225 Years of Building Better Lives
header image
Share Your Story

A Coach Opposing Fans Loved to Hate


Colorful; cunning; charismatic; and, to opposing fans, often infuriating, Henry Clifford “Doc” Carlson, MD, was an innovative coach who knew how to win and get the most out of his players.

Carlson was among the first basketball coaches to use the double team on defense and give-and-go on offense. He experimented with having his players inhale oxygen on the bench, a practice that was featured in LIFE magazine. He also created the first weave offense, served ice cream to his players at halftime, and was one of the first coaches to actively criticize officials’ calls

Pitt's all-time winningest basketball coach, during his 31 years here (1922–53), Carlson guided the Panthers to two national championships (in 1927–28 and 1929–30), their only undefeated season (21–0 in 1927–28), four Eastern Intercollegiate Conference titles, a first-ever NCAA Final Four appearance (1941), and a 367–248 overall record.

A member of the Naismith Memorial Basketball Hall of Fame and Helms Foundation Athletic Hall of Fame, Carlson also played football for Pitt, captaining the undefeated 1917 squad. He won four letters each in basketball, football, and baseball.