Abilene Christian University before transferring back to Florence State. In three seasons with the Lions, from 1957 to 1959, he scored 1,076 points and averaged 14.9 points over his 72-game career. He was named team captain as both a junior and a senior and led the Lions in scoring in 1958 with 403 points. His best single-game performance came against Jacksonville State University in 1958 when he scored 31 points. Sanderson graduated in 1959.[2]

Coaching career


Before he resigned in 1992, Sanderson had been at Alabama for 32 years--one year as a graduate assistant, 20 as a full-time assistant and 12 as head coach. He led the Crimson Tide to 10 NCAA Tournaments and six trips to the Sweet 16. He lived 32 of his 58 years in Tuscaloosa, watching three decades of history pass from one season to another. In 1963, as Governor George Wallace stood at the schoolhouse door, Sanderson, an assistant coach without political convictions, watched from a window in a building across the street, unaware he was privy to history. Six years later, as Alabama Coach C.M. Newton became the first Southeastern Conference coach to heavily recruit African-Americans (Vanderbilt's Perry Wallace was the first African-American to play in the conference, in 1967-68), Sanderson was pounding the recruiting trail, helping to lure players like future All-American Wendell Hudson to Tuscaloosa.[3]

"I have a lot of respect for C.M. and Wimp," says Hudson, the first African-American athlete at Alabama and now the assistant AD at Alabama. "I would talk to a lot of guys who came in the league at the same time as I did, who didn't have as easy of a time as I did. There were no special rules. Everyone was treated equally."[3]

Sanderson's skills as a recruiter were legend. Enticing Robert Horry, Derrick McKey and Latrell Sprewell to football-mad Tuscaloosa was unprecedented. In addition to Sprewell, Horry and McKey, eight other players recruited when Sanderson was head coach made it to the NBA, including James Robinson and David Benoit.[3]

Scandal and resignation

Sanderson resigned from Alabama on May 18, 1992, days after Nancy Watts, his longtime secretary, filed a sexual discrimination lawsuit against him and the university with the U.S. Equal Opportunity Commission. Both Sanderson and Watts admitted they had had an affair from about 1970 to 1985, but both offered conflicting stories about what happened on March 17, 1992.[3]

Watts said that on that day, two days before Alabama was to play Stanford in the NCAA Tournament, Sanderson punched her in the face, giving her a black eye, during an argument. Sanderson said Watts had become hysterical and that, in an effort to defend himself, he stuck out his hand. She collided with it, giving her a black eye. More than a year later. Watts' lawsuit against Sanderson, the university and then-athletic director Hootie Ingram, was settled out of court, days before it was scheduled to go to trial. Alabama and Sanderson's homeowner's insurance policy paid Watts $275,000. Sanderson's 32-year relationship with Alabama, in which he had been a graduate assistant, assistant coach or head coach for more than half of the basketball games the school had ever played, was over.[3]

"It was a situation where if you're accused of anything, you're guilty, and that's not right. I know what happened," Sanderson has said. "I gave the university 32 years, all I could give them. Tried to do everything the right way. It was a sad day in my life. I loved the school, but it's behind me. It's over."[3]

David Hobbs, a former assistant was promoted as head coach when Sanderson resigned.[4]Mark Gottfried, a former player under Sanderson, followed Hobbs and coached for 10-1/2 seasons before he was fired on January 26, 2009.

Arkansas-Little Rock

Sanderson resurfaced in 1994 at the University of Arkansas at Little Rock, where he would lead the Trojans to a National Invitation Tournament appearance in 1996.[3]

Sanderson currently resides in Birmingham, Alabama.[1]


Head coaching record

Season Team Overall Conference Standing Postseason
Alabama Crimson Tide (Southeastern Conference) (1980-1992)
1980-81 Alabama 18-11 10-8 4th NIT Second Round
1981-82 Alabama 24-7 12-6 3rd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1982-83 Alabama 20-12 8-10 T-8th NCAA Division I Round of 48
1983-84 Alabama 18-12 10-8 5th NCAA Division I Round of 48
1984-85 Alabama 23-10 11-7 T-3rd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1985-86 Alabama 24-9 13-5 T-2nd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1986-87 Alabama 28-5 16-2 1st NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1987-88 Alabama 14-17 6-12 T-8th
1988-89 Alabama 23-8 12-6 T-2nd NCAA Division I Round of 64
1989-90 Alabama 26-9 12-6 2nd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1990-91 Alabama 23-10 12-6 2nd NCAA Division I Sweet 16
1991-92 Alabama 26-9 10-6 3rd (Western) NCAA Division I Round of 32
Alabama: 267-119 132-82
Arkansas-Little Rock Trojans (Sun Belt Conference) (1994-1999)
1994-95 Arkansas-Little Rock 17-12 9-9 T-5th
1995-96 Arkansas-Little Rock 23-7 14-4 T-1st NIT First Round
1996-97 Arkansas-Little Rock 18-11 11-7 3rd
1997-98 Arkansas-Little Rock 15-13 10-8 4th
1998-99 Arkansas-Little Rock 12-15 5-9 T-7th
Arkansas-Little Rock: 85-58 49-37
Total: 352-177

      National champion         Postseason invitational champion  
      Conference regular season champion         Conference regular season and conference tournament champion
      Division regular season champion       Division regular season and conference tournament champion
      Conference tournament champion


  1. ^ a b c d "Wimp Sanderson". Alabama Sports Hall of Fame. Retrieved .
  2. ^ a b c d "Winfrey "Wimp" Sanderson". UNA Athletic Hall of Fame. Archived from the original on 2007-03-17. Retrieved .
  3. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Harrison, Steve (1996-02-12). "The Color of Plaid". The Sporting News. Archived from the original on November 22, 2007. Retrieved .
  4. ^ "Hobbs Gets the Job at Alabama". New York Times. 1992-06-13. Retrieved .

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