From the Murray Ledger and Times – The Murray State athletics community is mourning the loss of one of its all-time great athletes.
Howard “Howie” Crittenden died Friday night at his home in Murray. He was 80.
An inductee to the MSU Athletic Hall of Fame, Crittenden is one of nine former Racer basketball players to have had his number — 19 — retired. He is also the sixth all-time leading scorer in MSU history, having scored 2,019 points.
After his college days, Crittenden went into education and went on to be principal at Calloway County High School in Murray and Henderson County High School in Henderson. He also was a head basketball coach at Metropolis (Ill.) High School and CCHS before going into administration.
Before coming to MSU, Crittenden also helped create one of the greatest stories in Kentucky high school basketball history when he led the Cuba Cubs to a state title in 1952.
“I went and saw him play five times when he was in high school,” said Bennie Purcell, who was a senior in 1952 at MSU and graduated just months before Crittenden began his freshman year. Like Crittenden, Purcell’s number — 21 — hangs in the rafters of the CFSB Center. “No, I didn’t get a chance to play with him but I wish I had. He was one of our greatest players to come through this program.
“What they did at Cuba was use film of the Harlem Globetrotters to know how to dribble and pass and their ball handling was just suprerb. He also knew how to take the ball to the hoop really well and that’s probably why he had so many free throws. Back then, in the final three minutes of a game, you could dribble around, get fouled, make a foul shot and then your team got to keep the ball.”
Crittenden ended his career having made the most free throws of any Racer with 730 which came on 999 attempts, also an all-time MSU record. Those 730 charity-toss makes also rank him 12th for number of free throws made in the history of college basketball; former North Carolina star Tyler Hansbrough leads that category with 982 and players ahead of Crittenden include former Princeton and New York Knicks star Bill Bradley, former LSU scoring sensation Pete Maravich and NBA Hall of Famer Oscar Robertson of Cincinnati.
“He had a knack of driving to the basket and getting a lot of fouls called,” said MSU Asst. Athletic Director for Media Relations David Winder. “Another thing about him is that when he left Murray State, he was the all-time leading scorer and his all-time scoring mark stood for 32 years until Jeff Martin surpassed him in 1989. Yet Howie is the only one of the six players that scored 2,000-or-points here to have done it without the benefit of the 3-point shot. He was truly an amazing player here.”
Crittenden’s funeral is set for 2 p.m. Tuesday at First United Methodist Church in Murray with visitation set to begin at 10 a.m. and continue up to the funeral hour.
The Ledger & Times is in the process of constructing a full-length feature story on Crittenden that will publish in Tuesday’s edition. More updates will follow as the weekend continues.