March 18, 1975, the sports media announced that Athletic Director Hayden Fry had named Blakeley as the new Head Coach for Men's Basketball at North Texas. The media reported it 10 days after Gene Robbins had resigned the position.
With an overall 134-85 coaching record, as of 2010, Blakeley holds the third most wins and the fourth highest winning percentage of any men's basketball coach in North Texas history. None of five head coaches who have succeeded him (through 2010) have surpassed his overall winning percentage; though, Johnny Jones, a former head coach, surpassed his overall win record on December 31, 2009, with a win over the University of Arkansas at Little Rock. Pete Shands (Henry Gilchrist Shands; b 1899; d 1983), who coached North Texas Men's Basketball from 1935 to 1959, has the most wins with 217 over 22 seasons.
Blakeley also holds the all-time North Texas record for reaching 100 wins the fastest, reaching it in his 6th season (1980–81).
North Texas achieved its first and, as of 2010, only top 20 national ranking. The Associated Press Men's Basketball Poll ranked North Texas 20th on February 3, 1976, and 20th on February 10, 1976.
Blakeley established a tradition of draping a cloth sign on the back of his chair at court-side. During his first season, his sign read DON'T EXPECT MIRACLES. The next year it read MIRACLES NEVER CEASE? Other years it read FULL SPEED AHEAD, Phil 4:13 and UNDER CONSTRUCTION.
When he was hired, he told the media that, to beat North Texas, opponents will have to score at least 90 points. In his first season, he proceeded to turn around a team that was 6-20 in 1975, to 22-4 in 1976, averaging 96 points a game, the second highest in the nation. But the Eagles were invited neither to the NCAA tournament nor the NIT. Frustrated over the politics involved in getting invited to the NCAA Tournament, Blakeley conceded the only concrete argument the NCAA held against North Texas was that six of its games from the 1975–76 season were with teams outside of Division I; so, for the 1976–77 season, Blakeley beefed-up the schedule by dropping all non-Division I teams.
In November 1976, Sports Illustrated declared, "The Eagles can fly; there is not a player on the team who can't dunk." "Junior-college transfer Charles McMillian, a 6'3" forward with a 22.5-point average, can perform a 42-inch vertical jump."
As of 2010, four players under Blakeley were among the North Texas Top 20 All-Time career scorers and the "North Texas 1000 Point Club."
In 1991, the NCAA published an article that nationally ranked the top 38 most improved year-over-year team records since 1974 (the first year the history was compiled). Two teams tied for the most improved at 16-1/2 games. The third most improved team, at 16 games, was North Texas during Blakeley's first season (1975–76), finishing with a 22-4 record, verses 6-20 from the previous year. He accomplished his first-year feat with only one player added to the previous year's squad. As of 2010, the 16-game year-over-year improvement stands as a North Texas record dating back to the 1957–58 season. Blakeley also holds the biggest drop in year-over-year season wins of minus 11 games: his fourth season (1978–79) with a record of 11-16.
Blakeley hired Jimmy Gales, who served as assistant coach from 1975–76 to 1982–83 and kept Billy Tubbs, who had been an assistant coach at North Texas since the 1973–74 season. After his first season coaching with Blakeley, Tubbs won the head coaching job at Lamar University (1976–77 year). Blakeley hired Jim Moffitt in March 1976 to replace Tubbs. Gales went on to serve as the head coach of Mean Green basketball for seven seasons: 1986–87 to 1992–93. Gales' teams won a total of 84 games during his tenure as head coach, a total that ranks third-best in school history (as of 2010). Gales led the Mean Green men's team to its first ever NCAA Tournament in 1988. As of 2010, the Mean Green since advanced twice to the NCAA Tournament in 2007 and 2010, both under Head Coach Johnny Jones. Gales, like Blakeley, was induced into the North Texas Athletic Hall of Fame in 2009.
Blakeley and Gales might own the distinction of being the only North Texas Hall of Famers who were also fired by North Texas.
1000 Point Club During Blakeley's Tenure at North Texas
As an independent under Blakeley, North Texas had no conference tournament that entitled a winner an automatic berth to the NCAA Championships. North Texas had difficultly scheduling games with conference schools that did, including teams from the Southwest Conference, particularly nearby rival SMU, which, separated by 35 miles, offered strong attendance possibilities on a home-and-home basis. In 1976, Ken Wilson, then a sports writer for the Denton Record-Chronicle, surveyed schools from the Southwest, Big 8, Big Ten, and Southeastern Conferences and major independents. Most schools were not interested in scheduling North Texas basketball. They, according to Wilson, wanted giveaway games. North Texas, for the 1976 and 1977 seasons, was not a giveaway school. Wilson also inferred that SMU and TCU felt that they would gain little by beating North Texas, but might suffer in recruiting if they lost.
In the spring of 1977, a time when North Texas was vying for membership in the Southwest Conference, then SMU Coach Sonny Allen, expressed disinterest in scheduling North Texas, killing the basketball home-and-home series.
SMU was also grappling with the likelihood of losing to a strong North Texas Football team coached by Hayden Fry, who SMU had fired and North Texas had hired in December 1972. After two close encounters with the Mean Green (7-6 in 1974 and 38-31 in 1976), SMU lost 24-13 in 1977, ending a 45-year drought. SMU Football Coach Ron Meyer told the press after that game, "Their athletic program, at least in football and basketball, can compare with anyone in the country." "I haven’t really considered North Texas being in the [Southwest] conference, because I don’t have a vote", Meyer continued, "but I would be concerned with having only three non-conference games." Fry had resumed the football series with SMU in 1974. Until then, the teams had not met since 1942.
North Texas Game, Season, and Career Rebound Record as of 2010
Blakeley's 1968 team (CCSW's first year of varsity basketball), which included standout athlete Joe Hamilton (who later played for the University of North Texas; and, as of 2010, is the 14th highest career scorer with 1092 points over only two seasons), won the NJCAA Region 5 Tournament, earning the NJCAA Division I team an invitation to the National JUCO Championship in Hutchinson, Kansas.
In recruiting, Blakeley talked Joe Hamilton out of Kentucky and "put his name in lights" [at CCSW].
April 6, 1970 — The Dallas Chaparrals hired Blakeley, naming him Business Manager. The team also put him in charge of Player Relations and Recruiting, made him a designated assistant coach, and assistant to General Manager Max Williams.
November 1970 — Williams resigned as coach and Bill Blakeley is named as his replacement
In 1984 Blakeley stepped out of coaching after 31 years and was named President of Talent Sports International Inc. (the firm is inactive), a sports agency founded in 1984 by his son, Robin Buie Blakeley.
Blakeley later became a partner with Casterline, Vines, McElroy, Blakeley and Nalley of Dallas, a partnership that included Cecil W. Casterline III, Scott Casterline, Vic Vines, W. Vann McElroy, and Jeff Nalley (the firm is inactive).
It's quite an honor; but it's an honor that was won by the men on the North Texas basketball team. They're the ones who had the successful season. I never scored a point all season. They never even let me shoot a free throw ... I'd trade it for a bid to the NCAA Playoffs.
Bill Blakeley — commenting on his award, July 17, 1976
When you play in the H.O.T. Coliseum and dribble the ball, there's only a 50-50 chance it will bounce back up to you." "It's so dark in the place, the players need to wear those miner caps with lights on 'em"