Former athlete stresses importance of academics

Rick Wagner • May 23, 2009 at 12:00 AM

KINGSPORT — Earl Lovelace’s favorite color?

Well, that’s a trick question. He actually has two: maroon and gray.

That may be expected for Dobyns-Bennett High School’s retiring principal, especially since he was a basketball standout as well as baseball player and track runner during his student days wearing the Tribe’s maroon and gray at D-B.

After accolades over his high school athletics and graduating in 1963, he went on to the University of South Carolina, where he played basketball on a scholarship and then became an award-winning high school coach, as well as teaching and eventually serving as a principal.

But these days, his looks back are mostly at his time in administration, not playing or coaching athletics.

“I’ve seen so many athletes that dwell in the past they don’t grow that much,” Lovelace said, adding that many of his students don’t know of his athletic feats — but maybe their parents or grandparents do.

Asked about his reputation as a basketball player, one who could dunk the ball although only 6 feet tall, he referred to it as “just basketball.”

For the record, Lovelace said he couldn’t dunk the ball today unless he had a little help from a trampoline.

Lovelace, who served on D-B’s Student Council and attended Boys’ State, went to college and settled in South Carolina, where he was an Executive Committee member of the South Carolina High School League and served as the organization’s president.

He also was named Basketball Coach of the Year by the South Carolina’s Broadcasters and Sportswriters in 1974-1975 and got the same title from the South Carolina Basketball Coaches Association in 1976-1977.

Back in the 1963 state tournament his senior year, D-B lost in the semifinals to Murfreesboro and played the next night in a consolation game against a Memphis team.

Lovelace and a player from the opposing team in the consolation match were recognized as co-most valuable players, even though they did not play in the championship game.

As a former athlete and coach, Lovelace said he had to be careful to avoid even the appearance of supporting athletics over academics or athletics over other extracurricular activities.

Lovelace said he hopes his three grandsons and one granddaughter get involved in athletics, but he hopes they also learn how to play music and do well in academics.

“I’ve always protected the integrity of the academic programs,” Lovelace said.

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