Accolades are nothing new to Jim Poteet. He’s part of both the Point Loma Athletic Hall of Fame and the NAIA Hall of Fame. He coached two basketball teams to National Christian College Championship wins. He has taken teams to the NAIA national tournament twice. He’s been named coach of the year by the NCCAA, NAIA District 9, and the Texoma Conference.

Outside of coaching, he and his wife, Peggy (65), received a Distinguished Service Award from the Church of the Nazarene. Now Poteet has been named a Distinguished Achievement Award recipient by PLNU.

Poteet was born in Odessa, Texas, and moved to Midland, Texas, at age 10. In 1959, he came to Pasadena College and majored in physical education.

“It was a great experience coming from the middle of nowhere in Texas to California,” he said. “I played basketball and ran track all four years. I also played freshman baseball and most important, I met my wife, Peggy Ellis.”

For the first year after he graduated, Poteet stayed at Pasadena as assistant basketball coach and head cross-country coach. In the fall of 1964, he took a job at Northwest Nazarene College (now Northwest Nazarene University) as a physical education professor and coach. He was head coach for cross country and track and assistant coach for basketball.

“It was a great experience coming from the middle of nowhere in Texas to California. I played basketball and ran track all four years. I also played freshman baseball and most important, I met my wife, Peggy Ellis.”

While he was there, he finished his master’s degree in physical education and athletic administration from what was then Los Angeles State College (now California State University at Los Angeles). He returned to Pasadena to teach and coach from 1966-1968. Meanwhile, he began doctoral work at USC.

Then, in 1968, he earned his first head basketball coaching assignment at Biola College. He was there from 1968 to 1971. He went on to serve as a professor and basketball coach at Bethany Nazarene College (now Southern Nazarene University) from 1971-1979. After his first year there, he also became the athletic director.

It was at Bethany that Poteet earned some of his most significant coaching awards and achievements.

“I was really fortunate and the time was ripe for success there in basketball,” Poteet said. “We had two National Christian College championships and went to the NAIA national tournament twice. In ’73-’74, we won more games than any other four-year college in America. Being 31-6 put our program on the map.”

“Probably part of our success was being more than just a basketball program but a sport ministry program also.”

That 1973-74 season, Poteet was named Coach of the Year by three major organizations: the National Christian College Athletic Association (NCCAA), NAIA District 9, and the Texoma Conference.

“Probably part of our success was being more than just a basketball program but a sport ministry program also,” Poteet said.

During his time with Bethany and with Biola, Poteet took his players on trips with Venture for Victory to places like Australia, New Zealand, Tahiti, Fiji, and Samoa in order to play basketball and share God’s love.

At the end of his tenure at Bethany, Poteet was hired by Campus Crusade for Christ to serve as basketball coach for their Athletes in Action program. “Part of the reason for my hire as the AIA coach was the total domination by our 1973-74 BNC team in the final regular season game against Athletes in Action,” he said. “BNC destroyed AIA, 102-71 in a magnificent performance. Two nights earlier, AIA had defeated the University of Kansas in Allen Fieldhouse. It should be noted that the University of Kansas played in the NCAA Final Four that year.”

Headshot of Jim Poteet. He is smiling and wearing a blue button down.

His AIA team was on the road for 100 out of 120 days, but despite the demanding travel, they accumulated a 39-6 record and even defeated the USSR Olympic team just before the 1980 Olympic Games. “We played them twice,” Poteet said. “USSR won when we played in Madrid, but we won 74-71 at the Christmas tournament in Paris in December 1979.” Since the U.S. had boycotted the 1980 Olympics, the USSR boycotted the 1984 Olympics, and then the USSR had beaten the U.S. Olympic team in 1988, Poteet figures he may have been the last coach to beat the USSR Olympic team with an amateur team. (Today’s U.S. Olympic teams consist of professional players.)

After his time with Athletes in Action, Poteet became the basketball coach and associate athletic director at Seattle Pacific University from 1980-1984. Poteet then spent time as the president of P&P Promotions, Inc., before taking a position as consultant to the president of the NAIA in 1999. That same year, he earned his doctorate from Oklahoma State.

Poteet’s doctoral dissertation was titled The Paradox of the Free Throw. He said, “The things that make it look so easy are the things that make it so hard.” Poteet has received ongoing national and international attention for his free throw expertise.

In 2001, Poteet founded the Bethany Neighborhood Center for Bethany First Church of the Nazarene, an afterschool program for 150 at-risk children. He raised more than $50,000 a year for 10 years for the program.

In 2008, Poteet helped Southwest Christian University in Bethany build their athletic program. He served as the chair of the sport management program there until 2017 when he and his wife moved to Kansas City to be closer to their son, daughter-in-law, and grandchildren. He is now the vice president of athletic development at Kansas Christian College where he also teaches sport management.

“I think part of what made Pasadena College such an exceptional place is that there were many people around who contributed to such a great program.”

Being in Kansas City allows Poteet and his wife, Peggy, an English professor emeritus at SNU, to spend more time with their son, Joshua; his wife, Kassy; and their grandchildren, Avery, Cole, and Quinn.

For all the places he has served, PLNU remains close to Poteet’s heart. Poteet wrote a book (The Big Green Machine) on the history of the Pasadena College basketball program from its inception as an intercollegiate athletic program in 1944 up until the university’s move to San Diego. It was published in 2021 and made available for purchase at Point Loma’s 2021 Homecoming. It is currently available at the campus bookstore. He has also authored a book, Noble Experiment, about the Northwest Nazarene basketball program which pioneered intercollegiate athletics for Nazarene colleges back in 1933-34. His third book (Fast Break) is soon to be released about the amazing success of the Bethany Nazarene College basketball program.

Giving back to his alma mater was meaningful to Poteet. People like Chalmer Cartwright, Reuben Welch, Shelburne Brown, and Carroll Land had played an important part in his life and formation.

“I think part of what made Pasadena College such an exceptional place is that there were many people around who contributed to such a great program,” he said. “Students, faculty, alumni, and Crusader Club members made the basketball experience something special.”

PLNU congratulates Jim Poteet for being honored as a 2024 Distinguished Achievement Awardee.

Christine is the editor of the Viewpoint magazine at PLNU.