Leaving the Court but Never the Team

Leaving the Court but Never the Team

Legendary coach Whitmore retires after 40 years, but his relationship with his “basketball people” endures

By Gerry Boyle '78


 

Damien Strahorn Returns to Coach the Mules

Damien Strahorn ’02, who played under basketball coach Dick Whitmore and was his assistant, was named new head coach of the Colby men’s basketball team.
Strahorn was head coach at Plymouth State University this past season and an assistant coach for four years at Columbia University.
“Damien has the right mix of terrific basketball knowledge and high-level recruiting experience that we need,” said Harold Alfond Director of Athletics Marcella Zalot, “combined with his knowledge of the traditions and history of the men’s basketball program at Colby.”
Strahorn pointed to Whitmore’s wins and multiple titles and the impact he’s had on hundreds of former players. “I’m very honored and humbled to be taking over for him,” he said.

Taking over a Plymouth State team with just one returning starter, Strahorn helped the Panthers to a sixth-place finish last year. Strahorn was at Columbia for four years under then-head coach Joe Jones, who is now associate head coach at Boston College.
Strahorn started at Columbia as a third assistant and worked up to Jones’s top assistant. With Strahorn and Jones, the team tied the university’s record for most wins in a season with a 16-12 record in 2006-07.

 

Legacy fund intended to pass on “all ... that Whit embodied”

John "Swisher" Mitchell and Dick Whitmore at the celebration of the longtime coaches' retirement from Colby. At left is former Senate majority leader George Mitchell, John Mitchell's younger brother.

Jim Crook ’78 was just 13 when he first met Dick Whitmore at basketball camp in Casco, Maine. “I came to Colby because of Whit,” Crook said.
He played for Whitmore at Colby, grew closer to his coach after graduation, and for decades saw the effect the coach and mentor had on generations of Colby athletes. When Whitmore announced his retirement, Crook and other basketball alumni—Matt Hancock ’90, Chris Vickers ’87, and Chad Higgins ’97—set out “to make sure that we have the best opportunity to give every athlete going forward what we got.”
The result is the Whitmore Legacy Fund, established with money raised by basketball alumni and others. “In thirty days we raised a million-one,” Crook said, speaking at Whitmore’s retirement celebration in June. “And that number is stunted because we didn’t want him to find out about it.”


Commemorated by the renaming of the court as the Whitmore-Mitchell Basketball Court, the fund will be spent over seven years, overseen by Alfond Athletic Director Marcella Zalot. At its present level, the fund would provide $150,000 each year to supplement the regular athletics budget.
“If you take the Alfond Foundation gift and the Dick Whitmore Legacy Fund, the impact will be huge,” Zalot said. She said the money will be used to support assistant coaches, education programs for athletes and coaches, and leadership training for captains, among other areas.
The effort will not be limited to basketball any more than Whitmore, former Colby athletic director, limited his focus to only basketball. “He’s way more than Mr. Basketball at Colby,” Crook said. “He’s Colby Athletics to a lot of guys.”
Crook said he believes the end result will be more competitive sports programs and student athletes who have positive experiences at Colby—and beyond. “He instilled in his players the desire to compete,” Crook said. “The values of being organized, and preparing, and learning from your mistakes, and learning from your losses, and being sincere in your personal engagements, … to win humbly and lose gracefully, and all of the things that Whit embodied.
“That,” Crook said, “is what every kid should get.”

 
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