HOUSTON, Texas - The entire Rice University family mourns the passing of Don Suman, a graduate who served in numerous capacities with Rice Athletics, notably as head men’s basketball coach from 1949-59.
Suman came to Rice to play football for coach Jess Neely in 1939. He played both football and basketball for the Owls and won a pair of Southwest Conference titles, despite battling injuries throughout his career.
The San Antonio native volunteered as a U.S. Air Corps cadet during World War II before returning to Rice in 1944 to close out his career on the hardwood with a squad that would finish 15-5 overall and claim the SWC title with an 11-1 mark in league play.
Following his graduation in 1945, Suman pursued a masters degree at Columbia before returning to South Main in 1946 and begin his career in the Rice Physical Education Department, before transitioning to the athletic department.
In addition to serving as an assistant basketball coach under Joe Davis, Suman wore a number of hats for Neely as well, ranging from ticket and program ad sales, to concessions operations.
Suman assumed basketball head coaching duties in 1949 and posted an overall record of 131-105 over his 10-season stretch. After finishing in second place in the league in 1954, his team won the 1954 Southwest Conference championship and a berth in the NCAA Tournament.
Suman coached Gene Schwinger and Don Lance to All-America honors that season and mentored numerous other Rice greats, including Temple Tucker, Tom Robitaille, Monte Rochicheaux, Bobby Brashear, E. Jay McIlvain and Gary Griffin in the new Autry Court.
Suman left his post to become the first vice president and general manager of the Houston Oilers in 1959. The Oilers posted a 20-7-1 record and won a pair of AFL titles under his watch.
Suman then worked for John L. Wortham and Son Insurance until retirement in 1985.
Details regarding a memorial service are pending.