Dick Whitmore, one of the all-time leaders in NCAA Division III men’s basketball for career victories and one of the top 50 winning coaches in all divisions, announced March 15 that he is stepping down. Whitmore spent his entire coaching career – 40 years at the Maine college and finished with 637-341 record. He is seventh all-time in career wins among NCAA Division III men’s basketball coaches and began the 2010-11 season ranked 46th in all NCAA divisions for career wins.
“Dick Whitmore is Colby men’s basketball, and he is Colby athletics,” said Marcella Zalot, the Harold Alfond Director of Athletics at Colby. “There is no way to quantify the impact that Whit has had on so many students over his forty years, or the impact he has had on the members of our coaching staff at Colby, the local community, and basketball in the state of Maine. His impact is widespread, and there will be a void for sure.”
The White Mule men made the Eastern Collegiate Athletic Conference tourney in Whitmore’s second year and won numerous Colby-Bates-Bowdoin (CBB) titles in his first decade as coach. From 1989 to 1995, Colby accumulated a 154-26 record and seven straight 20-plus-win seasons. Colby won three ECAC titles in four years and then made the NCAA tourney for two straight years (1994 and 1995) when the Mules were allowed to play in the national tournament for the first time. (New England Small College Athletic Conference rules did not allow teams to play in the NCAA tourney before 1994).
Overall, Whitmore accumulated 31 winning seasons, and his Colby teams reached the post-season 27 times. He was honored as Coach of the Year in Maine six times in four different decades (1973, 1975, 1981, 1995, 1997, 2001) and was inducted into the Maine Sports Hall of Fame in 1998 and the inaugural class of the New England Basketball Hall of Fame in 2002. Whitmore coached 14 All Americans.
A 1965 graduate of Bowdoin College, where he scored more than 1000 points in his varsity career, Whitmore came to Colby in 1970 after five years of teaching and coaching at high schools in Hallowell and Bath, Maine. Hired at Colby by the legendary John Winkin, Whitmore joined a coaching staff that already included a local legend – John “Swisher” Mitchell – also a first-year inductee into the New England Basketball Hall of Fame, who this year completed his 44th season at Colby as an assistant coach.
Whitmore is widely respected at Colby not only as a coach but also for his work off the court, according to Colby President William D. Adams. “Dick’s contributions, as teacher, mentor, and friend, along with his deep loyalty to the College and to his colleagues here, are what set him apart as a great coach and a core member of the Colby faculty,” Adams said. “The College is profoundly grateful to him.”
An event celebrating Whitmore’s 6ooth career win, on Jan. 17, 2011, drew Colby men’s basketball alumni from across the country. Whitmore is known for keeping tabs on players long after they graduate, and he stressed the value of those connections as he reflected on 40 years of coaching.
“I think I may miss the alumni games more than I would Christmas,” he said. “It’s really a mutual appreciation situation. I’m so thankful to them not only as players and what they accomplished, but that they sustained the relationship with me after they were done playing. It’s a generational thing now with the alumni. The guys that first played for me when I started here are thinking about retirement, and the guys who played for me recently are just starting careers. That part of it is really amazing to me.”