From the Sports Editor: Dover’s King never stopped learning

 

Former assistant basketball coach/trainer Mike King (second from left) got together with former UD players (left to right) Tyrone Perry, John Gordon, Keith Davis and Mike Pegues. (Submitted photo)

Mike King had been on his share of basketball sidelines.

But sitting on the bench in Caesar Rodney High’s gym was a whole lot different than sitting on the bench at the 60,000-seat Hoosier Dome.

Still, the prospect of being with the Delaware men’s basketball squad for an NCAA Tournament game there in 1993 didn’t faze the 61-year-old King.

“That won’t awe me,” King said at the time. “I’m not awed by those kind of things. I’ve traveled around. I’ve been to Greece, I’ve been to Turkey, I’ve been to Spain, I’ve been to Rome … I’ve seen all those things.

“I just kind of like to watch the people and see what goes on. I like to go for the experience and the knowledge I can gain. I like to pick people’s brains and learn how they do certain things. I don’t think it’s the end-all, be-all.”

By the time he passed away on Feb. 9 at the age of 86, Dover resident Mike King had been a lot of places, met all kinds of people and done all kinds of things.

In the sports world, King — who was remembered at a memorial service in Dover last weekend — was thought of as being a fixture on the sidelines at local basketball games for several different programs. At various times, he was an assistant coach/trainer/mentor at Delaware State, Delaware, CR and Dover High.

To try to pigeon-hole King into just one occupation, though, would be to overlook so much in a lifetime where he really never stopped trying to learn and do new things.

Just look at King’s college resume.

The Chicago native had a music education degree from Northwestern, an elementary education from Ohio U. and a Master of Science degree from Southern California.

He spent 20 years as an intelligence officer in the U.S. Air Force followed by 16 years as a teacher at CR’s Star Hill Elementary.

Only when he retired from that career did King decide to go back to college to earn a degree in athletic training.

After informally treating injuries as an assistant basketball coach for years, King figured maybe he should really know what he was doing.

“The studying is different because I don’t pick things up as quickly as I used to,” King said about going back to school. “My coursework is extremely intricate material. It’s almost like pre-med school.

“Sometimes when you’re teaching, you kind of lose track of how it feels to be a student. That was a revelation to me, a come-down-to-earth sort of feeling. Here I was a student instead of being a teacher.”

In 1984, King was an assistant to head coach Marshall Emery when CR won the state title. In 1993, when he was a trainer for Delaware’s NCAA Tournament team, King was 40 years older than the players.

But he found ways to impart his life experiences to them.

“The kids like to see me around because I’m an older fellow,” King said that season. “I’m kind of like a father figure. They’ll listen to me sometimes. They’ll say, ‘I didn’t know you did that. You’ve been around a lot.’

“I kind of relate to them my military experiences and how you solve problems. How you have to accept authority sometimes when you really don’t agree with some of the things that are going on. How to conduct your life the proper way and get a good education. It’s not like I’m trying to preach to them. It’s just sort of a casual conversation that gets started.

“The kids call me ‘AT King’ — ‘AT’ for athletic trainer. Some of the guys still call me ‘Coach King.’ I said, ‘Look you guys cannot call me ‘coach.’ I’m not a coach, I’m an athletic trainer.’ “

Even years later, some of the players from that era would still get together with King. As an older man, he’d work with area youngsters on their basketball skills.

Former Delaware assistant coach Sean Kearney was King’s roommate on road trips. He spoke at last week’s memorial service.

“When I first got to Delaware and he was around, he was so humble,” said Kearney. “I had no idea about how extensive his background was. Even at the service, you’re reminded of all the degrees and his military service. The guy had more careers than most of us — and because he was so talented he could do that.

“He really cared for the guys. If you googled the word ‘mentor,’ his picture would pop up. He really filled that role for all of our players — and our staff. I learned quite a bit from him on how to treat people and how to work hard.”

Odds & ends

•After scoring only 59 runs in 18 games last season, the Caesar Rodney High baseball team has already scored 147 runs in only 12 games this spring. The Riders have reached double figures in eight games.

CR hosts Cape Henlopen on Tuesday at 4:15 p.m. in a showdown between teams that are 8-0 in the Henlopen Conference.

• Magnolia’s Chris Rutkoski is a captain of the Delaware Ducks ice hockey team which won the 1A Division title at the USA Hockey Youth Tier II 18U Nationals in Green Bay, Wis. earlier this month. The Ducks beat state champions from Wyoming, Utah, Georgia and Kentucky before rallying from a four-goal deficit to edge Idaho, 7-6, in the finals.

A senior at Polytech, Rutkoski plays lacrosse for the Panthers.

• Dover’s Stick It! Gymnastics won three team titles and 21 individual events at the Delaware State Gymnastics Championships last month in Newark. A total of 37 athletes competed for the 10-year-old organization, which took team titles at the USA Gymnastics Xcel Silver, Gold, and Platinum levels, and second place at the Bronze level.

• With the NASCAR circuit coming to Dover International Speedway next weekend, you might be interested to know that the track has added the ‘Delmarva Dog’ to its concession stand menu. The new item is described as “a juicy hot dog served in a split top bun, topped with fire roasted corn, cheese sauce and (in a special Delmarva twist) crab meat. Served with tasty Old Bay potato chips.”

Reach sports editor Andy Walter at walter@newszap.com

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