Oct. 31, 2010
Link: Remembering Roy Skinner - 1930-2010
Many of the young men that made Memorial Magic returned to campus one more time Saturday, filling Benton Chapel to celebrate the life of their beloved coach, Roy Skinner. They are Roy's Boys and might have been the tallest collection of gray-haired and balding men this side of an NBA reunion.
Some had flown overnight from points afar. Others drove hours to be among those they care about the most. Could there ever have been a coach that meant more to former players than Roy Skinner?
Their luncheon gatherings the first Wednesday of each month are nearly as legendary as the coach who won 278 games before retiring at the tender age of 46. Everyone has a Roy Skinner story and in the days since his death last Monday at age 80, many have been told.
Saturday was time for Coach Skinner's families to share some of their memories. He actually has two --one being his large immediate family that includes his wife Nathleene (Tootsie), children and grandchildren. The other is equally close and also has many of his characteristics. They are the members of his talented Commodore teams.
It was obvious that the lessons he taught are remembered. If there is one thing in common among these tall, thin men it is modesty. They are a selfless group, as quick to deflect any credit as they used to be in passing to an open teammate.
Jerry Southwood canceled a trip to help his own son in Wisconsin so he could help the Skinners organize this special occasion. Once the big day was successfully underway, the public relations pro slipped quietly into his crowd of 300 friends.
Tom Hagan, known as "Tommy Gun" during his first-team All-American days in the mid-60's, flew back from the northwest to pay his respects. Considered by many to be Vanderbilt's all-time best shooter, he is equal parts modest and shy, eager to avoid any potential spotlight and therefore is an infrequent visitor.
Nearly all were assembled: The F Troop, vbk, Clyde, Snake, C.M. and company. The heart and soul of Vanderbilt basketball.
Former manager John Tarpley and lettermen Bob Warren and Lee Fowler had the honor of offering eulogies and memories. Warren told of his missed lay-up 42 years ago ago that would have beaten Kentucky and won an SEC championship. He recalled that failure as one of his life's defining moments and marveled that Coach Skinner never said a word to him about it. Warren summarized, "we came as boys and left as men."
Steven, Kayla and Austin Fox remembered their grandpa as a selfless, soft-spoken and encouraging man who made them fishing poles and reminded them that their days might actually be great, not just good. Their love was obvious.
Roy Skinner showed that one can lead the masses without needing to shout; that one can always be at the head of the line by putting others first, by practicing quiet acts of kindness and by having the courage to do what is right.
The roars for Roy's Boys that once upon a time heated cool winter nights have grown faint but if you close your eyes and listen carefully, they can still be heard and will live on forever - just like the soft-spoken coach and man that meant so much to so many.