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Ben Jobe, Southern University Basketball Coach, Dies at 84
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Ben Jobe, Southern University Basketball Coach, Dies at 84


By DANIEL E. SLOTNIK

MARCH 16, 2017

Ben Jobe, a coach who turned Southern University into one of the highest-scoring college basketball programs in the nation and led them to an upset victory over Georgia Tech in the 1993 N.C.A.A. tournament, died on March 10 at his home in Montgomery, Ala. He was 84.

His daughter, Gina Bené Jobe Ishman, said the cause was complications of lung cancer.

Jobe joined Southern University, a historically black college in Baton Rouge, La., in 1986 and coached the team for 12 seasons. He was a protégé of John McLendon, a Hall of Fame black coach in the Jim Crow era who studied basketball under its inventor, Dr. James Naismith.

Like McLendon, Jobe favored a rapid-fire offense, demanding that in every game his Jaguars shoot every eight seconds, take at least 93 shots and try to score more than 100 points. His teams responded, leading the nation in scoring for three seasons and earning them the nickname the “runnin’ and gunnin’ Jaguars.” Jobe once admitted that the games could become so one-sided that he took catnaps on occasion.

Jobe had a 208-142 career record at Southern and coached future professional players like Bobby Phills and Avery Johnson. (Johnson went on to coach in the N.B.A. and, today, at the University of Alabama.)

Jobe’s best season was in 1989-90, when the Jaguars went 25-6. He led them to the N.C.A.A. tournament four times — 1987, ’88, ’89 and ’93 — though they never made it past the second round.

In 1992-93, the team averaged 97 points per game and won by an average of 24. The Jaguars went on to beat fourth-seeded Georgia Tech, 93-78, in the first round of the 1993 N.C.A.A. tournament, but lost in the second round to George Washington University, 90-80.

The Jaguars have reached the tournament three times since Jobe stepped down, in 2003, but have never made it past the first round.

Jobe saw himself as an educator as well as a coach. He tried to instill character in his players, he said, and could be stern when they did not live up to his standards. Players could not wear jewelry, for example, and they had to speak properly on the court and, ideally, off it.

“I want my players to be Superman on the court, and then go back to class and be Clark Kent,” he told The St. Louis Post-Dispatch in 1997.

Jobe was outspoken about racism — firm in saying that it should not be invoked as an excuse for poor behavior, but quick to call it out when he saw it. He did so in an ESPN documentary, “Black Magic” (2008), which told the story of African-American basketball players and coaches at historically black colleges during the civil rights era.

Jobe was especially frustrated by the praise Duke University received in the late 1970s for the fast-break style that the Blue Devils, like Jobe, had adapted from McLendon.

“Duke did it, it was genius,” Jobe said in the documentary. “We did it, it’s jungle ball.”

Ben Jobe, the youngest of 16 children, was born on March 2, 1933, in Nashville, Tenn. His parents, Arthur Jobe and the former Mary Davis, were poor sharecroppers.

Jobe played point guard at what was then Pearl High School in Nashville, then went to historically black Fisk University on an academic scholarship. He received a bachelor’s degree in health and physical education in 1956, then coached high school basketball before traveling to Africa to coach different sports at a junior college.

After returning to the United States in the early 1960s, he earned a master’s degree from Tennessee State University, in 1963. He was working toward a doctorate at the University of Tennessee, Knoxville, but left because of what he saw as a toxic racial atmosphere on the campus.

Jobe was head coach at the University of Denver for a time and was briefly an assistant coach with the Denver Nuggets of the N.B.A. and with Georgia Tech and the University of South Carolina. But he spent much of his career at historically black colleges and universities; besides Southern, he coached at South Carolina State, Tuskegee and Alabama A&M, among others.

Jobe left Southern for Tuskegee after the 1995-96 season, when the team went 17-11. He was replaced by Tommy Green, who coached until Jobe returned in 2001. He retired for good in 2003, and some years later worked as a scout for the Knicks.

Besides his daughter, he is survived by his wife, the former Regina Williams, whom he married in 1969; a son, Bryan; a brother, Joseph; three grandchildren, and one great-grandson.
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