Former Idaho State Basketball Coach Jim Killingsworth Passes Away at Age 83

Killer led ISU to upset of UCLA in 1977 and a win from the Final Four

Jim Killingsworth

June 11, 2007

Owasso, OK — Jim Killingsworth, the basketball coach who took Idaho State to heights never before reached in 1977 when he led ISU to perhaps the greatest pure upset in the history of the NCAA Tournament, ending UCLA’s epic run of 11-straight Final Fours, died on Sunday in Owasso, Oklahoma from complications of a stroke.

Killingsworth, who would have turned 84 on June 19, coached Idaho State from 1971-77, and ranks tied for second on the all-time wins list at Idaho State with a record of 109-54. In his six seasons, he led the Bengals to three regular season titles, and two NCAA Tournament trips, in 1974 and 1977. The Bengals never finished lower than second place in any of Killer’s six seasons.

The 1974 team lost to New Mexico in the first round of the NCAA Tournament, but it was the 1977 team that brought fame and notoriety to Killingsworth and the Bengals. After winning the league title and dispatching of Long Beach State 83-72 in the first game of the tournament in Pocatello, the Bengals traveled to Provo, Utah to take on the #2 UCLA Bruins. All UCLA had done was make 11 consecutive Final Fours, but a 12th appearance was denied as the Bengals took down the mighty Bruins 76-75.

Had the game happened perhaps 10 years later, when March Madness first started to really creep into the American lexicon, the Bengals and Killingsworth would have been famous. As it was, the Bengals lost in their shot at the Final Four, losing to UNLV 107-90. That would be Jim’s final game with the Bengals, as he became the head coach at Texas Christian, eventually leading their stagnant basketball program to the NCAA Tournament as well.

Killingworth, who suffered a stroke nearly a month ago while at home, died at St. John’s Hospital. A service will be held at 10:30 am on Friday morning at First United Methodist Church in Glen Rose, Texas. Former ISU Basketball Coach Jim Killingsworth