Legendary High School Coach Herman ‘Big Man’ Pittman selected Broward County Pioneer
Few people in the State of Florida have had as great an impact on the game of basketball and influenced the lives of so many student athletes than former Dillard High School basketball coach, Herman “Big Man” Pittman.
By Charles Moseley
From the mid 1950’s throughout the 1970’s Coach Herman Pittman established a high school basketball dynasty, winning four State of Florida High School Championships. Equally impressive was the tremendous impact he had on the lives of the many thousands of students he taught, during his 38 years as an educator, for the Broward County Public School System. Pittman was honored recently as a Broward County Pioneer by the Broward County Historical Commission, during the 41st Annual Pioneer Day ceremony, on Oct. 19, 2013.
Even as a youth Pittman displayed an uncanny ability to play the game of basketball at a high level. Although diminutive in stature, Pittman played head and soldiers above the competition as a point guard for Tampa Middleton High School during the late 1940’s. He earned an athletic scholarship to attend Florida Agriculture & Mechanical University (FAMU). There he lettered as a backup quarterback on the football team and started at guard on the FAMU Rattler Basketball Team.
Pittman led FAMU to two Southern Intercollegiate Athletic Conference (SIAC) Championships. He also made First Team All-SIAC Conference and All-SIAC Tournament Team two years. After graduating from FAMU, Pittman joined the U.S. Army where he was co-captain of the Fort Meade Generals in Maryland.
Pittman’s first coaching job was at Bond Junior High School in Tallahassee during 1953-54. He then moved to Fort Lauderdale along with his wife Nielza after he was hired to take over the reins as head basketball coach of the Dillard High School Panthers in Fort Lauderdale. His coaching career spanned 18 years between Dillard and Deerfield Beach High School.
During his high school coaching career Pittman became one of the most successful basketball coaches at the high school level in the state of Florida. His teams won seven conference championships and he was named Coach of the Year five times. His teams won six District Championships. The Panthers also qualified for seven state championships-winning four state titles. His teams also qualified to participate in the National High School Tournament held at Tennessee State College in Nashville, Tenn. in 1959 and 1963. In 1965, they traveled to Alabama State College in Montgomery, Ala., to play in the National Tournament. Coach Pittman compiled a most impressive record of 317 wins and 131 losses during his high school coaching career.
Former Dillard High School track, football and basketball player Johnny Alexander played for Coach Pittman during the late 1950’s. Alexander was among the many former student athletes who Pittman left a lasting impression on. Alexander went on to attend college and has been involved with youth for the City of Fort Lauderdale Parks and Recreation Department for over 35 years.
“Coach Pittman was my coach when he came here in 1955 and he’s been a major impact to this entire community ever since he arrived. He helped set the trend for what I and many others do involving youth athletics today. Because of the fact that he took the time with all the kids and loved all of us regardless if we were the beginners or the seniors at basketball. He took us all over travelling to several states from Tennessee south. He did a lot of this with his own personal money. He did this to give us exposure as athletes and he has always done the same even when he retired from the school system.”
Former Dillard High School Track & Field and Football Coach Robert Green, a living legend in his own right, worked alongside Coach Pittman for many years and observed firsthand the major impact that Pittman had on students throughout his distinguished career in education.
“I think it’s about time. Coach Pittman deserves everything that he gets. I came to this county in 1957 and worked with Coach Pittman at Dillard High School. He was always helping to strive to help young men and women to better themselves so that they would grow up to be respectable young ladies and gentlemen in this community. He did so much for Dillard and the community that the gymnasium at Dillard right now is named after Coach Pittman. Whatever awards he receives he greatly deserves and I will always have a lot of respect for him.”