Rocky Covington didn’t come from a big family.   Actually he was an only child and a bit of a “late arrival “ at that.  He looked like his dad.  Who, like Rocky, was a tall good looking man with a southern gentleman’s demeanor.  He did possess a salty side and would take a drink.  Most often with Mac Adam’s Father.  Mac and Rocky were cast together pre-teen and remained lifetime friendship.  Mac was with Rocky at the onset of his fatal illness recently.  For years both delighted in telling tales on their Father’s shenanigans.

Once on a “fishing  trip” the 10 year old sons  were asked along.  Rocky said about noon the Fathers’ left to “go pick up some lunch”.   Left to fish at the local county fishing pond, the boys initially pretended they knew how to catch the proverbial big bass.  Or a bream. or a Catfish, or a Goldfish.  Not so, and they then played on the banks till nearly dark.  Now concerned they sat and waited.  Eventually here come the Dads in an altered state (3/4 crocked). 

Riding home the grownups remembered they had to provide their bounty of fish for the evening meal.   They headed to the local fish market and “silver hooked” some  fish  {“ Hey Ed, just give anything you got left”. )

During the meal, thinking maybe they’d pulled it off, Rocky’s Mom asked “…just explain to us how you caught these flounder in Miller’s pond???

Mr. Covington was at a lot of our games.  We often laughed at each other.  Once I took a younger date to the game and was about to pass him in the lobby.  He said ,”Hello, Coach.  My- your daughter is a lovely young lady!”

Bobby Gilmore was Rocky’s college roommate and teammate, and friend of all their adulthood.  He was from the same town where my dad was  the Baptist minister.  Alma Gilmore brought all six Gilmore kids every Sunday.  Early on I knew Bobby was a player.  His favorite early tale is about my Mom getting a speeding ticket going to Southern Pines for a high school basketball game i was playing in:   “Hurry, Mrs. Parham, it’s about time for the game to begin!”  Oops, red-light.

Bobby told this story every time Rocky hosted us at North Myrtle Beach.

Which was two or three times a year, for many years. 

We told the same stories over and over.  Rocky, Bobby, me and Larry Schwab hardly ever missed the “Rocky conventions”.  Sandy treated us like kings. Pud Hassell brought Alton Hill several times.  George Owens, Nick Serba, Danny Thompson, Lee Laughlin, Wayne Norris were teammates at  Atlantic Christian College in the late 60’s and early 70’s.  They came occasionally.  Norris was a younger teammate whose status became like a meteor rise on his first visit.  Wayne played on the second freshman team  I coached.  On one of our golfing “attempts” Wayne loaded my golf bag into a cart with him.  From then till now Wayne has watched over me like a son.  He did impress me on the back nine.  At the turn he politely asked. “Coach, do you mind if I have beer”.  In a few minutes he appeared with two six-packs.  I thanked him for buying beer for everyone!  “Well, no—I brought them another bag.”  I counted 9 empties he had consumed in our golf cart on #18.  Stopping to eat Wayne ordered 3 double Jack Daniels cocktails.  Then, properly oiled up, it happened.  Wayne told the “monkey story”. It is our all time tale, but no one can tell it like Wayne and I won’t attempt to.

Our table of six was told to calm down the laughter or leave.

Wives came often.  Ann Barbour Schwab got our attention when Larry told us she “gave my dog away while I was here last time!”  Larry was a good guy and funny.  And he was wide open when paired with Rocky and Bird Gilmore on Friday night.

One Saturday morning I wrote in the condominium guest book:  “Larry Schwab made DOUBLE DIAMOND LAST NIGHT!”  A Navy vet, Larry was famous on campus for taking a knife away from an enraged and drunk student who was threatening to slice up the dean of men.

Coach Ira Norfolk sent me to Rockingham to see Rocky’s teammate, Greg Whitman.  Whitman went to Western Carolina, but Rocky was discovered and offered  a grant.

