Whitney to be honored at Alcorn Saturday

Dave "The Wiz" Whitney (Photo by Patricia Crosby)
Dave “The Wiz” Whitney (Photo by Patricia Crosby)

(The remarkable life of Mississippi Sports Hall of Famer Davey Whitney will be celebrated Saturday, June 6, at Alcorn State with a memorial service beginning at noon in the building that bears his name. Details of the event can be found below. But first, I was honored to speak at Whitney’s funeral held in Gulfport May 16. What follow are my remarks.)

First off, I am honored to be asked to speak at the funeral of my friend Davey Whitney. I will be brief. Good Lord willing, this will complete my 50th year of observing Mississippi sports as a sports writer or as the director of the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame.

In that half century, I have never covered a better coach – in any sport – than Dave Whitney. He could take his x’s and beat you o’s or take your o’s and beat his x’s. Or as the great Jake Gaither put it, he could take his’n and beat your’n or take your’n and beat his’n. He was simply the best. Every great coach has one common trait, that is, the innate ability to inspire his players to be as good as they can be, to play as hard as they can play. Davey’s teams did that. They played ever second, of every minute, of every game, as if their lives depended on it.

Cleveland
Cleveland

Davey was a fine a gentleman as he was a coach. As I wrote this past week, he could charm the stripes off a tiger, while players twice his size feared him. Years after his retirement I participated in a roast of Davey, along with the great Larry Smith, one of the best rebounders in college basketball history. I asked Larry, who is a foot taller than Davey was, if he was going to really zing Davey. He replied, “No, I am still scared to death of that man.”

I well recall one day in Dayton, Ohio, late in his career, when Alcorn was to play in the NCAA Tournament’s opening game. This was the day before the game at the pre-tournament press conference and their were reporters and cameras there from all over the country, from the New York Times to ESPN.

Davey took the stage and charmed them all. He had those big city, national reporters eating out of his hands. The interview went on and on. Truth is, nobody wanted it to stop. When there were no basketball questions left to ask, they started asking him about baseball and the old Negro Leagues. About Ernie Banks and Buck O’Neil. The interview lasted so long the team bus went back to the hotel without Davey. I know. I gave him a ride.

That afternoon drove home what I had already known. Had Davey Whitney been born 20 or 30 years later, he would have been one of the most famous coaches anywhere. He would have made millions.

In his heart of hearts, I am sure Davey knew that. But if it bothered him, he never said so. That’s because he was such a class act and because he so comfortable in his own skin. As I said before, Davey Whitney was simply the best. I am proud to have called him my friend.

•••

Coming Saturday:

The life and legacy of one of Alcorn State University’s beloved coaches will be celebrated during a special memorial ceremony at the building that bears his name.

The public is invited to join university officials and family members of Alcorn’s legendary basketball coach Davey L. Whitney Sr. on the university’s Lorman campus Saturday, June 6 at 12 p.m. in the Davey L. Whitney HPER Complex to celebrate his life and contributions to Alcorn and the nation.

The program will feature remarks from several of Whitney’s former players, close friends and coaching colleagues.

Notable speakers will include Reggie Minton of the National Association of Basketball
Coaches, former Alcorn Director of Athletics and Head Football Coach Marino Casem,
former Head Coach for Jackson State University Andy Stoglin, former Alcorn Men’s
Basketball team members Andrew “Pierre” Tatum, Richard Horton, and Arthur “Moo
Moo” Harris, to name a few.

Whitney coached at Alcorn from 1969 to 1989 and 1996 to 2003. Under his leadership,
Alcorn beat Mississippi State 80-78 in the 1979 National Invitation Tournament (NIT).
Whitney led Alcorn to a win against South Alabama in the first round of the 1980 NCAA
Tournament, which was the first time a historically black college and university had won
in the tournament. Whitney also led Alcorn to NCAA Tournament wins in 1983 and 1984
and six appearances in the dance. Whitney finished his career with a record of 566-356
and 12 Southwestern Athletic Conference (SWAC) championships.

Whitney was named SWAC Coach of the Year nine times. He was elected to the
Kentucky State University Hall of Fame in 1976, the Mississippi Sports Hall of Fame in
1991, the Alcorn State University Hall of Honors in 1993, the Alcorn State University
Hall of Fame in 1996 and the National Collegiate Basketball Hall of Fame in 2010.

A reception will immediately follow the celebration. Alcornites interested in honoring the
life and legacy of Coach Whitney may contact the ASU Foundation, Inc. at (601) 877-
6693 or alcorn.edu/foundation to make a donation to Davey L. Whitney Sr. Scholarship
Fund.

 

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