April 19, 2005
I was saddened to learn of the passing of Clarence "Big House" Gaines. He was a superstar, Hall of Fame basketball coach at Winston Salem-State, a successful Division II program. He did an amazing job coaching, and consistency was his middle name.
He finished his remarkable 47-year career in 1993 as one of the all-time winners with 828 wins, but victories aren't what I think about when I remember Gaines. When I think of him, I think about big-time class.
Gaines had the ultimate respect from his peers you never heard a bad thing about him from fellow coaches. He made a great impression on everyone around him, from the student-athletes he led to the coaches he faced throughout his wonderful career.
Gaines was the ultimate family man and a great clinician. He taught the game of life as well as the game of basketball.
I'll never forget Earl "The Pearl" Monroe, after winning the 1973 NBA championship with the Knicks, discussing the valuable lessons he learned about the game and about life while playing under Gaines at Winston Salem-State.
We're going to miss a great motivator and, even more, a great human being. Gaines was absolutely super in every way and a winner in the game of life.
Dick Vitale coached the Pistons and the University of Detroit before broadcasting ESPN's first college basketball game in 1979. Send a question to Vitale for possible use on ESPNEWS.