Obituary of Horace "Bones" Albert McKinney ~ 1997
Transcribed by Joan S Dunn
Source: The News & Observer May 17 1997
Horace Albert McKinney, who died Friday, was known as "Bones," and that is
where he left his mark.
In the funny bone.
He could lighten a room with a humorous story as well as he could coach
his Wake Forest basketball team against the likes of N.C. State's Everett
Case and North Carolina's Frank McGuire. McKinney, 78, died Friday
afternoon at the Wake Medical Rehab Center in Raleigh, where he had been
undergoing treatment for a stroke he suffered May 2.
He is survived by his wife of 55 years, Edna McKinney, and six children.
McKinney coached Wake Forest to its first two ACC Tournament championships
in 1961 and 1962 and a Final Four NCAA appearance in 1962. He started at
Wake Forest as an assistant coach under Murray Greason from 1951 to 1957,
and he was head coach from 1958 to 1965. As head coach, McKinney's record
with Wake was 122-94. He later coached the Carolina Cougars of the
American Basketball Association and worked as a basketball commentator on
In a profession in which success often is accompanied by grim intensity,
McKinney was different, exquisitely different. He was an affable fellow,
one from another era.
He made people laugh, not with biting or snippy cracks, but simply with
stories: about himself, about his teams, about life.
He was a blithe spirit, a raconteur, a basketball coach, a speechmaker and
an ordained Baptist minister rolled into one 6-foot-6 frame.
"He was the most naturally humorous person I've ever known," North
Carolina basketball coach Dean Smith said Friday.
"I played golf with him last summer, and I don't know if I've ever laughed
more in a round. But I hope the fact that he could be so funny doesn't
take away from what he accomplished in basketball. He was truly one of the
best coaches in the ACC."
Indeed, one former player will always remember McKinney first for his
"Any old-timer who knows anything about basketball will tell you, we
watched a man in a little old town 19 miles north of Raleigh, when he was
in seminary, when he was helping [head coach] Murray Greason, that stood
Everett Case and Frank McGuire on their ear year after year through sheer
genius of coaching," said Jack Murdock, a retired N.C. Department of
Transportation official and a captain in McKinney's last season as an
"Bones got more out of his ball players. Everett Case brought big-time
basketball to North Carolina.
There's no question about that.
Then Carolina gets Frank McGuire.
But Bones McKinney brought big-time coaching because he had to use players
that were not blue-chippers, that were not from Indiana, that were not
from Brooklyn." McKinney had ties everywhere - starting as a player on
the legendary Durham High teams that won 69 straight games in the late
1930s; becoming a prolific scorer in two seasons at N.C. State; joining
North Carolina's basketball team after a tour in the Army; and coaching
Wake Forest's greatest team in 1962. His pro career included stints as
a player with the Boston Celtics and Washington Capitols and two seasons
as coach of the ABA's Cougars (1970 and '71).
McKinney had an image as a bit of an eccentric. He often wore red socks
and bow ties for luck, and once he had a seat belt put on the team bench
to restrain him from protesting officials' calls.
But his public persona, for the most part, was formed by his witty,
whimsical, ease-to-life attitude that was best reflected in his
storytelling. He was often the butt of his own jokes.
One his friends like to retell was about the time he coached Wake Forest
in the Kentucky Invitational. Marvin "Skeeter" Francis, Bones' friend for
more than 50 years, remembers: "He kicked his foot up in the air, and his
loafer went off and landed at the free-throw line," Francis recalled
Friday. "And as he went out to retrieve it, a ballpoint pen fell out of
"The game was still going on, and Bones was out there trying to pick up
the pen and the shoe. Luckily, the play was at the other end of the floor.
When he got back to the bench, we asked him what he would have done if the
play had come back down to his end.
"He said, 'I would have just taken a defensive stance.' " That was Bones
Wendell Carr, a captain on Mc- Kinney's first team at Wake, was with
McKinney when he died Friday. Carr, a retired athletics director at
Campbell University who lived in Buies Creek, often visited with McKinney,
a Willow Spring resident.
"He was the greatest storyteller of all time," Carr said.
"He tried to remember everybody. As long as he knew you, you were a big
Carr recalled a Deacons game at New York's Madison Square Garden against
"He hated to call timeouts, but he called his third, and we were down 18
points," Carr said.
"He went out to us and gathered us in a semicircle and prayed for our
forgiveness. And we ended up winning."
For decades McKinney was a crowd favorite on the civic club trail,
speaking to groups from Morehead to Asheville. And for those who never met
McKinney or listened to him speak, reading "BONES, Honk Your Horn If You
Love Basketball" is said to be the next best thing.
The book, written with Gastonia newspaperman Garland Atkins and published
in 1989, was an eight-year project that turned into a page-turning laugh-
On his hometown, he wrote: "I wasn't born 'near' anything. I was born in
Lowland, N.C. The only thing Lowland is near is the North Carolina coast.
I don't guess Lowland is even considered a town, but it's a great place."
Woody Durham, the radio voice of the Tar Heel Sports Network, worked with
McKinney and the late Jim Thacker in the late 1960s on C.D. Chesley's ACC
basketball telecasts. McKinney was working for the state Department of
Corrections and living in Raleigh.
"He had a well-known fear of flying, so he drove to all of the games,"
Durham said. "He'd come through Greensboro to pick me up, and we'd ride
in his old Chevrolet station wagon to Columbia, or Charlottesville,
wherever the game was, and he'd tell stories. I heard all of his stories
100 times each, and I laughed as hard the 100th time as the first."
Former N.C. State coach Norm Sloan remembers bits of wisdom he picked up
They met in the summer of 1947 while McKinney was playing for the Capitols
but running Raleigh's Pullen Park swimming pool in the summer. He hired
Sloan, a first-year student athlete at State, as a lifeguard.
"We became very good friends and talked a lot about basketball," Sloan
recalled. "He taught me a lot of basketball, but more important, he taught
me how unimportant athletes are compared to how important they think they
Funeral arrangements have not been completed, his daughter Kay Farmer
said. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that individuals make
contributions to the charity of their choice in McKinney's name.
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