Dick Whitmore was one of the winningest men’s basketball coaches in Division III history when he retired in 2011 from his position at Colby College in Waterville.
The 71-year-old Maine coaching legend is making a brief and unexpected return to the sidelines this winter.
Whitmore was appointed Tuesday as the interim men’s basketball coach at Thomas College in Waterville after the sudden departure of coach Darrell “Texas” Alexander.
“This is my third year at Thomas. I’ve been teaching here in the sport management program, and obviously this is a very complex and difficult situation, but I would do anything to help them out,” said Whitmore, who would not elaborate on the circumstances that lured him out of basketball retirement.
Thomas College did not publicize its coaching change and athletic director David Roussel said he could not provide any insight into the matter.
“It’s a personnel issue, so I’m not able to go into any specific details about the reason for the change or anything related to our former employee, ‘Texas’ Alexander,” said Roussel, who did say Alexander no longer is employed at Thomas.
Alexander coached the Terriers during last weekend’s two-game North Atlantic Conference trip to Vermont, where they beat Johnson State 76-73 on Friday, then lost 90-61 to Lyndon State on Saturday. The Terriers (9-12, 9-5 NAC) had won their previous three contests and are in fifth place in the league standings.
During Saturday’s game, Thomas was assessed three technical fouls, two against the team and one to a player, according to the box score.
Alexander, a four-year starter at Thomas (2006-2010) under former coach T.J. Maines, was appointed as the Terriers’ coach last September. The native of Fairfield, Texas, who earned a communications degree at Thomas, replaced Jon Hayes, who stepped down after taking the job last spring.
Alexander, who previously served as an assistant coach at Smith College, was a three-year captain for the Terriers and scored 1,128 points.
Whitmore coached at Colby for 40 seasons before stepping down in 2011. At the time, he ranked seventh in NCAA Division III in victories with a 637-341 record (.651).
He inherits a Thomas team preparing for its stretch run.
“I think the most important thing is the communication with the players and finding out how their engines run and what I can do to keep things on an organized basis and get familiar with their terminology and then be able to implement the points of emphasis that I want,” Whitmore said.
“I’m all-in. It’s a situation where we want to be able to take the games one at a time and be competitive in all of them and win, given the opportunity,” he added.
Whitmore, who has been an adjunct faculty member at Thomas, has seen several of the team’s games this season.
“It’s an extremely motivated group, so it really makes that part of it exciting,” he said.
Roussel said the program could not be in better hands to finish out the season.
“We at Thomas are feeling very fortunate that someone with Dick’s success and history and character has stepped up and offered to work with our student-athletes,” Roussell said.
“I think he’ll, in a very short period of time, make a positive impact on our student-athletes and continue to have a positive impact on our institution,” he added.
Roussel said the presence of assistant coaches Matt Berry and Tony Staffiere will help maintain stability in the program.
Whitmore, who also has been working with his son-in-law at Pine Tree Seafood and Produce Co. in Scarborough, plans to enjoy his brief return to coaching.
“It’s one of those things where, no matter what the situation, getting back on the court is a wonderful experience,” Whitmore said. “I look forward to enjoying the next few weeks.”