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 
coaching ability.  
"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 
assistant coach.  
"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 
his pocket.  
"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 
being 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 
Seton Hall.  
"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 
from McKinney. 
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.

Back to Pamlico Obituaries Index Return to Pamlico County Page