LITTLE ROCK - Former UALR Athletics Director and head men's basketball coach Happy Mahfouz, 80, passed away on Sept. 22 in Alexandria, La. after a bout with cancer. Mahfouz became UALR's head men's basketball coach and Athletics Director in 1967, and led the program in its transition to the NCAA Division I ranks in 1978. Then known as Little Rock University, Mahfouz coached basketball and baseball when he first joined the program, and also taught physical education as the only full-time member in the athletic department.
Mahfouz spent 12 years (1967-79) as the head basketball coach and Athletics Director, during which time he guided the program in its transition from NAIA independent status to the NCAA Division I ranks. He served five more years as the AD (through the 1983-84 season) after stepping down as head coach following the 1978-79 season. He was inducted into the UALR Athletic Hall of Fame in 1992.
"The highlight of his career at UALR, I believe, was moving our program from NAIA independent to NCAA Division I status. During that two-year transition, he scheduled and played a tough Division I basketball schedule. He made that sacrifice so the rest of us could benefit from playing at the Division I level," said UALR Assistant AD Richard Turner. "I would call him the founder of Division I athletics at UALR. He also moved us into the Trans America Athletic Conference (now Atlantic Sun), where we competed for 12 years before joining the Sun Belt."
Born in Brinkley, Ark., Mahfouz moved to Alexandria, La. as a child and attended Menard High School, an all-boys Catholic school, where he played basketball. After high school, he went to Spring Hill College, a Jesuit university in Mobile, Ala., where he was named an All-American in 1955. As a senior, he led his team to wins over Florida and Florida State in the Gator Bowl Tournament, earning most valuable player honors in the process. He set 20 school records at Spring Hill College and scored 1,754 total points in his career, and was a unanimous selection to Spring Hill College's inaugural Hall of Fame class in 1971.
A distinguished military graduate of the United States Army, Mahfouz was twice named All-Army during his years in the service, and teamed with KC Jones to lead Army to an appearance in the AAU national tournament. He began his coaching career at the high school level in Bay St. Louis, Miss. and then spent eight years at Catholic HS in Little Rock before moving on to Little Rock University.
An avid tennis player, he combined with then UALR Chancellor Robert Ross to win the university intramural doubles title multiple times. He is survived by his wife, Joan, and his daughter, Rosemary, along with three granddaughters and three great grandsons.