Mullis' death ends 31-year Gibbons reign

December 30, 1994|By Derek Toney | Derek Toney,Contributing Writer

Ray Mullis contemplated leaving Cardinal Gibbons a few times. He even applied for several college coaching positions.

But all along, Mullis knew he belonged at the Southwest Baltimore high school across the street from St. Agnes Hospital, where he died Wednesday at age 60 after a six-month battle with pancreatic cancer.

"After the first couple of years at Gibbons, I've never been that concerned about going somewhere else," he said in August, "because I'm doing what I wanted to do. A lot of people say they wanted to do this and this at this school, then a year later, they're somewhere else. That wasn't the way with me. Even taking a college job I don't think would have been as good for me as being at Gibbons."

In 31 seasons at Gibbons as its only basketball coach, Mullis built one of the country's top programs.

Mullis coached his final game Dec. 20, a victory over Gilman. Two days later, Mullis entered St. Agnes, where he died Wednesday afternoon, said his wife, Mary.

Gibbons (10-2), ranked No. 10, defeated Archbishop Carroll of D.C., 63-52, in the consolation game of the Stop DWI Tournament in Binghamton, N.Y., yesterday.

Mike Dahlem and Bryan Moorhouse, Mullis' longtime assistants, are handling the coaching duties.

"Obviously, everyone is very hurt," said Dahlem, who has been at Gibbons for 17 years. "The kids are basically dealing with it in their own way. Some of the players have their families here, making it a little easier."

Mullis won 31 league and or tournament championships during his tenure at Cardinal Gibbons. Last season, he won his 600th game and a record sixth Catholic League tournament title.

Gibbons has had 18 straight winning seasons dating back to 1976-77, and has been the Catholic League representative at the Alhambra Catholic Invitational Tournament in Cumberland a record 12 times.

Catholic League stalwart

"Ray worked very hard to make sure that the Catholic League stayed together," said Loyola's Jerry Savage, who coached against Mullis for 27 years. "He worked very hard to see that through, and that's to his credit. The league will not be the same without him."

Mullis was found to have pancreatic cancer July 5. A banquet was held in his honor at Martin's West on Sept. 22. Many former players and coaching colleagues, including Duke coach Mike Krzyzewski and Xavier coach Skip Prosser, attended.

Mullis established relationships with those and many other college coaches over the past 14 years as a coach at the Five-Star Camp in Honesdale, Pa., one of nation's top summer camps for college prospects.

"I visited him on Dec. 23, and the first thing he said to me was, 'I've been thinking about you,' " said St. Mary's College coach Bob Flynn, who played for Mullis from 1973 to 1975. "He asked me for a pen and a piece of paper and wrote down tips on how to coach a team that is undermanned. Here I am with tears coming down my face, and he's giving me coaching advice."

Flynn, whose team will play Villa Julie at Gibbons on Feb. 6 in honor of Mullis, is the first of Mullis' players to become a college head coach.

Mullis has sent players to 38 different colleges. During the 1985-86 season, Gibbons had 13 former players at the Division I level.

One former player, Quintin Dailey, played in the NBA for 10 seasons. Dailey is now a volunteer coach at the Las Vegas Boys & Girls Club.

"I've always prided myself to be like him," said Dailey. "Ray Mullis taught me about life. He tells the kids the truth and always treated you fairly. When I needed a coach, he was there. When I needed a father, he was there. When I needed someone to just talk to, he was there."

Terrapins roots

After graduating from high school in Graston, Ga., Mullis spent one year at Mercy University and played freshman basketball. After serving in the Army, Mullis attended the University of Maryland and graduated in 1962 with a degree in physical education. He stayed at College Park to pursue his master's and worked in the athletic department under Jim Kehoe, then athletic director.

"He was a very classy young man," recalled Kehoe, who retired as athletic director in 1981. "He was very eager to help. It was no mistake that Ray was destined to be successful. His success speaks for itself."

In 1964, Mullis accepted an offer to teach algebra and coach basketball at Gibbons. Mullis' first season at Gibbons produced a 7-19 mark. The next season, the Crusaders went 17-10. In 1969-70, Gibbons was co-champion of the Maryland Scholastic Association A Conference.

"He cared for every player he has ever coached," said Flynn. "Everyone was equal on the team. He made us feel like we were a part of a family."

Dahlem, who was the team's manager in the 1969-70 season, said: "This will always be his program. He has left such an imprint at Gibbons, and we will continue what he has started whether it be on or off the floor. No one had a greater love for Gibbons than he did. He always had the best interest in mind for the kids, the school and the community."

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