John "Swisher" Mitchell and Dick Whitmore embrace during the Whitmore retirement program at Colby June 17. At left is former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, John Mitchell's brother. More than 300 attended the dinner program in Pulver Pavilion.

John “Swisher” Mitchell and Dick Whitmore embrace during the Whitmore retirement program at Colby June 17. At left is former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell, John Mitchell’s brother. More than 300 attended the dinner program in Pulver Pavilion.

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 ’91, 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.

President Bro Adams agreed. “We are very supportive of this effort because we believe that it will make our teams more competitive and enhance the experience of our student athletes,” Adams said.

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.”

Click here to contribute to the Dick Whitmore Legacy Fund