Anyone who has coached at any level will tell you that it is a demanding profession and as a coach you must be giving.
Coastal Crew Rebels founder and FPCA boys head basketball coach Ernie Walthour Sr. was one of the most giving individuals in the area.
Walthour was a fixture at area sporting events. He would talk football and other sports, but was passionate about the round ball. Through basketball, Walthour brought an old-school work ethic that demanded players play defense with their feet, hit free throws when they were exhausted and learn to be physical on the boards.
At Walthour’s home away from home, St. James Sports Center, one wall is lined with pictures of former Rebels and Highlanders who have gone on to play college ball, many in Division I. As Rebels players learned the game of basketball from Walthour, he used the round ball to show those players how big the world is, giving them a chance to play in tournaments all over the country. Players gained exposure, but also learned of one of Walthour’s greatest traits, humility.
Players who have gone on to play college basketball and the numerous Coastal Crew Rebels tournament trophies are evidence of the basketball tactician and coach that Walthour was. The FPCA region and state championship banners add even more significance to a stellar career.
The Rebels had several teams at different ages, and the talent level was better than average, but Walthour was more concerned about the men those players would become rather than simply becoming players. Basketball was a large part of Walthour’s life, but was only part of who he was. Walthour spent years running after-school programs and organizing Thanksgiving and Christmas celebrations at St. James. Ernie loved kids and people and wanted to help them any way he could.
Athletes take a piece of every coach, good or bad, they have from when they begin to the highest level their ability takes them. It’s the legacy that the coach leaves to his players, those life lessons that a coach hopes a player has learned.
In the coming months, athletes in different sports will put Walthour’s initials on shoes and wrist bands as quiet reminders to their fallen coach.
On Saturday afternoon, when Liberty County and southeast Georgia say goodbye to Walthour as he holds court one last time at St. James Sports Center, his legacy will electrify the facility.
Walthour’s legacy is alive and well in all former Rebels, the most visible being current University of Tennessee standout Jordan McRae and in East Georgia scoring leader and Tennessee Tech University Jordan Johnson. Johnson visited the younger Rebels teams a couple of weeks ago, an opportunity for Walthour to give players a example of hard work paying off.
The most recruited linebacker in the Southeast, Raekwon McMillan also played with the Coastal Crew. Walthour’s legacy is also found in those who followed Ernie into coaching, including his long-time assistant and close friend David Linderman.
Ernie’s legacy includes former players and program participants, who in time will be the leader of their communities, churches, schools and businesses, creating strong role models who will continue that legacy.
Walthour’s life was celebrated Saturday. His successes and sacrifices are alive and well. We are all better people for knowing Ernie.