Larry Lindsey 2011
Larry Lindsey grew up in Youngsville and never wanted to roam far from his roots.
He was a small-town man, but a big-time high school basketball coach who won championships, helped hundreds of players, and wound up having a gymnasium named in his honor.
Over 28 seasons his teams won eight state championships — two at Youngsville and six at Wake Forest-Rolesville — in three different classifications (1A-2A-3A). Those squads also captured or shared about 20 conference titles and carved a 609-156 record.
That’s Hall-of-Fame coaching and why Lindsey — once a polio victim unable to walk — is standing tall tonight in the North Carolina Sports Hall of Fame.
“It’s a tribute to my players,’’ said Lindsey, who taught them valuable life lessons as well as basketball skills.
Pembroke State, where he played basketball and is in the University’s Sports Hall of Fame, offered him the coaching job years ago.
Lindsey politely declined, saying the two-hour drive was “too far from home.”
At age 71 Lindsey remains the homebody. He lives in Wake Forest with wife, Cherie, near daughter Andi, son Shea and five grandchildren. Along with Cherie, he’s active at the Baptist Church that nurtured his faith as a youth in Youngsville.
It was at Youngsville — where Lindsey played on the ’56 State title team — that he won his first two state crowns as a coach. Later he added six more at Wake Forest-Rolesville, which named its arena Larry C. Lindsey Gymnasium in 2003.
Lindsey was clever, ahead of the pack.. He ran a motion offense that later became known as the passing game, a scheme with structure, yet one that provided space for free lancing. But his signature staple was a dogged man-to-man defense and disruptive zone presses.
Venerable coach Dean Smith once observed that Lindsey was “ahead of the curve defensively.” With a sound system and strong leadership skills, he took small teams and turned them into giant killing champions.
Lindsey’s aura inspired confidence, fueled intensity — not tension.,
“He had very good balance, made it fun,’’ said Glenn Woodlief, a standout on of of Lindsey’s state title teams at Wake Forest-Rolesville. “He had us feeling we would never lose. (And) he was a good person to go to if we needed anything.”
Before all the titles, there were hard knocks. Lindsey had polio as a young boy, but recovered and burgeoned into a prep basketball star good enough to get a scholarship offer from N.C. State. When adversity struck again (shattered ankle), he served in the Army, came back and played ball at Pembroke State.
Lindsey gleaned from influential mentors such as E.R. Tharrington and Al DePorter at Youngsville, Howard Dean, Lacey Gane and Ray Pennington at Pembroke.
“I can’t throw out enough accolades,’’ he said, referring to all who helped shape him as a man and coach.
While a student at Youngsville, It was principal Tharrington who suggested: “You need to go into coaching.”
Later, he answered the call and became Larry Lindsey, coaching legend.