Charles Christian, who won more men’s basketball games than any other coach in the history of Norfolk State University, died Monday. He was 83.Christian, who served as Norfolk State’s coach on two occasions, compiled a career mark of 319-95 in 14 seasons, winning seven CIAA titles. Known for his trademark toothpick hanging from his mouth, Christian’s final NSU team went 27-4 in 1989-90. That team won the CIAA tournament and finished the year ranked No. 7 in Division II. He was named CIAA Coach of the Year four times, and 11 of his teams won 20 or more games. Three of his teams won regional titles and made it to the Division II national quarterfinals.
He served as Norfolk State’s coach from 1973 to 1978 the first time, then was coach from 1981 to 1990, stepping down the second time at age 62. At the end of his second run as head coach, then-NSU president Dr. Harrison B. Wilson said, “I was hoping we could keep him longer. He was our Dean Smith. He has been so successful and created so much tradition at Norfolk State.” Christian served as a guidance counselor at Norfolk State and had been a member of the Suffolk School Board. He also coached high school basketball in Suffolk, and his teams were 351-60 overall. Christian grew up in Richmond and played at Armstrong High before matriculating at Virginia State, where he was a starter on VSU’s 1947 CIAA tournament championship team.
“We are sorry to hear about the passing of coach Christian,” said Marty Miller, athletic director at NSU. “His memory will live on at Norfolk State University because he was one of the major reasons for the success of the basketball program during the CIAA years. We loved coach Christian and will miss him. We extend our condolences to his family.”