Norfolk roomed Bobby with Rocky.  It was a strange time, with Vietnam, integration, drugs, “the 60’s” mentality contrasting with the marine lifer, Norfolk— demanding a war like mentality of his players.  No jeans, military haircuts, the five man weave, “ defense is from the heart”.

I coached these varsity guys only one time.  When I announced to the team that their coach had badly ruptured his achilles tendon, and “come up lame”, guard Ed Carraway deadpanned: “Shoot him” . I  had forgotten that Bobby Gilmore had gone to a funeral and I drove him to UNC-Wilmington in my Corvette.  Our guys wound up tied at the game’s near end and we had possession.  I called a time out (my first coaching move of the game) and began to  draw up  a play on my clipboard.  Larry Jones put his hand on my pencil and said, “You got six offensive men on your diagram!”  Stunned,  I listened to Clyde (Stallsmith) say, “Its okay Tom, we know what to do”.  And they did it.  My 1-0 college varsity win percentage record can never be broken.

Our convention agenda rarely changed:  Check in at Rocky’s Friday noon or a little  later.  Snacks, drinks, and tale telling begins.  About 7 we are on to Rossi’s  restaurant.  “Mr. Covington how are you?”  Same everywhere in Myrtle Beach area.  Then the onslaught.  3 or 4 drinks, an appetizer  tray that really could have ended the eating.  But didn’t.  Friday nights were howl night and more tales there remain untold.  Saturday began at the Pancake House.  No matter who came along, our host of big appetites, Mr. Covington wowed them with his breakfast in take.

On to golf.  Once in a while Rocky’s mentor and great friend, Paul Miller, would play with us.  Paul, a member of North Carolina’s Sports Hall of Fame, could play everything (he did in high school, followed by quarterbacking at UNC.)   Rocky didn’t seem to me early on to be a natural at golf.  A year later though, he was much better.  The next year, hey—he gets it!  I shouldn’t have been surprised.  Perhaps his dominate characteristic has been dogged persistence.  Why not golf full bore!  Lessons, lots of practice, volume of play, great equipment.  One of  the toughest shots —under 100yds wedges soon awed me. 

I shouldn’t have been surprised in the least and it began after his sophomore year.  I had been lifting weights regularly.  Sheepishly he approached me and asked about helping him get stronger.  I agreed and showed him some workouts and lifts that I was guessing he could profit by.  Honestly I had been impressed with Rocky as a young naive southern kid who was scared to death of Norfolk.  Many were. Me too.  Jones wasn’t. Stallsmith nor Carraway cowered .  Gilmore did everything right anyway.  I hadn’t really seen the heart of Rocky.  Pretty soon everyone noticed.  He bulked up and bumped heads.  From there on out, combining training and some work on basketball skills, he was a double figured, tough small forward who held his own on a fine team that won 34 of 39 games at home.  This may have been the hey day period for the Carolinas Conference basketball.  Integration brought Henry Logan.  Michael before Michael.! Gene Littles, Dwight Durante, M.L. Carr, Bob Kauffman, World B. Free.  Henry Logan’s record breaking 60 point night against us, was always revisited.  42 points in the second half.  Nick Serba:  Did he DUNK THAT?  Stallsmith:  Yea, he dunked it.”

One other venue drew me closer  to Rocky and Bobby.  We all went to New York one summer to work and hopefully play summer league basketball.  Bob Paroli was Headmaster at NEW YORK MILITARY ACADEMY and he hired me, bringing also Gary McMahan and Richard Swanker from the college.  NYMA was located near the city.  We brought in  guest speakers such as Bill Bradley, KC Jones, Norm Sloan, etc.  There were 370 inner city kids, yankees to the  core. NYMA incidentally was the school Donald Trump went to and said he’d received military training comparable to John McCain.  We did have one water fight.  We played basketball for the FELLACHELLO’S PIPERS.  BIG JOHN FELLACHELLO was a plumber and we had a lead pipe wrench on our shirts.

