Sonny Allen To Be Honored At CAA Tournament As This Year's ODU Legend
March 3, 2009
NORFOLK, VA--Sonny Allen, who coached Old Dominion from 1965-75, taking the Monarchs to two NCAA Division II National Championship games, winning it all in 1975 will be the school's legend at this year's CAA Championships.
He will be honored at the awards banquet Thursday night along with the other legends from each CAA school. He will also be honored at halftime of the Monarchs CAA Tournament game on Saturday.
Coaches who knew Sonny Allen best voted him as NABC College Division II National Coach of the Year in 1975 when his Running' Monarchs won the NCAA national Division II basketball championship by defeating New Orleans University, 76-74.
The Associated Press also voted him as the 1975 Small College Coach of the Year. That year, the Monarchs won 25 games, including the last 15 straight. Sonny is the only person to have coached high school, college freshmen, NCAA Division I, and II, WBL, CBA, NBA and WNBA teams.
Those coast-to-coast honors capped a remarkable 10-year tenure during which he lifted Old Dominion from a 7-17 record playing a mixture of Division III and II opponents to one second-place national finish in Division II in 1971 and then a 25-6 record against Division I and II teams and the national title.
His charter at Old Dominion, beginning with the 1965-66 season, had been to field teams worthy of a growing college and a mushrooming multi-city metropolitan area. To achieve that goal, he began granting athletic scholarships to Monarch Cagers, a first at this school. Among these athletes were to be Arthur "Button's Speakes, the first African American to be awarded a basketball scholarship in the Commonwealth of Virginia from a non-historically Black Institution, Academic All-American Gray Eubank, and first team AP/ UPI/NABC All-Americans Dave Twardzik, Joel Copeland and Wilson Washington. Both Twardzik and Washington played in the NBA.
Emphasizing the fast-break basketball that had been his game since his high school days in West Virginia, Allen guided 10 ODU teams to a 181-94 record. The 1971 Monarch team reached the NCAA Division II finals, losing to Evansville on its Home floor, 97-82. Under the Sonny Allen Fast break, the Monarchs averaged 85 or more points nine times, including 98.2 in 1967-68 and 95.7 in 1971-72.
Before Sonny left Old Dominion for Southern Methodist University at the end of the 1974-75 championship season, his teams had reached post-season tournaments in six of his last seven seasons.
In the 1972-73 season, Allen engineered wins over five former national champions and lost by only one point to Virginia Tech, who would go on and capture the 1973 National Invitation Tournament.
His clubs also won three of the first five Kiwanis-Old Dominion Classics, despite fields that included Auburn, Baylor, Arizona, Yale, Virginia Tech, California, Indiana, Stanford, Rice and Tulane.
Such success was not unexpected. Sonny Allen had been a 6-0 wingman on a 1958 Marshall University team that led the nation's colleges in scoring. One of his teammates at Marshall was NBA great Hal Greer. Under Allen's direction, Marshall High School was 17-2 before he returned to Marshall University as a coach and guided five freshmen teams to 68 wins - the last 26 in a row. His 1967-68 Old Dominion team still holds the school scoring record, averaging 98.2 points per game.
As head coach of the Las Vegas Silverstreaks of the WBL (World Basketball League for players 6-5 and shorter),Allen won the playoffs and led the league in scoring. from 1998-2001, Allen was head coach of the WNBA's Sacramento Monarchs. They reached the WNBA playoffs three straight years.
Sonny was inducted into the ODU Sports Hall of Fame in 1981. After coaching at SMU, Sonny became head coach at the University of Nevada where he was also inducted into their Sports Hall of Fame in 2005. Sonny currently lives in Reno, NV.