Coach's influence still burns bright

ON HIGH SCHOOLS

Bob Wade

May 30, 2008|By MILTON KENT

Muggsy Bogues has a score to settle with Bob Wade.

It seems that at a celebrity roast for Bogues, Wade, his former coach at Dunbar, told a story about not being able to find his point guard before a Beltway Classic game against perennial power DeMatha.

Wade, who will be honored tonight at a roast at Martin's West in Woodlawn by his former players and colleagues, said Bogues missed a bus that was to take the Poets to the Towson Center from the East Baltimore school. This occurred despite Wade's admonition that anyone not present when the bus was to leave would be left, regardless of their status on the team.

Of course, that version of the story doesn't exactly jibe with the way Bogues remembers it, and roasts, where the guest of honor is playfully skewered in front of an audience, are the perfect places to set things straight, albeit it in a humorous way.

So, Bogues, who went on to stardom at Wake Forest and a solid NBA career with the Washington Bullets and Charlotte Hornets, where he is a radio analyst on Bobcats games, figures to set the record straight tonight.

Indeed, the fact that Wade hugged Bogues at the arena when they finally met up only provided the final piece of tangible proof to a notion that Bogues and all the other players Wade coached over 12 years already suspected.

Behind a gruff exterior beat the heart of a man who truly cared about his players, won two mythical national championships and got everyone to college while doing it.

"He loved all of us," said forward Ernie Graham, one of the first in a long line of star players who played for Wade. "He cared about us, and he was respected. Everybody knew who he was and liked him."

Graham, who coached in last night's Dunbar reunion game, led Lake Clifton to consecutive Maryland Scholastic Association titles in 1974 and '75, then transferred to Dunbar for his senior year in 1976. All he did was average 27 points and 22 rebounds for the Poets in leading them to an MSA title.

Graham praised Wade for giving him the freedom to play center on defense and small forward on offense.

More importantly, Graham said Wade, now the coordinator of the city's high school athletics, provided a buffer between him and his new teammates, who had to accept the 6-foot-7 forward after he had torched them the two years before.

"He made a difference in the lives of a lot of young men in more ways than just coaching basketball," said Graham, who runs an after-school drug prevention program.

Cyrus Jones, who coaches the Dunbar boys team, wasn't old enough to play for Wade, who left the school to coach at Maryland, thus becoming the first African-American to lead an Atlantic Coast Conference school.

Instead, as a kid, Jones said he watched with awe those teams, such as 1985 squad that went 28-1 and won one of those national titles with drive and purpose and intensity, the qualities he wants to instill in today's Poets, who reached the state semifinals this year.

"He definitely brought a lot of competitiveness to his players," said Jones, who played for Pete Pompey's 1992 national title team at Dunbar. "I've known him to be a disciplinarian. He didn't really tolerate a lot of foolishness from the players. He wanted the players to play to their abilities. He got some things out of the players that some other coaches didn't see or wouldn't have gotten. They knew him and respected him. Just his presence alone made them want to stay on the right track."

Indeed, if all Bob Wade's accomplishments were just the ones in history pages, there'd be no real way to measure his import. Thankfully, there will be guys such as Reggie Williams and David Wingate and Kurk Lee and Ernie Graham and Muggsy Bogues to set the record straight.

milton.kent@baltsun.com

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