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Excerpt from Oral History Interview with Clyde Smith, March 17, 1999. Interview K-0443. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) See Entire Interview >>

Lack of discipline among black athletes at a formerly all-white school

Smith describes problems with black athletes' attitudes on the basketball court and the football field. With the blessing of his black co-captain, he dismissed some basketball players who did not take practice seriously, and the head football coach sent a stern message to a showboating star, who responded with an excellent performance.

Citing this Excerpt

Oral History Interview with Clyde Smith, March 17, 1999. Interview K-0443. Southern Oral History Program Collection (#4007) in the Southern Oral History Program Collection, Southern Historical Collection, Wilson Library, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill.

Full Text of the Excerpt

What was the coaching staff like? Were there any blacks or was it all white?
It was all white, we didn't have any blacks on the coaching staff at all at that time. Had a couple of black faculty members.
Do you think there was a problem with blacks, you mentioned the football players dropping out. Do you think they had trouble with …
Adaptation or adjustment? I really don't know. I just have to be honest, in my stance they couldn't adapt to our ways. Whether our ways are right I don't know. I'll give you an example. In basketball, one of the things that I had to deal with is the looseness of attitude. I mean I was a young coach, but I expected things to be done in a certain way. And even just some of the things, like in basketball they'd come out and they'd be showboating, you know coming out on the basketball court with toboggans [a kind of knitted cap] on their heads. You know that type of thing, and I wasn't used to that. In fact, I recall after about a month or so, I had to call a meeting … Our practice would really degenerate at times into kind of a backyard play. And I was trying to set offense instead of free play kinds of stuff, and literally I had to call an early morning meeting one time and dismiss a couple of black athletes. Whether or not I was right at the time, I felt like I had to do that. In fact the suggestion came from Bobby Joe. Bobby Joe was my captain, he was my co-captain. I had a white boy as the other. They came to me after practice one day and they sensed that I was sensing something needed to be done, and I dismissed several of the ones I thought was kind of instigating all that and the ones I felt I could probably do without at that time. I dismissed a couple of those kids, but they didn't react negatively, you know take it out on me in any way. They just accepted it, that's the way it was. In fact, it's kind of ironic, I never will forget. One of - we had another little black kid that was as a result of me dismissing two or three of these other black kids all of a sudden got to play a lot more. And after two or three weeks went by, maybe his playing time was not quite as much. He came up to me and said "Coach, let's have another one of them meetings. I gotta play more." I guess it was me as a young coach trying to get a handle on things. Like I said, I dismissed some of those guys, and even to this day though quite a few of them see me and and they don't hold a grudge, I'm sure. In fact they've done some things for me in my schools. They've been very supportive. They didn't even react negatively against me at that time. That was about the middle of the year in basketball. But basically it was the same in football. I don't think they held it against Von Ray Harris. In fact, he had an instance early on in football. Newbold had a guy who was tremendous, he was a man. I mean literally. He was one of those guys who was about 200 pounds, stocky, quick as a cat. His name was Leroy Diamond. He was a star at Newbold. He was "all-everything" in the black conference I guess. Leroy was one of the ones who emerged, he hung with it. I never will forget it. We played the first varsity football game, just barely won 7-0, just got by.
Who was that against?
Against R-S - Central Rutherford-Spindale. Bobby Joe Easter, the kid who'd been at Lincolnton a couple of years. He came to coach Harris after the ballgame and said … In fact Leroy hadn't played very much. In the coach's mind he hadn't really earned it, he hadn't seen what he'd been touted up to and what he'd heard from the black school board. Bobby Joe came to coach after the game and said, "Coach, I don't know whether you know this, but Leroy is a Friday night ballplayer." And I never will forget what coach told him, and this'll kind of give you the kind of attitude, the kind of tough attitude Coach Harris always had. He looked at Bobby Joe and he said, "Look Bobby Joe, I'm going to tell you something. You need to get word to Leroy that I'm a Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday coach. If he wants to play for me on Friday night, he needs to come out here on Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday in practice and give what it takes to play on Friday night." And Bobby Joe said "Okay." So Bobby Joe evidently got the message to him because come Monday evening, Leroy was a different participant in practice. And that Friday night, Leroy Diamond scored five touchdowns. In fact, we finally had to take him out of the ballgame to keep him from scoring. He only touched the football about six times and five times he scored - from all over the field. And we ran into a team that really should have been - the game was rated pretty much a toss-up. In the first half, we'd run that team plum out of the ballpark. And Leroy, you talk about a show, he'd put on a show. So, from that, see, through Bobby Joe, he'd gotten a message to him. And those black kids really went to work. A lot of those that had dropped off, if they'd gotten the message earlier, may have been able to contribute much more. And it was probably one of the best football teams that we ever had at Lincolnton, but we didn't really get to go anywhere because it was in a day and time that only one team got to go from the conference. Our chief rival Shelby knocked us off, and we had a 9-1 record and had to stay here and couldn't go anywhere. As where today they take teams with 5-5 records almost, they take so many. But that was just the setup then and we still regard it as probably the best football team we ever had because those black kids really emerged, those six or seven that kind of stayed. They really became top-notch.