Published April 04, 2008 02:15 pm -
Farrell basketball legend Julius McCoy, who ushered Farrell into basketball prominence when he led Coach Ed McCluskey’s Steelers to their first of seven state championships, died Thursday night from complications of diabetes.
Farrell hoops legend Julius McCoy dies; led Steelers to 1st state title
Farrell basketball legend Julius McCoy, who ushered Farrell into basketball prominence when he led Coach Ed McCluskey’s Steelers to their first of seven state championships, died Thursday night from complications of diabetes. The 1952 graduate had an illustrious college career at Michigan State University, where many of his scoring records lasted for decades. He remains the leading scorer in the illustrious history of Farrell high basketball. Funeral and burial will be late next week in Harrisburg, where he and his family have lived for many years, with possibly a memorial service in Farrell at a later date. A complete obituary will be published in The Herald within a few days
Of The Patriot-News
There are the posed photos of Julius McCoy, the assorted black-and-white shots of a young man during his basketball career at Michigan State and of an older one during his coaching career at long-gone John Harris High.
Then there is the mental picture of McCoy's grip. That is the one Kirk Smallwood remembers best.
The grip came to Smallwood in the spring of 1998, when McCoy reached out with those oversized hands and grabbed the Harrisburg High boys' basketball coach by the wrist to shake his hand.
Smallwood's team had just brought down New Castle for the PIAA Class AAAA basketball title.
Now, McCoy was bringing down Smallwood. That was the power of the grip.
"He just told me, 'I'm proud, I'm very proud,'" Smallwood said Friday. "He had that big left hand and you knew when he had a hold on you."
McCoy had that hold on the world of basketball for six decades, beginning in the 1950s as a championship player at Farrell High and record-setting scorer at Michigan State.
The hold ended Thursday night, when McCoy died at his home in Harrisburg, his 76-year-old heart finally giving out from complications of diabetes.
He died a short distance from Harrisburg High, where Smallwood could always count on McCoy to be among the regulars at his games, along with former Harris star Jimmy Jones.
"Julius was a great player himself," said Jones, a point guard for McCoy's two Harris teams in the late 1960s -- teams that would produce future NBA player Charles Dudley.
"You always looked up to Julius McCoy as an athlete because he could do all the things he was asking you to do," Jones said. "He made you want to live up to the expectations he had of all of his players."
The expectations of McCoy always were great.
In 1952, he led Farrell to its first PIAA championship. By 1956, he was an All-American at Michigan State, leaving East Lansing with a 20.9 career points-per-game average that remained a school record for 18 years.
He was selected by the old St. Louis Hawks in the 1956 NBA draft, but ended up being drafted into another league -- the U.S. Army -- at the same time.
He later became a legend in the old Eastern Professional Basketball League, playing 12 seasons for Williamsport and Sunbury.
Eventually, he served as commissioner of the Eastern Basketball Association and was named to the Continental Basketball Association's all-time team.
And he never stopped.
"Over the years, I played with and against Julius in various leagues around [Harrisburg]," Jones said. "He played well into his 60s and he still had all the skills. He didn't do it as quickly or as often as he used to, but he showed you flashes of what he could do."
Two viewings for McCoy will be held next week -- from 6-8 p.m. Thursday at the Major H. Winfield Funeral Home in Steelton and then from 10-11 a.m. Friday at the Capital Presbyterian Church in Harrisburg with the funeral to follow.
McCoy left behind his wife of 46 years, Betty, son Julius Jr., daughter Judith McCoy Jordan, four grandchildren, his brother James -- an All-American at Marquette while McCoy played at Michigan State -- and two sisters, Jean Sims and Vivian Williams.
"If you knew anything about basketball in Harrisburg," Jones said, "you started with the name of Julius McCoy, and then you moved on."
ANDREW LINKER: 255-8289 or firstname.lastname@example.org