Thursday, August 6, 2009

Dr. Walt Piskun

I would imagine if Hall of Fame basketball coach Bob Knight were to start listing the former players he's coached that he holds in highest regard, Walt Piskun would be high on the list.

The Amarillo doctor, who died Tuesday at age 66, was on Knight's first teams he coached at Army. Piskun, a three-sport athlete at West Point, played basketball under Knight in 1965 and 1966 when the Black Knights went to the National Invitational Tournament at a time when that was a huge accomplishment.

Knight, college basketball's all-time winningest coach at Army, Indiana and for 6 1/2 years at Texas Tech, always spoke highly of Piskun -- and for good reason. It wasn't so much what he accomplished on the court for him, but for what he did afterward. Knight, who wasn't much older than the players he coached at Army, always put a high value on what his players did outside of basketball.

Piskun graduated from West Point in 1966 and served in Vietnam where he received a Purple Heart. He was president of the first graduating class of the Tech school of medicine in Lubbock.

After military retirement, Piskun, a native of Buffalo, N.Y., moved to Amarillo in 1994 and practiced as a neurosurgeon here until retirement in 2008. Mary Ann, his wife of 33 years, was a cosmetic surgeon here as well.

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