Bob Whitmore, from DeMatha to Notre Dame and beyond, was a leader anyone would follow

“Proper once I were given employed, he referred to as me and mentioned, ‘Anytime you’re in Washington and want one thing — the rest — you name me,’ ” Brey remembered Monday. “After we inducted him, he was once so ill we weren’t certain he’d be capable of make it. However no method was once he going to pass over the rite.

“One of the vital great issues about the ones ceremonies is the individuals who come again for the day: circle of relatives, pals, teammates. Bob was once 50 years got rid of from commencement. With regards to each certainly one of his residing teammates made it again. We’ve by no means had a turnout of former teammates like that. And extra: different grads whose lives he’d touched, pals he’d made over the years. I regarded out on the crowd and idea: ‘My God, he’s the Pied Piper. Other folks will apply him any place.’ ”

Whitmore died Saturday at 73 after a 20-year combat with pancreatic most cancers. That’s no longer a typo: He lived with the illness for in all probability longer than 99 p.c of the ones identified with it. He was once ceaselessly out and in of hospitals, misplaced all kinds of weight and from time to time regarded terrible. However he stored operating to lend a hand folks.

Whitmore grew up within the D.C. space and performed for Morgan Wootten at DeMatha. He performed a key function in what’s in most cases regarded as an important highschool basketball sport ever performed: DeMatha’s 46-43 dissatisfied of Lew Alcindor’s Energy Memorial workforce, finishing its 71-game profitable streak Jan. 30, 1965.

Whitmore and Sid Catlett, each 6-foot-Eight, double-teamed the 7-2 Alcindor for many of the sport — Whitmore in entrance; Catlett in again. They held Alcindor to 16 issues — 14 beneath his moderate. On every occasion that sport got here up, Whitmore would indicate that the yr prior to Wootten had requested him to protect Alcindor via himself, and Alcindor scored 35 issues in a 65-62 Energy victory.

“Thank goodness Morgan were given me some lend a hand the following yr,” he would say, giggling his booming snicker. “If Sid hadn’t been again there, Lew would have hammered me once more. I used to be giving up six inches and numerous skill.”

Whitmore was once masses proficient himself. He went to Notre Dame, or even then he was once the Pied Piper: Two years later, he was once adopted via Catlett, Collis Jones of St. John’s and Mackin’s Austin Carr, all of whom would stay lifelong pals. Catlett died in 2017.

In 3 seasons (rookies weren’t eligible in the ones days), Whitmore averaged 18.Eight issues and 12.four rebounds. He led Notre Dame to the NIT semifinals in 1968, when the NIT nonetheless intended one thing, and to the NCAA event a yr later.

He additionally jumped heart for Notre Dame within the first sport performed in what was once then Joyce Middle on Dec. 7, 1968. The opponent was once UCLA. The opposing heart was once Lew Alcindor.

Whitmore went to Notre Dame Regulation Faculty and was once a graduate assistant trainer at the 1973-74 workforce that ended UCLA’s 88-game profitable streak.

“Guys who performed on that workforce informed me that they may have transferred if no longer for Bob,” Brey mentioned. “Even within the ’70s, being a black athlete in northern Indiana wasn’t the perfect factor on this planet to care for. Bob made certain they got here again from breaks the place they went house even if they weren’t sure they sought after to come back again.”

Whitmore went directly to follow regulation in Washington and persevered to paintings to stay the D.C.-to-Notre Dame pipeline open.

Quickly after Whitmore referred to as him to supply lend a hand, Brey was once making plans to come back to D.C. to scout and recruit on the Prime Level Prime event in Beltsville. He referred to as to look whether or not Whitmore could be prepared to head with him.

“He no longer handiest got here, he introduced Jones and [Adrian] Dantley with him,” Brey mentioned. “I take into account strolling into the fitness center with them considering this was once a sexy proud second in my existence to be representing a faculty that had produced those 3 guys. I hadn’t even coached a sport there but, and I felt like I used to be a part of where — on account of them.”

I met Whitmore in 1994, after we had been each requested via Peter Teeley to be founding board individuals of the Kids’s Charities Basis. I had one task: persuade coaches to play in what changed into the BB&T Vintage. Bob and I disagreed as soon as, and it was once early on. The board was once unanimous in agreeing the most productive situation for our event was once to have Maryland and Georgetown host and usher in two big-time groups from out of the city. I mentioned I didn’t suppose Georgetown would participate, as a result of Hoyas trainer John Thompson had no real interest in taking part in Maryland once more after dropping to the Terrapins the former November.

Bob volunteered to name Thompson. “He may say no to you,” Bob mentioned, understanding of my prickly dating with Thompson. “I’ve identified him since highschool. If I make the decision, I feel he’ll say sure.”

Thompson’s most sensible lieutenant, Mary Fenlon, returned Bob’s name and informed him Georgetown wasn’t fascinated with taking part in in “your rinky-dink event.” I nonetheless consider that Thompson didn’t go back the decision himself as a result of he didn’t need to say no to Bob.

It was once the one time I’ve ever observed Bob indignant. At annually’s event, after we would survey the group in what was once then referred to as MCI Middle, Bob would throw an arm round me and say, “Now not dangerous for a rinky-dink event, huh?”

Bob was once identified with pancreatic most cancers virtually 20 years in the past. Most of the people don’t reside 5 years with that selection, even those that are identified early. Many don’t live on a yr. My father, who was once without a doubt identified overdue, lived 5 weeks.

Bob was once out and in of hospitals frequently for the remainder of his existence. We might listen his analysis was once horrible, and a couple of weeks later he would come strolling right into a board assembly, noticeably thinner however as upbeat as ever, short of to grasp what he may do to lend a hand. When Teeley would ask for volunteers on a committee or a mission, Bob’s hand was once all the time one of the vital first to head up. He knew if he volunteered to paintings on one thing, others would apply.

Bob was once within the medical institution when he were given the decision that he have been decided on for Notre Dame’s ring of honor. Reportedly, he nearly jumped out of his mattress.

If you happen to didn’t know Bob Whitmore, you possibly can have guess severe cash he would by no means be capable of attend the rite. He made it, flying up from D.C. with Wootten and talking to the Notre Dame workforce the evening prior to.

“Taking part in an element in that could be the most productive factor I’ve ever accomplished at Notre Dame,” Brey mentioned.

And understanding and dealing with him could be one of the vital best possible issues I’ve ever accomplished.

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