March 16, 2011

End of an era at Colby

Men's basketball coach Dick Whitmore retires after 40 seasons, more than 600 wins

By Scott Martin smartin@centralmaine.com
Sports Editor

WATERVILLE — On what was described as an “emotional day” on campus Tuesday, Colby College men’s basketball coach Dick Whitmore announced his retirement after 40 years on the job.

click image to enlarge

STEPPING DOWN: Dick Whitmore, men’s basketball coach at Colby College since 1970, announced Tuesday that he is retiring.

Staff photo by Michael G. Seamans

ELITE COMPANY

NCAA Division III coaching wins leaders:
                                                                   Wins  Losses
1. Glenn Robinson (Franklin & Marshall)    805    302
2. Jim Smith (St. John’s, Minn.)                  727    510
3. Dennis Bridges (Illinois Wesleyan)         666    320
4. Glenn Van Wieren (Hope)                      660    219
5. Steve Moore (Muhlenberg, Wooster)     655    193
6. Dick Reynolds (Otterbein)                      644    409
7. Dick Whitmore (Colby)                         637    341
7. David Hixon (Amherst)                           637    248
9. Tom Murphy (Hamilton, SUNY-IT)          618    274
10. Randy Lambert (Maryville, Tenn.)        584    247

Whitmore retires with more than 600 victories and is tied for seventh all-time in career wins among NCAA Division III men’s basketball coaches.

“It’s time,” Whitmore said, sitting courtside at Colby College’s Wadsworth Gymnasium. “All the factors that go into it tell me it’s time.

“The great part of my coaching life is the passion involved and I think that at this point in time, I feel a trickle of that not being there and that would be a major factor.”

Whitmore, 68, retires after leading Colby to an 11-13 record in 2010-11. He ends his career with a record of 637-341.

According to Marcella Zalot, Colby’s athletic director, Whitmore privately informed the college of his decision a few weeks ago.

“I told Dick I always knew this day was coming, I just hoped I’d be on a beach in the Bahamas (when it did),” Zalot said.

Whitmore told his team during a 7:15 a.m. meeting Tuesday and then notified many former players and collegues via e-mail.

“Being called down for a 7:15 meeting, we figured it had to be big,” said Colby College senior and co-captain Mike Russell. “I was shocked because he still has so much excitement for the game, but not all of me was surprised.”

Whitmore was hired at Colby by former Mules and University of Maine baseball coach John Winkin — then the athletic director at Colby — in 1970, after five years of teaching and coaching at high schools in Hallowell and Bath.

He joined a staff that included Waterville hoops icon John “Swisher” Mitchell, who remained on the bench as Whitmore’s assistant for his entire career.

Overall, Whitmore had 31 winning seasons at Colby and his teams reached the postseason 27 times.

He was honored as college coach of the year in Maine six times, over four different decades, and was named to the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1998. He and Mitchell were part of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame’s inaugural class in 2002.

Zalot said Colby would let Whitmore’s retirement “sink in” and perform a national search for a new coach. She said the school hopes to have a replacement for Whitmore by June 1.

“You can’t replace him, but we will move forward and find a really good basketball coach to lead the program,” said Zalot, who Whitmore hired when he served as the school’s athletic director. “We’ll find the right person. This is a tremendous opportunity.”

Whitmore will be remembered as an intense, emotional coach who had a significant impact not only at Colby, but all Maine basketball.

This summer, Whitmore and University of Maine at Farmington coach Dick Meader will run the Pine Tree Basketball Camp at Colby for the 38th straight year. Whitmore said this is the last summer he will run the camp at Colby.

“Just like he does with coaching, he is very innovative and creative,” Meader said. “The camp is successful because of not only his knowledge of the game, but his innovative thoughts. He kept us ahead of other places.

“I don’t know of anyone who has had a bigger impact on basketball in Maine.”

Damien Strahorn, who played for Whitmore in 2000-01 and later served as an assistant coach at Colby, said Whitmore was the first “iconic figure” he had for a coach.

“One of the fondest memories I have is the first alumni game I saw,” said Strahorn, who transferred to Colby as a junior. “I came to the gym early and walked in and there must have been 65 former players there. It was truly the most eye-opening experience in terms of the sense of impact he had on his former players. To see them all come back and to see the smile on his face and to know how special a day it was.”

(Continued on page 2)

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