Davey Whitney, the man who coached Alcorn State to NCAA Tournament history, died Sunday at the age of 85.
Whitney led Alcorn State to a win against South Alabama in the first round of the 1980 basketball tournament, the first time a historically black college or university had won a NCAA game. Alcorn was the No. 8 seed and its loss to No. 1 seed LSU in the second round was only the second of the season.
Whitney, nicknamed “The Wiz,” won 12 Southwestern Athletic Conference championships during two separate tenures at the school, first from 1969-89 and again from 1996-2003. Alcorn State also won NCAA Tournament games in 1983 and 1984, making the dance six times. It beat Mississippi State in the 1979 NIT, as well.
But Alcorn State still fired Whitney after three-straight losing seasons, setting him off on a journey in the pro basketball minor leagues. The school named its gym after him, and then ended up rehiring him. Whitney said in interviews that what happened in 1989 gnawed on him, but he was happy to come back and still have success.
“To bring the program back to where it is right now, I’d have to say it’s satisfying,” Whitney told the Clarion-Ledger in 2000. “I’m sure a whole lot of people are surprised. I know there were a lot of people that doubted if I could do the job. In fact, there were some people who didn’t even want me here.
“We’ve had some low points, and we’ve had some high points. I just kept my mind on succeeding. There was never any doubt in my mind that we would succeed.”
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