Coach Leroy Glore

Spiro Athanas graduated from McKinley in 1960. Spiro has published a book of short stories, as well as having made numerous written contributions to this site. He is also an accomplished artist, having had several showings of his art in Bloomington, Indiana, where he now lives.

While playing football and basketball for McKinley, Spiro had the opportunity to know Leroy Glore, the assistant coach to Jules Blanke in football and the head basketball coach. This article is a reflection of Spiro's perceptions of Leroy Glore, truly one of the outstanding Goldbugs, who was with us all too short a time.

John Glore mentions in his tribute to the McKinley coaches on this web site that there always seemed to be laughter coming from their offices next to our pitiful excuse for a gym. No one had a sharper wit, a more ironic sense of humor, or a greater zest for life than his brother, Coach Leroy Glore – and no one was accorded greater respect by the athletes in his charge. In fact, he was treated with the same deference as that icon of McKinley coaches, Jules Blanke. This may come as a surprise to some of you knew Leroy Glore as a hell-raising college student (he and Harry Brown once dangled Gus Demos out the window of his third floor dorm room), or as regular guy who caroused with his rugby buddies at the old Sports Bar.

But, in his short life, Leroy Glore absorbed the lessons of his high school coach, friend, mentor and colleague, Coach Jules Blanke, and exhibited the same strength of character that is the mark of all exceptional men.

Looking back now, it is difficult for me to believe that Coach Glore was only in his mid-twenties when I played on the football and basketball teams he coached at McKinley in the late 1950's. He must have been born with an old soul for he had a wisdom, maturity and self-possessed calmness way beyond his years.

I believe one of the main reasons that young men, who are often full of self-doubt, choose coaches like Leroy Glore as role models is because they seem so physically assured. Coach Glore certainly had the credentials. He was a good enough offensive center and defensive linebacker in college to be named to the National Little All-American squad. After graduation, he was drafted by the then Chicago Cardinals professional football team. Later he played professional football for the old St. Louis Knights, and was a member of the Sports Bar rugby team that won the St. Louis championship in 1954.

However, Coach Glore was not only physically self-assured, he was also a very bright guy and a shrewd motivator. I played on the varsity football and basketball teams he coached for two years and I never saw him lose his temper. Well, almost never. More about that later. He had a Masters Degree in Education from Northeast Missouri State College (Kirksville), and he brought the offensive system used by his college football team with him when he began coaching at McKinley. That system, along with the coaching and motivating skills of Jules Blanke and Leroy Glore, helped McKinley win the Public High School League Football Championship in 1956, 1958 and 1959. In 1960, the season after I graduated, McKinley finally beat the Catholics in the Accident/Benefit game, went undefeated, and was named Mythical State Champion. And then, in the summer of 1961, Leroy Glore was gone from this earth.

Part of a big family himself (Coach Glore was one of eight Glores who graduated from McKinley), he met his future wife, Joann Wiggins, on New Years Eve in 1953. They were married in 1956 and had two children. Joann Wiggins married Leroy Glore and bore his children even though she knew he had been diagnosed with Hodgkin's Disease during an Army physical. Back then, Hodgkin’s was nearly always fatal, so she knew he might not have long to live.

Thinking back now, I knew nothing about Coach Glore’s affliction when I played on his teams. Very few knew of his affliction. But, perhaps it was the knowledge that he might not live very long that paradoxically made him such a kind soul. There was a mischievous sweetness about the man that makes his death at the age of 28 an even greater tragedy. He died when he was reaching the fullness of his manhood, while so many other lesser souls have lived long, fruitless lives. As John F. Kennedy famously said, “Life is not fair.”

But I am not going to end this tribute to Coach Glore on that note. He wouldn’t have approved. Instead, I’m going to tell you about one of the few times I saw Leroy Glore lose his temper. I was the cause and object of his wrath. We were playing in a basketball tournament in 1960, my senior year. It was a goofy format that included about twenty teams, a number of brackets, and an even goofier point system by which winners of each bracket were decided. That point system included deductions for technical fouls.

We had won our first two games and were on our way to winning the third and final game, which would guarantee a tournament victory in our bracket. It was the second quarter of that final game. I was leading the team in scoring, but I also already had two personal fouls, when one of the opposing players drove the lane. One of my teammates and I both slapped at the ball. The referee under the basket blew his whistle. I turned to him and asked who was responsible for the foul. He immediately formed the dreaded “T” with his hands and then pointed at me. “Technical foul on number four,” he shouted.

To say Coach Glore was not pleased with me is to put it mildly. With that question and that “T”, I had jeopardized our tournament victory because a technical foul counted the same as a defeat in that aforementioned goofy point system. He yanked me from the game and just glared at me when I tried to explain what had happened. I sat on the bench stewing for a couple of minutes of playing time, distraught almost to tears at the injustice of it all. And then I did something I had never seen anyone do before. I inched along the sideline from my seat at the end of the bench past the other hardwood warmers until I reached Coach Glore’s side. He ignored me for a moment, but when I inched closer, and knelt down on one knee, he turned to me with a withering look of disdain worse than the one he gave me when he yanked me from the game.

Put me back in Coach,” I said in a voice just above a whisper. He heard what I said all right, because that look of disdain turned to one of momentary shock. He glared at me for a few seconds undoubtedly thinking I had lost my senses to have the audacity to question his judgment and authority. But then his eyes softened and that mischievous grin, the grin that everyone who had ever known Coach Glore had seen many times, spread across his face. And, he put me back in the game. He called a time out to do it. He did it because it was the right thing to do, and because it was the fair thing to do. That was what Leroy Glore’s life was all about: Doing the right and fair thing. I will never forget him for it.

Spiro Athanas