 KC Jones died last week.   I had  hosted him in New York and took him to the bank to cash a check.  He played in the pickup game following his speech (ask me about that classic), and almost tore Gilmore’s head off with a no-look pass.  Lots of tales came back from NYMA.  We were glad to get back to NC.  Yet we learned a lot. 

And I haven’t even started on Larry Jones stories.  Bobby and Rocky were best at Jones tales. The toughest was the wreck.

We’d stay on the balcony  and watch the girls (Rocky’s binoculars) and the sun go down. Pizza and tv games.  Gilmore  a State fan, a Democrat, Rocky -Carolina and GOP.

Back to Rocky, 150 lbs , and ready to go home.  Paul said “you gave him confidence”.  We began to talk in the weight room:  Coach, what do I do about acne ?  I’ll call Dr Gloria Graham.  What should I major in?   Pete’s a helluva guy isn’t he?

Persistence?  He took it to another level.  Academically he was our first Academic All American.  He was Class President,  Later he told BB&T to shove it and showed them last month’s check for 15 grand.  Paul will tell you legendary stories about his professional life.  Rocky almost died and fought back with TWENTY surgeries and rehabs that were cruel.  He had big appetites,  and was an American and religious with the same zeal.  Ask Paul.

I  could type out 100 favorite stories we spun over and over. If you see one below that your are curious about call me or Bird.  Better still I’ll list a few and the best ones to tell them.

  1. The Monkey-  Wayne Norris
  2. Ronnie spills Daddy Ira in mud at ECU—Bobby or Scooter Griffin.    Bernie Capps.  Me and Bobby.
  3.  Bernie Capps.  Me and Bobby.The Sig Eps—Eddie Gwaltney and/or Gary McMahan
  4. Raleigh nites and citizen-band girl chasing—Watson Hale
  5. Which party was he talking about?  George Owens.
  6. Don’t hit me baby, cause I feel bad.  Gilmore
  7. Alton wins the 220.  Bird.
  8. Scooter’s car.  Scooter
  9. Jones and Henry Logan —Bobby
  10. The Guilford game.  Russell Rawlings or CJ Holliday.
  11. Jones —Will he dunk it?  Russell Rawling
  12.   Jones and the juke box—Parham
  13.  The Sig Eps—Eddie Gwaltney and/or Gary McMahan
  14. Raleigh nites and citizen-band girl chasing—Watson Hale
  15. Which party was he talking about?  George Owens.
  16. Don’t hit me baby, cause I feel bad.  Gilmore
  17. Alton wins the 220.  Bird.
  18. Scooter’s car.  Scooter
  19. Jones and Henry Logan —Bobby
  20. The Guilford game.  Russell Rawlings or CJ Holliday.
  21. Jones —Will he dunk it?  Russell Rawlings
  22.   David Worthington —Parham, George Owens
  23. 23.Stallsmith and time clock and false double fouls.  Parham
  24. 24.The highlight film. TP
  25. 5.  The New York night prowler—Gilmore


  Alton’s knee. Bird

  1and1/2 vs Lenior Rhyne. Bird

Schwab wrecks the van. Bird

  The shoot out at Appalachian.  Parham  Yankees baseball.   Mickey Mantle.  Baseball cards.  Bobby.

  IRA tales.   Dorm doused.   Bird

  Collapsed crutch.  Again—Bird

.  Cliff and James.  “”  “

  Norbie, Pfohl and Hemby—Herb Monson, and Boom Box tale.  tp

Okay—Rocky had very little biological family.  But he had families of friends.  His professional family is one of the most impressive of any individual business.  Truly a family.  (Paul Miller: “He was a rock star and influenced thousands.)

His Sig Ep fraternity was a fine family of good kids. Rockingham was a family. Sports were a family.  His religion was certainly a family.  Atlantic Christian College, now Barton College was as near to his  heart as family.  One  he supported generously.  i like to think these families were much like the grouping concept of his business.  He was the patriarch of a large group of family like groupings.  One  was our gang.

He made a family of college mates and teammates.  He worked at it.  He always worked at it.

Well done.        Coach

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s