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Rest In Peace, Terry

TSSAA credits former Tornado Whitted with state assists record

By Stefan Cooper
Blount Press Row

Terry Whitted spoke of it often in the last years of his life.

Terry Whitted on his wedding day, 1993. Photos courtesy of Lisa Whitted

Terry Whitted on his wedding day, 1993. Photo courtesy of Lisa Whitted

The numbers were wrong. The plaque in the coach’s office in the school gymnasium was wrong.

Blount County Circuit Court Judge David R. Duggan championed an exhaustive effort the last five years to set right the statistical error dealt the former Alcoa High School point guard. Last Thursday, the Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association confirmed what Whitted, his wife, Lisa, mom, Pat, and Duggan had always known:

Whitted’s 788 assists during three seasons at Alcoa in the late 1970s is officially a state record.

“Are you serious!” Lisa said. “That’s so exciting. My kids will be just thrilled.”

“I believe (Terry) knew,” Pat Whitted said. “It just wasn’t out. I believe he knew he had the record. He talked about it sometimes.”

A junior college All-American at Roane State Community College after Alcoa, Whitted was left paralyzed from the neck down in a motorcycle accident in 1998. The Tornado great died last November, survived by Lisa and daughters Briana and Angel and 1-year-old granddaughter Brooklyn.

“He didn’t live to see it,” Duggan said, “but I’m happy for his mom and his family that he’s finally getting the recognition he deserves.”

Pat Whitted, mother of former Alcoa basketball player Terry Whitted, holds up a photograph she carries of her late son. With her, from left, are Terry's widow, Lisa, daughter, Briana, granddaughter, Brooklyn, and daughter, Angel.

Pat Whitted, mother of former Alcoa basketball player Terry Whitted, holds up a photograph she carries of her late son. With her, from left, are Terry’s widow, Lisa, daughter, Briana, granddaughter, Brooklyn, and daughter, Angel. Photo by Jolanda Jansma

Whitted played his last game as a Tornado in the semifinals of the 1980 state tournament. Alcoa fell, 58-54, to Middleton, but the quickest player Vernon Osborne said he’s ever coached went out in a blaze of glory. Whitted not only led the Tornadoes in scoring. His 24 assists produced a statistical double-double of truly rare quality.

After Whitted’s accident, Alcoa classmate Brian Perkins led a push to have his friend inducted into the Blount County Sports Hall of Fame. The hall’s selection committee discovered a glaring discrepancy between the basketball records then currently on file at the school and those maintained by Duggan and fellow Alcoa historian Ken White.

White and Duggan co-authored “Coach O: The Glory Days of Alcoa Basketball.” In doing so, the pair sourced the season-by-season spreadsheets former Alcoa coach Vernon Osborne left behind following his retirement with the 1989 season.

Duggan credits Osborne’s wife, Margaret Ann, with helping to locate many of the documents in the coach’s basement.

After publication of the book, a new gymnasium opened at the high school. Many of the records Osborne left behind there were discarded, presumably for housekeeping. The school’s basketball records were updated soon after, with new coach David Marsh working from documents that survived the move.

Terry Whitted's granddaughter, ?

Whitted’s granddaughter, Brooklyn, works on her game.

One of those documents credited Whitted with 307 assists during the 1978-79 season. The year was mistakenly presumed Whitted’s senior season when updating the records began. A change was made, the numbers moved to the ’79-80 season. An Alcoa game program produced in the mid 1990s then cited Albert Davis III, namesake of the school’s most famed athlete, with the career assist mark (584), Whitted the single-season record.

Big problem.

The year – 1978-79 – and the assist total – 307 – were correct. That it was Whitted’s senior season was not.

Whitted's 1978-79 season.

Whitted’s 1978-79 season.

That season, as stated, was ’79-80. That season, Whitted finished with a new single-season record of 341 assists.

When Osborne’s spreadsheet from that season was located, Duggan and hall of fame biographer Karen Eldridge made the corrections before Whitted’s 2010 hall of fame induction. Only, by that point, the story had gotten much, much bigger.

Whitted’s corrected total of 788 career assists was not only a school record. If Osborne’s records were accepted, Whitted would now own the state record, by a single assist.

Blount Press Row submitted to the TSSAA in July the spreadsheets from Whitted’s three seasons, signed by Osborne with a witness present. Last week the TSSAA notified BPR Whitted was the new state record holder for career assists.

“It’s such an honor,” Tammy Whitted Burnett, Terry’s older sister and a ’78 Alcoa graduate, said. “Terry’s gone now, but he knew. It’s great everybody else at Alcoa will know what kind of player he was.”

If there’s a hero in the story, it’s Duggan, Alcoa athletics director Josh Stephens said.

Whitted's 1979-80 season.

Whitted’s 1979-80 season.

“Anytime one of our former student/athletes is recognized for their accomplishments, we’re proud,” he said. “He (Duggan) dug and went the extra mile. Give him the credit. I’m grateful as athletics director for the alumni and members of the community who went out there and got the information.”

Setting the record straight was never about the book they authored or finding fault, White said.

“I’m just glad credit’s being given where credit is due,” he said.

Osborne was pleased with the news as well.

“I had an awful lot of good people back then,” he said. “Terry worked hard and he was a pleasure to coach.”

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