PROVO — Roland Minson, a pioneer of BYU basketball who was one of the first national champions at the school, died at his home Wednesday morning in Afton, Wyoming, surrounded by friends and family, his son Dave told KSL.com. He was 90.
Minson, who graduated from BYU in 1951, was the most valuable player of the 1951 National Invitation Tournament — the first of two NIT titles for the Cougars in a 15-year span. The 6-foot, 180-pound guard finished with 1,407 career points and was BYU’s all-time leading scorer for 22 seasons — until Kresimir Cosic surpassed him in 1973. He currently ranks No. 22 on BYU’s all-time scoring list, behind current all-time leading scorer Tyler Haws (2,720 points, 2009-10, 12-15).
Minson’s single-season record of 619 points also stood for 27 seasons, until Danny Ainge broke it in 1978.
Born Feb. 18, 1929 in Idaho Falls, Idaho, Roland "The Cat" Minson was a three-time first-team all-Skyline Conference guard who led the Cougars to three-straight 20 win seasons from 1948 to 1951, including a program-record 28 wins in 1950-51. After back-to-back conference titles and the NIT championship in 1951, Minson was drafted in the first round (No. 15 overall) of the 1951 NBA draft by the New York Knicks. But instead of playing in the NBA, Minson elected to serve as an officer in the Navy during the Korean War.
He served several years in the Armed Forces, representing the Navy on the All-Navy Basketball Team in 1952, and played for the Denver Bankers of the National AAU league in 1955-57.
Minson returned to BYU as an assistant basketball coach from 1961-63 under the great Stan Watts, and spent 40 years working in banking.
"To dad, his family and his success with family and in the church, was more important than the accolades he had playing ball," Dave Minson said. "He felt his success as a person would be determined even more than basketball — and he loved his basketball career.
"The important thing to him was family and (The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints)."
After his retirement, Minson and his wife Carol served three missions for The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in England, and served in numerous callings within their local communities.
"All through my basketball career, I had a strong feeling that my life would be judged a success not by what kind of basketball player I was, but by what kind of man I became after basketball," Minson later wrote.
A member of the BYU Hall of Fame's inaugural class in 1976, Minson and legendary teammate Mel Hutchins saw their jerseys retired and raised into the rafters of the Marriott Center in 2013, during halftime of an 86-72 win over Portland.
"It's definitely a big surprise," Minson said at the time. "We played way back when we still wore those funny shorts. The thing that’s been nicest for me about all this is to renew those old memories, all those good times."
Hutchins preceded Minson in death in 2018. Minson's death follows just one day after former BYU and Utah State coach Ladell Andersen, who died Monday at the age of 90. Andersen, who coached at every major college in Utah as well as the ABA's Utah Stars, played basketball for the Aggies from 1949-52, and maintained a strong friendship with Minson through much of their later lives, according to Dave Minson.
Minson was also preceded in death by his wife Carol in 2017. The two were the parents of seven, and a large multitude of grandchildren and great-grandchildren.
Funeral services for Minson will be held Saturday, Jan. 11 at noon in Afton, Wyoming.