Players reflect on White’s impact (Basketball)

April 29, 2010

In case you’ve been living under a rock, legendary Anchorage high school basketball coach Chuck White decided to walk away from the prep game after 45 years to take an assistant coaching job at Adams State College in Colorado.

There he will reunite with former player and assistant coach Louis Wilson.

White, 68, won a Hall of Fame worthy 921 games and 18 state championships at the high school level, ranking among the national leaders in both categories.

He was a towering figure beyond his 6-foot-4 stature. He is the most recognizable presence in Alaska sports history, so much so that even people who didn’t follow sports knew his name.

After word spread that he was leaving Alaska, I contacted some former players to get comments.

Trajan Langdon, Class of ‘94
“Coach White taught me many things that I didn’t really understand until I was a bit older. Looking back on the teams that I played on, one thing that we always had was confidence in ourselves. That was one thing that was never lacking and Coach White is the one who instilled that confidence in us everyday as individuals and as a team.

We never feared any opponent and I think above anything else is what has made he and his teams so successful. He taught me to always work as a team hard, smart and most important of all, together. He taught me to come to practice everyday and get better by working hard and listening and being focused. These are things I will always appreciate Coach White having instilled in me and are the things that have contributed in all my successes. I wish Coach White the best of luck in his next step at Adams State.”

Andre Laws, Class of ‘98
“It’s kind of a shock to hear about him leaving because when you think of Alaska high school basketball, you think of Coach White and his enormous legacy. He’s opened a lot of doors for kids and given us opportunities to live our dreams. It’s still hard for me to grasp how great his record is and how many championships he’s won.

Before I played varsity, I didn’t understand why he yelled so much and was so charismatic but when he told our team, “The minute I stop yelling at you, you should worry, because I’ve lost faith.” I then realized his yelling wasn’t because he was angry, but because he cared. He cared that we leave it all on the floor when we wore that jersey, so if we lost, we lost with our heads up. Those are the types of lessons that we can take off the court and apply to everyday life. He’s had a tremendous impact on everyone that came around him and I feel very fortunate to have played for him for two years and be part of that East High basketball tradition.”

Paul Schoenborn, Class of ‘85
“I currently am the head softball coach at East, and have coached baseball at East as well. Coach White has been a huge influence on how I coach. I try to emulate his confidence and attitude. The thing I admire most about him is that no matter the situation he always knew what to do and I never ever saw him panic. He may have lost his cool with officials but always knew what to call and how to get us motivated to play and win.

He has touched the lives of so many kids you have no idea how many people he has helped. I just wish he would have had this opportunity sooner, if he had I have no doubt he would’ve been successful. All he knows is winning. To this day when I see him and talk with him he is always Coach. Some other players as they get older call their Coach by their first name. I have never or rarely heard any of his former players call him by his first name. He is and always will be respected as Coach.”

Chuck Rathmann, Class of ‘90
“Chuck White meant so much to me—as a basketball player and as a young man. He helped me to realize that there was nothing I couldn’t accomplish if I worked hard and stayed focused. He taught us that we put our pants on just like everyone else we were competing against and that we could beat anybody on any day, with the right effort. He taught me about commitment and dedication, and why both help you to be successful in whatever it is you are doing.

He would applaud you and praise you when you did well and chew you when you repeated mistakes. There was such an unfair perception of Coach with his boisterousness, but it was because he was so passionate about what he was doing. He knew what we could accomplish if we just paid attention. I love the man; he’s more caring and compassionate than most people would expect, and I would have run through a wall for him.”

Mao Tosi, Class of ‘95
“Coach White was the only constant in my life when I was in high school. I lived with my brother who did his best to support us but the father figure in my life was Coach White. He provided the structure and support that I needed to succeed. I’m sure if I didn’t go to East High School my 11th and 12th grade year, I would not be who I am today.

I went to the junior college that I did because the coach was very similar to Coach White and then I went to the same University that Coach White attended (University of Idaho). And then I moved back to Alaska to do what Coach White did for me. Help youth succeed. Coach White is the most credible basketball person in our state—that is the reason that parents send their kids to him because they know that he will increase their chances of success. And that is what I do now—not for athletes but for all youth—I want to increase their chances of success because Coach White did it for me.

It’s my turn to do the same and I hope that when I am done that someone else will pick up the torch and continue what has been passed on to me. My best friend died in jail and I know that I would have followed the same path if it wasn’t for Coach White. He saved me and many others. I know I can never repay him for what he did for me, but I’m gonna try and make sure that I pass it on.”

Brian Mitchell, Class of ‘86
“A great coach, a great mentor, a great man. I played for Coach White for two seasons after reluctantly moving to Alaska halfway through my high school career. Perfect was almost good enough for him, and we almost achieved that in ’85, losing just one game en route to a state championship. I am proud to have participated in over 50 of his 921 wins. Coach is the reason that I am now a teacher and coach, and he has touched my life in a way that no other person ever has.

Additionally, we, his students, surrogate children, and players all saw a side of him that nobody else got to witness. He is firm, yet kind. Demanding, yet forgiving (as long as one gave our best effort). I model much of my teaching and coaching style from what he taught me in the two years playing for him, as well as the 24 seasons since. It is bittersweet to see him move on. I will truly miss him and his influence on the game in Alaska.”

Donny Judd, Class of ‘90
“Chuck White is one hell of a man. I guess I should start by saying yes, he is my uncle, and yes, I have a lot of love for the man more so than the coach. I never really viewed him as my uncle or my coach. I viewed him as many of his players did that grew up in single-family homes and even two-parent homes. He was much more than a coach to us. He was our father, the only positive male figure in most of our lives. He represented something that so many of us were missing and searching for. We all looked up to him as most children look up to their fathers, never wanting to let him down.

It wasn’t about the wins and losses that so many people identify coach with that made him great, but rather it was the unconditional commitment to his players as people, to assure we were successful after basketball. This is what truly made him great and a legend in Alaska. Proof of that: after 45 years of coaching I bet if you were to show Coach a team picture of every team he ever coached he would be able to tell you something about each player personally and athletically. Not sure you could say that about any other coach in the state. It’s unfortunate that so many people in Alaska never got to know the man and the positive impact he had on everyone he came in contact with. It’s sad Alaska never respected him, so now they have lost a tremendous figure that will never be replaced.”

Louis Wilson, Class of ‘83
“Coach taught me that life is competition. Everything we do is not just about winning but being the best. Your best. When you have done it better than the other guy, do it the best you can. In effect, you were not in competition with the opponent but with yourself. If you win and you left something out there you felt unfulfilled. Consequently, if you lost but you gave all you had to give, you were still worthy. He taught us what George Washington taught his troops: “Victory can not be insured, but it can be deserved.” Chuck White’s teams deserved to win because they played hard, dangerously hard. They played together and they played with an incredible will. His will.”

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